(MCT) MESA, Ariz. — The last time the White Sox gave a long-term contract to one of their young pitchers, they got three victories for $8 million.
But that was just the first year of John Danks' five-year, $65 million deal, so it still could prove to be of value for the next four.
Nonetheless, Sox general manager Rick Hahn still believes the potential reward outweighs the risk, so on Thursday he and starter Chris Sale agreed to a five-year contract that could reach seven years and $60 million with options.
So does Sale's unusual whiplash delivery give Hahn extra concern?
"I don't think there's a single thing I have no worries about," Hahn said Thursday from Hohokam Stadium, where the Sox were playing the Cubs. "Certainly a pitcher, regardless of their mechanics, there's a risk involved. There's concern for a potential breakdown.
"(But) we are confident in Chris' durability and very optimistic about his future. Frankly, what this came down to was bearing one of two risks: The risk of going year-to-year, which would lead to the potential downside of him walking out the door in four years; or the risk of doing a multiyear deal that has the downside of potential injury and us being out a few bucks along the way. We feel the more important reward is keeping him here long term."
Of course, with Sale set to turn 24 at the end of the month and still years from potential free agency, the Sox got contract protection they didn't get with Danks, who was 26 and already had 918 major league innings when he signed prior to last season.
Sale's contract is guaranteed for the first five years at $32.5 million, which could be a large bargain if Sale keeps delivering as he did in 2012, when he was 17-8 and was named an All-Star, finishing sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
The Sox then protected themselves with options years for 2018 and 2019 worth $26 million total. They can decline either of them for $1 million.
"We've made no secret in the past we want to keep premium players in a White Sox uniform as long as possible," Hahn said. "We feel like we've taken a step toward doing that with Chris and having him here potentially through his age-30 season."
Sale was not made available for comment late Thursday, but he did talk about the possible contract before a morning workout, saying: "It's always something's that's on your mind ... the appreciation factor they've shown and I hope they feel for me as well."
He also said he tried to keep contract discussions quiet and low-key to keep it from being a distraction. "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," he said.
The potential injury factor hasn't scared off the Sox in the past. They signed Gavin Floyd when he was a young player and just finished picking up the option on that deal. When Floyd signed in 2009, Danks turned down a deal similar to Floyd's and hadn't been injured until after he signed the contract last year. "Unfortunately, it's part of the cost of doing business," Hahn said of Danks. "Are you going to stand on the sidelines and go year-to-year, which insulates you against that injury risk, or are you going to be a little more aggressive and allow you the possibility of controlling premium guys beyond just their arbitration?
"For us, we decided in (Sale's) instance that we'd much rather bear the potential risk of injury than risk him being done in a White Sox uniform in four years."