Losing Chris Sale Could Irreparably Derail the Red Sox This Season

The 2020 MLB season will be a weird one, with teams likely playing no more than 82 games — half of a normal season. With the shortened season, the league is expected to expand the playoffs so more teams can make the postseason. You’d think a perennial contender like the Red Sox would be a shoo-in. But Boston may not be as competitive because of Chris Sale.

The Red Sox’s offseason moves

The Red Sox had an underwhelming offseason. The biggest move they made sent their best hitter packing. They traded OF Mookie Betts and SP David Price to the Dodgers for a few minor league prospects and OF Alex Verdugo — none will likely make a big impact on the team this season.

That trade was clearly meant to set up the Red Sox for the future, sacrificing the current season. Moving Betts puts a big hole in the middle of Boston’s lineup. And the loss of Price hurts a compromised rotation. The trade makes them unlikely to compete for the AL East crown. Even a wild card is likely out of reach for the Red Sox this season.

Chris Sale’s injury

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When the Red Sox signed Sale to a five-year, $145 million extension last year, they anticipated he would be a key piece of their starting rotation. But this has not been the case yet and it won’t be in 2020. Sale and the Red Sox went back and forth this winter as to whether he needed to undergo Tommy John surgery.

The decision was ultimately made for the pitcher to go under the knife to repair an elbow injury. Sale had the surgery on March 30. About a week later, ESPN reported he told the media he was “feeling good’ and he planned to rehab at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Sale said he had a sense of relief after having the procedure on his left elbow. He knew Tommy John surgery was always a possibility for him.

With a typical recovery time of around 15 months, Sale will not likely play until sometime during the 2021 season. With Sale out for the year, the Red Sox seem on track for a disappointing season.

Boston’s rotation without Sale and Price

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Starting pitching depth isn’t Boston’s strength, which is evident with the names the team will be counting on to take the mound in the absence of Sale and Price. CBS Sports lists Eduardo Rodriguez as the team’s No. 1 starter, followed by Nathan Eovaldi — who has a history of his own injury issues — at No. 2.

The rest of the rotation is Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, and Hector Velazquez. That list of starters doesn’t look like a squad that has a good chance of winning a division title, especially in the East with the Yankees.

Rodriguez made 34 starts last season, posting a 3.81 ERA with 213 strikeouts in 203.1 innings. He has a 4.03 ERA in his five seasons in the majors, which is an ERA you would expect to see from someone at the middle or back of a starting rotation, not a team’s ace.

Eovaldi may have the most upside of the five starters, but he’s only made more than 30 appearances once in eight seasons — that was 33 starts in 2014. Last season, he played in 23 games, 12 starts, but he had an inflated 5.99 ERA.