The Boston Red Sox will return to the diamond at Fenway Park this week after three representatives helped the American League to a 3-2 win against the National League in the Midsummer Classic in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Boston’s slide during the month of July has caused the group to fall to fourth in the American League East at the MLB All-Star break, though the Red Sox are not far out of postseason positioning. Given their current standing in the playoff picture, and the upcoming MLB trade deadline on Aug. 2, the Red Sox have plenty of decisions to make and things to address.
Here are six storylines to watch for as the Red Sox return from the break:
Will Chris Sale return for the Red Sox?
Sale sent the Red Sox into the MLB All-Star break on a low note Sunday, as he suffered a fractured pinkie finger on a first-inning comebacker against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox announced Sale underwent surgery Monday and the left-hander now has some sort of pin in the pinkie on his throwing hand. The organization has not revealed a timetable for Sale’s return, and the speculated timeline of the injury has many questioning whether he will return at all this season. Both Sale and manager Alex Cora expressed optimism the veteran starter could return, especially considering he’s made just two starts in 2022. It undoubtedly is the biggest storyline for the Red Sox entering the second half.
How will the Red Sox operate at the MLB trade deadline?
The Red Sox find themselves in a difficult situation after losing eight of their last 10 before the break. The Yankees are in the driver’s seat for the American League East crown, possessing a 13-game advantage over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s fair to think the Bronx Bombers are going to win the division running away. But the Red Sox continue to flirt with a wild-card berth, and despite their recent struggles, they’re just two games back. Boston, after all, possessed the top wild-card spot following its strong month of June, and if Chaim Bloom and company believe the Red Sox still have the makeup of a contender, perhaps they add at the deadline. Then again, if the front office believes they’re staring down a one-and-done playoff run, perhaps they sell with eyes toward the future.
Who wins the Juan Soto sweepstakes?
The Washington Nationals reportedly are shopping superstar Juan Soto after the 23-year-old outfielder reportedly turned down a historic $440 million contract offer this summer. Given the talent possessed by Soto, the Nationals likely won’t receive any shortage of phone calls. But how will the Soto sweepstakes impact the Red Sox? First, and perhaps most obviously, would Boston consider a blockbuster for the Nationals slugger? And if not, would a rival of the Red Sox — yes, we’re looking directly at the Yankees — put themselves in position to trade and sign Soto long term? Soto is one of the best players in the game and only will continue to get better. It’s not hyperbole to say the trade and ensuing long-term agreement could be a league-altering move.
Is there a chance Garrett Whitlock remains in the bullpen?
The Red Sox moved Whitlock to a starting role in late April and continued to trot him out in that position until an injury forced him to miss the majority of June before a return last week. Whitlock, with the Red Sox briefly looking like they were getting back to a healthy rotation, returned to the bullpen to throw three hitless innings (two games) against the Yankees. If the injury to Sale didn’t take place, it’s fair to assume Whitlock might continue to stay in that role. However, the decision is once again up in the air due to Boston being bit by the injury bug again.
Do the Red Sox work out in-season extensions with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers?
Bogaerts, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the 2022 campaign, indicated while in Los Angeles he had not had any midseason contract talks with the Red Sox front office. Devers, meanwhile, is under contract through the 2023 season, but there’s nothing that keeps Boston from negotiating with either of the two players. Devers seemingly shed light on a previous offer from the club while speaking to reporters in Los Angeles this week. Perhaps Boston is able to come to an agreement on an in-season extension with one or both players? Red Sox fans likely would welcome it.
Might Triston Casas make his debut in the big leagues?
Casas, one of Boston’s top prospects, previously was one step away from the majors while competing in Triple-A Worcester. The highly touted first baseman, however, suffered a high ankle sprain in May and continues to work his way back to the WooSox. Casas’ potential arrival very well could be viewed as a positive given Boston’s lackluster production at first base. However, Casas also could arrive later this summer if Boston struggles to start the second half and falls out of the playoff picture.