Boston Red Sox: Chris Sale and Kyle Schwarber need to return soon

Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The past couple of days have been quite rough for the Boston Red Sox. While the rest of the MLB, and the AL East more importantly, made some big splashes at the trade deadline, Boston only managed to land outfielder Kyle Schwarber and a pair of relievers. Making matters even worse, after heading into a three game set against the Tampa Bay Rays with a game and a half lead in the AL East, they now find themselves trailing Tampa by a game and a half.

Boston has run hot or cold over the past few months or so, and while it looked like their previous cold stretches were bad, this one couldn’t have come at a worse time. After watching all their AL East counterparts reload, the Sox mostly stood pat at the deadline, and that could come back to bite them. They are counting on two players who are currently injured to come back and provide a massive boost to this team, which is quite a risky proposition.

Those two players are the previously mentioned Schwarber and Chris Sale. Schwarber has been on the shelf for about a month now with a hamstring injury, and may be used at first base, a position he is unfamiliar with, when he returns. Sale on the other hand hasn’t pitched in a major league game in nearly two years, and it seems like Boston’s front office is expecting him to return to his previous ace status right off the bat.

Counting on injured players to come back and pick a team up is a big risk, and it’s a risk Boston just so happens to find themselves engulfed in right now. Schwarber was on an absolute tear prior to his injury, but there’s no telling he will be able to continue that when he returns. And considering the amount of time Sale has missed, it may be wishful thinking to expect him to pick up where he left off.

Why Kyle Schwarber and Chris Sale are so important for Boston Red Sox

But the Boston Red Sox desperately need them to return and rejuvenate this team. The lineup has been streaky all season long, and relies way too heavily on the middle of the order to carry them. And the rotation has been struggling for some time now, with Boston’s starters posting an ugly 8.00 ERA over the past seven games.

Schwarber and Sale could provide the spark this team needs to retake the AL East lead and coast into playoffs. Boston didn’t make many moves at the deadline, but these are the two players that are going to be counted on as midseason reinforcements.

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Of the two, it’s more realistic to expect Schwarber to come in and make an impact right off the bat. He has 25 home runs despite missing the last month of action, but that still would be the second highest total on Boston behind Rafael Devers‘ 27 bombs. Fenway Park suits Schwarber’s pull tendencies from the left side of the plate perfectly, and it’s fair to expect him to launch a few balls into the bullpens in right field once he finds his way onto the field.

The problem with Schwarber is that he has only played left field this season, which is currently locked down by Alex Verdugo. Schwarber has experience playing all over the outfield, and was originally a catcher when he started his career. Oh, and he played one game at first base in 2017 with the Chicago Cubs.

It sounds like Boston is going to try Schwarber out as a fill in first baseman. Bobby Dalbec just hasn’t been good enough this season, and it’s probably better that he has some at-bats taken away from him at this point. Plus, Boston’s outfield has been pretty solid all season, and there isn’t really room for Schwarber out there right now.

If Schwarber can come in and mash like he had been doing in June, then it won’t matter where he plays in the field. Schwarber provides another potent bat to a lineup that feels too reliant on Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. If he can do that, this trade will be a win for the Boston Red Sox.

In regards to Sale, he probably shouldn’t be counted on to come in and immediately lift up a currently lifeless rotation. Sale struggled at times during the Red Sox 2018 World Series run, and those struggles persisted in 2019 as well. He posted a 6-11 record along with a 4.40 ERA before eventually being shutdown in August.

Sale tried to return last season, but eventually underwent Tommy John surgery, leading us to where we are now. Nearly two full years after being shutdown, Sale is inching towards a return, and he may end up being Boston’s saving grace if everything goes right.

But that’s a big if. Sale’s struggles before his injuries indicated a pitcher who was on the decline. Yet that didn’t prevent former Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski from handing him a lucrative extension before he departed a few months later.

Now Boston is left hoping Sale can rediscover his previous ace status, even after missing such a long amount of time. They seemingly didn’t move for a starting pitcher at the deadline because they are banking on Sale to return to the ace he once was.

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That’s a big risk, but it may be one Boston has to take. While Sale has a player option in his deal after the 2022 season, he’s probably going to stick around for the remainder of his deal, especially if he struggles upon his return. The Sox need Sale to return to help the rotation, but also so they can salvage his expensive extension.

Together, Schwarber and Sale probably will determine the fate of this Boston Red Sox team. If they can come back and produce the way they once were, this team probably can win the AL East. But if they return and struggle, the Red Sox could eventually find themselves on the outside looking in of a very competitive AL East.