fb-pixel Skip to main content
On baseball

Loss of Chris Sale should put Red Sox into sell mode at the MLB trade deadline

Xander Bogaerts seems to despair after watching the Red Sox get pummeled again by the Yankees, 13-2, on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Will he be a subject of trade rumors when the team returns from the All-Star break?Elsa/Getty

NEW YORK — The sickening sight of Chris Sale walking toward the visitors’ dugout at Yankee Stadium holding up his mangled left hand felt like a coda for this Red Sox season, the beginning of the end.

Sale’s little finger was fractured in the first inning on Sunday when Aaron Hicks smoked him with a wicked line drive.

“Oh, yeah. I saw it coming,” Sale said. “You see that thing coming straight back at you and your first reaction is just cover up your face.”

The shot knocked Sale down. He scrambled to his feet and walked directly into the clubhouse.


With him went the season.

After taking a 13-2 loss, Alex Cora talked confidently about persevering, as did J.D. Martinez. But how much adversity can one team be expected to survive?

Sale’s return from a season-long stint on the injured list lasted two games and 5⅔ innings. He spoke confidently of pitching again this season, but at best the lefty faces weeks of waiting for the bone to heal before trying to pitch again.

Then will come what for Sale is the familiar routine of building back up to get in a game.

“Here we go again. That was my reaction,” Cora said.

The Aug. 2 trade deadline is coming up fast and the Sox can’t cling to the idea of snagging a Wild Card spot and seeing what happens in October.

They do not have a roster equipped to win the postseason given all their inadequacies and injuries.

Suggesting a 48-45 team should sell is rash. But look inside the numbers.

The Sox went into the All-Star break having lost 10 of 13. Sunday was the end of a 1-6 road trip that saw them outscored by 33 runs.

“We struggled running the bases, defensively, on the mound. It was a tough week for us,” Cora said.


The schedule picks up again Friday and the next 13 games are against playoff contenders.

The Sox are 12-26 against teams in the American League East and 38 of their remaining 69 games are against division foes including nine against the rampaging Yankees.

Nine others are against first-place teams from other divisions.

This goes beyond the loss of Sale. The lineup relies too heavily on Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers.

“We need more,” Cora said. “We need other guys to step up.”

But who? Trevor Story is a good candidate. Alex Verdugo? Backup Rob Refsynder has more WAR [1.0] in 29 games than has in 86 [-0.4].

On an average day, Cora has little choice but to use three or four fringe big leaguers in the lineup.

Overmatched Franchy Cordero was 0 for 16 on the road trip and struck out 15 times. His platoon partner at first base, Bobby Dalbec, has a .286 on-base percentage. His body language is abject despair.

Jarren Duran, who gave the Sox a spark in June, struck out four times on Sunday. He has two hits in his last 30 at-bats with 14 strikeouts.

“We’ve been very inconsistent offensively. The first part of the season we didn’t do a good job, offensively. Then we hit our stride and lately we haven’t,” Cora said.

“Injuries or not, we should be better than that.”

Teams have to earn upgrades at the trade deadline and the Sox haven’t. Their issues won’t be solved by an addition or two to the bullpen and a new first baseman.


Is Martinez worried about a deadline selloff?

“That’s a Chaim Bloom question,” he said.

Losing Sale may make that easier to answer. Martinez, who will be a free agent, is a candidate to go. The same would be true for Christian Vazquez, Nate Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, and maybe some of the relievers.

Would ownership allow Bloom to deal Xander Bogaerts? You’d like to think they’d work to sign him to an extension instead. But they green-lighted Jon Lester getting shipped out in 2014 and Mookie Betts in 2020.

Sale can count on staying, Injuries have cost him approximately 59 starts the last four years and that number will grow again.

“That eats me alive,” he said.

By the time Sale gets back, he may not recognize the team around him.

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.