GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Sale wants the focus to remain on the field and stay out of the clubhouse.
Thus far, the White Sox pitcher said contract extension talks between his representatives and the club haven’t kept him or his teammates from what he and they hope to accomplish this spring.
On Tuesday, Sale confirmed to CSNChicago.com his agent and the team have engaged in contract talks. But he hopes to keep the affair private so it won’t be a bother in the clubhouse.
“I’d like to think this hasn’t been a distraction for myself or anybody in this clubhouse so far, so I’d like to keep it that way,” Sale said. “Any time you have external factors hindering what you’re doing on the field and in the clubhouse, obviously you don’t want that to happen. I’m doing everything I can to just kind of keep it between myself and everybody involved and we’ll get it all figured out.”
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Sale isn’t eligible for arbitration until next season.
He already received a $100,000 raise last month when he signed a one-year deal and is set to earn $600,000 this season.
But if Sale were to replicate last season’s numbers, when he went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and was named to the All-Star team, he’d be due an even bigger raise for 2014 and beyond.
Two-time National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants avoided arbitration 14 months ago but at the cost of $40.5 million over the right-hander’s final two arbitration seasons.
If the White Sox and Sale come to an accord, the team would likely be able to purchase some of his arbitration years at a discount in exchange for offering Sale and his family the security of guaranteed money.
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The consensus among White Sox players is the club would be smart to sign Sale before his value rises even at the risk of injury.
“You could not tie up the young guy and wait to sign a six-or seven-year free agent and spend a lot of money on him and the risk of injury is the exact same,” veteran Paul Konerko said. “So, as long as those two are there where a guy is good, talented at what he does, and is just a gamer, wants to be good and will show up, it makes sense to do it. That guy is going to do well. If he’s going to do well, you might as well lock him in and don’t let it get just out of control.”
White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy agrees and said a long-term deal for Sale helps avoid all sorts of issues. If the club signs Sale, he can focus strictly on baseball and doesn’t have to worry about what a potential injury might mean for his career and his family.
“It’s exciting for both sides,” Peavy said. “It lets him worry over the next few years not about what his salary is or will be, it lets him worry about being healthy, trying to pitch for the team and get outs, which is a huge thing for everybody. The team is going to have some leverage to go after a team-friendly deal or they wouldn’t do it at this point. It works out for everybody where both sides give a little bit and you get a great guy, ultimately who’s going to be the face of the franchise, locked up, and I think it’s a great move on both sides does if it does come to fruition.”
Sale knows there could be worse scenarios in terms of media scrutiny. Although he doesn’t want contract talks to be a distraction, Sale acknowledges the topic isn’t horrible.
“It’s always that something’s that’s on your mind too is the appreciation factor they’ve shown and I hope they feel for me as well,” Sale said. “Just strap up and get ready to go through the day. … Just try not to look far deep into it, but also don’t take it for granted. Do the things I need to do and it’ll work itself out.”
Sale said he was able to do what he needed to prepare for his next start in an appearance Wednesday against Sox minor-leaguers. The left-hander threw 65 pitches over four innings. He is scheduled to pitch against the Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale on Monday.
“I felt that I got more out of that than I would have a game,” Sale said. “I got to work on a lot of things that I needed to work on and polish some things up. Yesterday was a good day and a big day. I felt strong, felt really good throughout the entire session and felt like I had pretty good command and a pretty positive outlook.”