By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The most underplayed story with the Red Sox is 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, a collection of branches and twigs bent in an array of weird shapes and angles. Chris Sale is doing fine, the Red Sox tell us. They have a plan.
“We think he’s fine and I will tell you I would not lie to you,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters yesterday at baseball’s winter meetings.
Should you believe him?
Well, yes and no.
Here’s the point, Red Sox followers: if the Red Sox were convinced that Sale is “fine,” wouldn’t we all be talking about a contract extension for the man upon whom the Red Sox pitching staff is built? Sale has one year and $15 million remaining on his current contract. He is eligible for free agency at the end of next season. The last time the Red Sox had a lefty roughly this good entering the final year of a deal was Jon Lester during the winter of 2013-14, and we all know that turned out.
So fine, Dombrowski says he would not lie to us. He went on to say that Sale is “100 percent.” The Red Sox “have a real pulse of what took place” with Sale’s left shoulder last season, Dombrowski said, and manager Alex Cora assured that the Red Sox know what they’re going to do with Sale next year.
Of course, the Red Sox said the same thing about Sale last winter, only to see him placed on the disabled list after the All-Star break. He was never the same. Now the Sox have hit the reset button and assured us that they have the answer this time, which is coming at a time of year when people talk about flying reindeer and fat guys going up and down chimneys.
Here’s the truth: Sale is a worry and he’ll continue to be a worry. It’s just who he is – and has always been. You just can’t be built out of toothpicks, popsicle sticks, paper clips and rubber bands – and expect to have people look at you like you’re some type of left-handed Hercules. Sale is frail. It’s not his fault. But it is the reality.
So where do the Red Sox go from here? Good question. When Dombrowski built this team, it certainly felt like the Red Sox had a relatively short championship window. They may now have just one year left. Sale, Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello and J.D. Martinez may all be free agents at the end of next season – Martinez can opt of his contract, the others are up – and Sale might actually be the riskiest player to sign on that list.
So is Sale "fine"?
Yeah, sure, whatever you say.
But with all due respect to Dombrowski, some of us just can’t fully believe that.