Mazz: Red Sox' management of Chris Sale has become a colossal mistake

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

The real question is now is obvious: why did the Red Sox wait? In the eyes of many, after all, the 2020 season was already in doubt. Now the 2021 season is, too.

And so, roughly seven months after Chris Sale’s 2019 season was cut short by what felt like an ominous elbow injury, the Red Sox left-hander cut short a workout at spring training today with – you guessed it – a sore elbow. Sale is now undergoing additional testing and test results already have been sent to Dr. James Andrews, who is baseball’s answer to the grim reaper.

So let me tell you what probably happened here: Andrews looked at Sale late last year and, presumably, again during the offseason, after which he likely dissuaded the Red Sox from surgery. And the Red Sox – knowing they were going to trim payroll and likely trade Mookie Betts – complied. Then Sale got to spring and everyone bought into the happy horse manure, including Sale, who said he has felt as good as he has in a long time.

Given that he had several months off, I would certainly have hoped so.

BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox looks on as Austin Romine of the New York Yankees rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning of a game at Fenway Park on July 28, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 28: Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox looks on as Austin Romine of the New York Yankees rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning of a game at Fenway Park on July 28, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

The problem? Sale’s elbow isn’t any better and might be worse, which felt wholly predictable. Had Sale undergone surgery last offseason, he would have missed 2020 regardless, but he would have been ready for 2021. Now that is also in doubt. In the cases of Tommy John, pitchers typically aren’t back to something resembling normalcy for about 18 months, which means the extra months in this case made a huge difference. By waiting, the Red Sox cost themselves two seasons with Sale and not one.

So here’s the question: why did the Red Sox wait? Surely, they had to know the timetable. And given everything else the Red Sox have done this offseason, one can’t help but wonder if they rolled the dice on Sale because they knew they would be losing both Betts and, for that matter, Price.

Think about it: well, we’re probably going to trade some guys away and fans are going to be annoyed. So let’s roll the dice with Sale and see if we catch a break. If Sale has surgery and we trade away both Price and Mookie, that’s going to be a hard sell to the fans in 2020.

So they waited.

And it blew up on them.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 18: Starting pitcher Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox pitches at the top of the third inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on July 18, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 18: Starting pitcher Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox pitches at the top of the third inning of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on July 18, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Now, the Red Sox can obviously address their pitching again next offseason, when they will be willing to eclipse the luxury tax again. But that’s hardly the point. Over the last few years, the Red Sox backed themselves into a corner with bad contracts and a bad farm system – a lethal combination – which has delivered them to the miserable place they’re in. And by waiting on Sale, they may now have to go back out on the market again next fall and sign another bad contract, which feels like it will ultimately exacerbate the problem.

Incredible.

Now just 18 months after winning the World Series and a total of 119 regular – and post-season games, the Red Sox feel like a house in ruin.

And they are living there thanks to what can only be described as gross mismanagement of assets.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.