Chris Sale will miss at least the entire 2020 season following Thursday's announcement that he'll require Tommy John surgery. What kind of impact does his absence have on the Red Sox pitching staff?
Cockcroft: What struck me most at the moment when Sale's injury issues again resurfaced this spring was how little depth the Red Sox seem to have in their starting rotation. Sure, they signed Collin McHugh recently, and with the delayed start to the season, he might stand a better chance at a fifth starter job now, but who else is there really? Matt Hall? Mike Kickham? Denyi Reyes? I'd like to see Darwinzon Hernandez get another look as a starter now, but perhaps Bryan Mata could get a sooner look now, at least addressing the younger candidates.
Karabell: First, want to see my shocked face? Why is anyone surprised that Sale needs the surgery? Most flexor strains end up with this news. He clearly had elbow damage. I half-expected this announcement last fall but now, in a shortened season, there's even more reason for it. It surprised me that fantasy managers were investing, even at reduced prices. Sale and the Red Sox took their time with this but then again, I wonder if this starts a trend because some teams think there will be no season. Anyway, now Sale will be 32 when he next pitches and that is a bit concerning.
Mass: I had already elevated Eduardo Rodriguez into my top 25 pitchers when we first learned Sale would miss some time. Beyond that, you wouldn't have found another Boston starter in my top 100. Martin Perez and Nathan Eovaldi are who they are and may be worth a look for streaming purposes, but I'm still not overly excited about either of them. Going straight to the proverbial horse's mouth, manager Ron Roenicke threw out the names Ryan Weber and Brian Johnson as the guys he'd probably use as his Nos. 4-5 starters if he had to make that call today. Weber, in three spring starts before the stoppage, had a 11.0 K/9 rate and no walks, so perhaps there's something there. What do you guys think?
Karabell: I don't see much here for fantasy managers to project kindly, including Weber, a journeyman swingman who, small spring sample notwithstanding, doesn't miss many bats. Mata, at the least, offers that upside, but he is just 20 and hasn't thrown in Triple-A, so I see no reason why he'd be rushed. I doubt he debuts in '20. Perhaps the Red Sox, after the forced Mookie trade, really do view this as a rebuilding season so they won't care if Brian Johnson, with his piddling K rate and disastrous outcomes versus right-handed pitching (1.053 OPS against!), starts regularly. Frankly, I'm going to downgrade Rodriguez a bit, too. This is not a contending team, and E-Rod is not durable. The Sox will not push him. An ugly rotation looms.
Cockcroft: Oddly enough, I had Weber as the favorite for the fifth-starter job even before this, and I'd think he's nearly written in permanent ink as the fourth starter now. Not that there's much in the way of upside there, but he's a strike-throwing, grounder-inducing, sinker/changeup type, and having someone who can eat innings while minimizing damage behind that still strong lineup is important to this squad. Weber deserves more attention in the streaming-starters category than he's probably going to receive initially.
Mass: Back in January, when I first compiled my personal "start from scratch" dynasty ranks, I had Sale listed as my No. 11 SP. My process leans heavily on what I expect from players in the current year, with future seasons carrying less weight -- although that "down the road" impact tends to be a boost for younger players and a dip for those athletes on the other side of the league average at their position. As he enters his age-31 season, Sale definitely fits into that latter category. That said, if we assume that the 2020 season may only be around three months long, zeroing out Sale for this season won't see him drop nearly as far in my dynasty ranks as would happen if this were a surgery performed in a normal environment. For now, assuming all goes well and a typical recovery? I'll probably push him to No. 15 and stop the slide there.
Cockcroft: Any pitcher set for Tommy John surgery takes a significant hit in my dynasty rankings, even with my five-years-and-change weights, due to the lost time, but AJ's point is a valid one about the truncated season. Sale's absence is a bit less damaging than it'd be for a different starter, despite his 31 years of age: He's still a strike-throwing, bat-missing machine who didn't lose a substantial amount of velocity in recent years, suggesting that he could relatively quickly recapture his form by, say, mid-2021. I think there's a 2-3 year range of elite numbers left in that arm, post-surgery, but I'd probably hedge a little and rank him closer to 35th at his position than where I previously had him -- 16th. I'd prefer Sale to, say, Corey Kluber (38th), but would rather build around Brandon Woodruff (27th) or maybe Max Fried (35th).
Karabell: I'd like to be positive that Sale can still perform like a top-10 option, but it can't be until 2022, as this year is over and next year is surely comprised. Perhaps he'll pitch so well late in 2021 he'll deserve his "normal" ranking in 2022, but it sure seems like a poor dynasty investment. I'm a tad surprised at your reactions. Not everyone comes back to prior levels after UCL replacement surgery. I'll take healthier, younger options in dynasty or better yet, simply focus on hitters.
Mass: It's a fair point, Eric. I'm probably just grasping for a chance to be optimistic at a time when that seems to be in scarce supply. At the same time, my next tier contains names like Luis Severino (who just had TJ surgery of his own), Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw and Blake Snell -- none of whom are bastions of health themselves -- but at least I know it's unlikely Sale will get more hurt between now and 2021. I can't say the same for the bulk of this next group.