Tomase: Could Sale and Duran make the Red Sox contenders? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
They probably won’t add a big-name reliever, or a past-his-prime slugging first baseman, or a big contract, either. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom admitted over the weekend that he’s predisposed to valuing prospects, which means he’s unlikely to start dealing them just because his Red Sox rebuild is operating ahead of schedule.
“If we want to keep ourselves out of the basement, we have to make sure no matter how good we are, we’re not just throwing away our future,” he said.
He may not have to, because there are two players in the organization who could top any rental or reinforcement Bloom theoretically acquires at next month’s trade deadline.
We’ve been hearing a lot about Chris Sale and Jarren Duran recently, and for good reason. The former is nearing a return to the mound to face hitters, and if he somehow regains his old form later this summer, he could completely upend the pennant race.
The latter is the team’s most exciting prospect since Mookie Betts hopped a flight to Yankee Stadium in 2014 for his big-league debut, and after a successful stint with Team USA during Olympic qualifying, Duran appears to be inching closer to an inevitable promotion to Fenway Park, where he could solve two problems — adding an everyday outfielder, as well as another left-handed bat to the lineup.
I typically grimace at the idea of the most impactful trade deadline acquisition being a player returning from injury, but in the case of Sale, it’s hard to argue otherwise, since he has been able to make the case for title of Best Pitcher Alive throughout his career.
Sale’s career ERA (third-best among active MLB pitchers)
“He could be as or probably more impactful than any addition we could possibly conceive of making,” Bloom said. “We know what Chris Sale when he’s 100 percent looks like — he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. But at the same time, we don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we’re reliant on him coming back.
“I think we build it without him. When he’s ready to roll, I’m sure we’re not going to have trouble finding a spot for him. As we get closer to the deadline and he keeps progressing, we’ll have a lot more information. But you can never have enough pitching. If we were able to layer on the impact that he could bring on top of a club that we already feel good about, that’s a great position to be (in).”
Minor leaguer Connor Seabold, himself rehabbing a minor arm injury, recently tweeted that he watched Sale throw bullpens in Fort Myers and really liked what he saw.
Similarly, Duran oozes game-changing potential with his newfound power as well as his trusty speed, and he just soared from 86th to 29th in Baseball America’s top 100 prospect rankings.
Duran has homered seven times in 18 games with Triple-A Worcester while posting an OPS nearing 1.000. He just went 7 for 19 for Team USA with a double and triple. A little more seasoning, and the 24-year-old will be ready for Boston.
“Obviously the conversations will always be there,” manager Alex Cora said. “This is a guy that’s going to impact this team in the future. And the future doesn’t mean tomorrow or a month, maybe next year or two years. But we know he’s a good player. The way he impacts the game offensively, running the bases, is eye-opening.”
The Red Sox have struggled to find a center fielder to play between Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe, since Kiké Hernández has been needed some at second base and Danny Santana hasn’t hit. Duran could fill that bill.
And who knows — one day soon, he may be pocketing lazy fly balls with Sale on the mound and the Red Sox suddenly believing their ceiling is higher than sneaking into the playoffs as a wild card.