As he moves deeper into his first season as White Sox general manager, Rick Hahn is establishing a pattern.
He values quality starting pitching and is willing to pay for it.
Less than a week after he officially replaced Kenny Williams as GM, Hahn pulled Jake Peavy off the free-agent market and brought the right-hander back with a two-year, $29 million contract.
On the same day (Oct. 30), Hahn picked up Gavin Floyd’s $9.5 million option for the upcoming season.
“I think we’ve proven over the years that our better teams are ones with the stronger starting staffs,” Hahn said.
On Thursday, the Sox’ rotation got even stronger — for longer — when ace starter Chris Saleagreed to a five-year, $32.5 million extension.
The White Sox have a 2018 club option on Sale for $12.5 million and a 2019 option for $13.5 million. There are $1 million buyouts on each option.
There also is a clause that raises the 2019 option to $16 million if Sale wins a Cy Young Award at any point of the contract.
Last season, his first as a major-league starter, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and 192 strikeouts in 192 innings while finishing sixth in Cy Young voting.
Yes, the 6-foot-6, 180-pound lefty has some serious physical questions, and Sale was almost moved from starter to closer in early May last season after experiencing some elbow soreness.
But Sale roared back after retaining his starting job, and he quickly established himself as the Sox’ best pitcher.
When you consider the Seattle Mariners recently signed ace starter Felix Hernandez to a seven-year, $175 million contract and the Los Angeles Angels gave Zack Greinke a six-year, $147 million deal, Sale has to be considered a huge bargain for the White Sox.
“It’s nice to be able to, on the one hand, reward Chris for not only his accomplishments on the field but how hard he works off the field to prepare himself and to achieve at the high level he did last year,” Hahn told reporters in Arizona on Thursday.
“As important to us is the ability to control, we feel, one of the premier young starters in the American League potentially for the next seven years.
“We’ve made no secret in the past we want to keep premium players in a White Sox uniform as long as possible. We feel like we’ve taken a step toward doing that today with Chris, and having him here potentially through his age-30 season.”
Sale is scheduled to talk to reporters about his contract extension Friday morning at the Sox’ training camp in Glendale, Ariz.
While the White Sox have some offensive question marks in players like Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham and even Adam Dunn, their starting five stacks up as one of the league’s best.
In addition to Sale, Peavy and Floyd, John Danks appears to be fully recovered from Aug. 6 shoulder surgery.
Danks, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract before the 2012 season, made his Cactus League debut Monday and allowed 1 run in 2-plus innings against the San Francisco Giants.
“I think the rotation should be our strength this year, no doubt about it,” Danks said before spring training. “Getting Jake back was huge, and Chris showed everybody what he can do last year. Same thing with (Jose) Quintana. I can’t wait to get back out there on the mound and do my part.”
Danks figures to open the season as the No. 4 starter behind Sale, Peavy and Floyd. Quintana, who was 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA as a rookie starter last season, is the likely No. 5 starter.
Hector Santiago is a solid option if there’s an injury or the White Sox decide to go with a six-man rotation, as they’ve done for stretches in each of the past two seasons.
Santiago opened the 2012 season as the Sox’ closer and moved to the rotation in September. The left-hander was 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in 4 starts.
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