MLB Suspends Opening Day
Among the chaos of the Boston Red Sox offseason, there has been yet another wrench thrown in the mix; not only affecting the Red Sox but the entire sports universe. The coronavirus has put the world on pause, and has left nearly every professional sport in a state of limbo. Although fans may be upset they could be waiting as much as a month longer for first pitch, delaying the regular season is a blessing in disguise for Boston.
The Boston Red Sox have a snowball’s chance in hell at winning the AL East this season. Making a run at one of the wild card spots, however, isn’t completely out of the picture. A few things need to happen for this to be possible though. The pitching staff needs to get a lot stronger, and the offense will need to replace at least some of the production that got shipped off to the Los Angeles Dodgers back in February.
More Rest for Chris Sale
Chris Sale faced live hitters for the first time since August earlier this month and quickly had another setback. He suffered a strain in his throwing elbow and sought multiple opinions. The strain set him back at least another two weeks — although it seems like it’s lingering already. It hasn’t been indicated that Sale will be shut down before the season to have Tommy John Surgery, so at this point it certainly looks like the lefty is going to try to pitch in 2020.
Major League Baseball has suspended the season at least two weeks at this point but still intends to play all 162 games. Contrary to their initial ruling, however, according to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of the Athletic, Rob Manfred and the players association don’t seem confident that we will see baseball anytime in April. It seems more likely at this point that baseball could be suspended at least a month — which bodes well for Sale.
If baseball doesn’t start until May there’s a far greater chance that Sale takes the hill on opening day. On paper, this could do wonders for a team with one of the weakest rotations when the ace is absent. Where the issue remains is if he will stay healthy for the whole season; a department where he hasn’t exactly been the model of consistency.
Let’s play along though and say that Sale only needed the extra two weeks that were reported. If he is gifted an extra month of rest, he could be much more fresh come the later months. Considering the team extended him for five more seasons prior to 2019, conceding to the Tommy John Surgery might make sense in the big picture, but strictly for 2020, the suspended season could help bolster Boston’s starting rotation.
Alex Verdugo Adding Roster Flexibility
Alex Verdugo is another player who hasn’t seen action since late last summer. The outfielder is already playing at a disadvantage being traded for a former MVP in Mookie Betts. Verdugo has had a stress fracture in his back going back to last season. He hadn’t begun to participate in baseball activities until shortly before players were sent home from camp. His timetable falls in line with the expected start of the season, the beginning of May. Having Verdugo’s bat in the lineup early in the season could have greater implications than meet the eye.
Verdugo hit .298 in his first full season with Los Angeles in 2019. The outfielder also had been regarded as one of the best hitting prospects in baseball before debuting. The upside of having him in the lineup for opening day is obvious. He would give the team a lot of flexibility moving into the middle of the season if he’s able to stay healthy though.
Jackie Bradley Jr. as a Trade Chip
While Boston’s outfield had a reputation of being one of baseball’s finest, Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn’t necessarily been the reason. The defensive guru is consistently one of the worst hitters in baseball; Bradley Jr. ranked 130th in batting average last season out of 135 qualified hitters.
Verdugo’s health and production early in the condensed season could lead to JBJ packing his bags midway through the year. The Boston Red Sox signed Kevin Pillar who could replace Bradley Jr. if the team moved on from the Gold-Glover. Although the return would be minimal, Boston could use any help they can get for their bullpen. Bradley Jr. may be the piece that has to be unloaded for that to happen.
If Red Sox Nation has any hope of the team finally trading one of baseball’s worst batters Alex Verdugo’s health will be the avenue fans have been waiting for to make this happen.