Chris Sale is under contract for four more years with the Boston Red Sox -- plus an option for 2025 -- and with the team hoping that he can contribute throughout the length of the contract, the pace for his return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate, according to sources.
Sale had the elbow reconstruction on March 30, his 31st birthday, and typically pitchers require 12 to 15 months to recover from that procedure. There was speculation in December that within that timeline, Sale might be back sooner rather than later -- which would fit the pitcher's aggressive personality.
But Sale is about to embark on Year 2 of his five-year, $145 million deal that was finalized early in the 2019 season, and so both the team and the pitcher have reason to take a long view on his recovery. The bulk of the left-hander's production for the Red Sox will happen in the last three years of the deal, and while sources say the team would love for Sale to come back and be a factor at some point in 2021, the Red Sox are apt to take a conservative approach.
The New York Mets and pitcher Noah Syndergaard, however, are taking a more aggressive approach. Though Syndergaard also had his Tommy John surgery in late March, both he and the Mets want to push the timeline on recovery.
Syndergaard will be eligible for free agency in the fall and stands to immediately benefit from a productive season, and the team, in control of Syndergaard for only 2021 before he hits the open market, could use some return on investment from a homegrown player making $9.7 million this year.
The Red Sox acquired Sale in a trade with the White Sox during the 2016-17 offseason, and in the three regular seasons that followed, he made 84 starts and generated a 3.08 ERA, with 763 strikeouts in 519⅔ innings. Arm trouble forced him to the disabled list late in the 2018 season, but he wound up finishing Boston's championship-clinching win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, spinning hard sliders. After battling more physical problems in 2019, Sale tried to come back in spring training of 2020 before breaking down once and for all.