Red Sox

What Chris Sale’s return could mean for the Red Sox’ trade deadline plans

Chaim Bloom, the team's chief baseball officer, told WEEI Sale is close to returning to the Red Sox.

Chris Sale Red Sox
Chris Sale. Mary Schwalm/AP
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Chaim Bloom isn’t here to tamp down the excitement about Red Sox starter Chris Sale’s eventual return to his team’s starting rotation.

“He’s really close now,” he told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show Thursday morning.

The ace left-hander has been on a mission in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, throwing 3 2/3 hitless innings while striking out six in his rehab start with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs on Tuesday. If he continues like this in his minor league starts without setbacks, his first start with the Red Sox since 2019 won’t be far off.

But Bloom says he’s also trying to stay realistic about what Sale can give the team upon his return. That could mean adding more arms to the staff in the next week.

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Bloom hinted Thursday that Sale’s re-addition to the Red Sox won’t preclude the team from making a move at the trade deadline to bolster its surprising playoff run.

“It’s definitely something you have to factor in just like any time you’re looking at potential deals,” he said. “You look at the team and the players that you have. And he’s really close to being part of that. But at the same time, whoever we come out of this deadline with that’s who we’re going to have the rest of the way, whether it’s at the big league level or depth for us in Triple-A.

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“It’s not just enough to say, ‘Hey, we have 26 guys that we like, let’s go.’ We need to make sure that we still have enough to withstand the bumps and bruises that are likely to come in some form or another. He’s part of the picture, obviously, and we need to factor that in and we need to consider him. But I don’t think that just because he’s coming back we sit with our arms folded and say we’re good.”

Bloom didn’t specify that the team was only looking at pitchers, of course. There are certain to be a number of position players the Red Sox could be considering before the MLB trade deadline passes next Friday.

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But it’s no secret the Red Sox have had their eye on a few veteran pitchers this month, including former Phillies ace Cole Hamels.

The team’s starting staff has performed ably as a whole in 2021, but questions still linger about the back end of the rotation — especially Garrett Richards and Martin Perez.

Sale will undoubtedly strengthen the rotation if he remains healthy and builds toward full strength by playoff time.

Still, the Red Sox executive wants to make sure the Sox don’t “cut corners” with Sale and expect too much of him too quickly, despite Sale’s natural competitive drive to push forward.

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“We don’t need him to be able to go nine [innings] the first time he starts a big-league game,” Bloom said.

Assuming that’s the case, the Red Sox will need someone — or multiple people — to eat innings to keep the pressure off Sale’s recovering arm and the bullpen. That could mean going to a six-man rotation down the stretch or shunting Richards or Perez into a long-reliever role. Tanner Houck could also serve as a spot starter in a pinch.

But as Bloom suggested, there’s nothing to say the Red Sox won’t look to add at least one more capable arm to the mix for the second half of the season.

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