New Sale

Chris Sale, shown in action two seasons ago, is expected back in midsummer, say the Red Sox.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom doesn’t expect Chris Sale to open the 2021 season in the Red Sox rotation. He is estimating a midsummer return for the ace.

Sale, who underwent Tommy John surgery in late March, began throwing in early September. Tommy John rehab typically takes 12 months or more.

“With Chris, we’re still looking at a midsummer return to have him fully stretched out as a starter,” Bloom said Wednesday during a Zoom call. “But everything continues going along with that. Arm’s doing great, which is awesome.”

“I’d like to be in a spot where we feel pretty good about what we have (with starting pitching depth) and when he comes back, that’s upside,” Bloom said. “Because we know that’s not going to be at the beginning of the season.”

The Red Sox finished the 2020 season ranked 25th in starter ERA (5.34), last in starter WHIP (1.56) and 29th in starter opponent batting average (.279).

Bloom will need to add starting pitching this offseason via free agency or the trade market because he has multiple uncertainties regarding his 2021 rotation.

Eduardo Rodriguez also didn’t pitch in 2020 because of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), an after-effect of COVID-19. The Red Sox already have said they don’t know if Rodriguez will be able to carry a full 162-game schedule starter workload. They might need to cut back on his innings.

“Eddie has ramped up activity as planned,” Bloom said. “It’s early but things look pretty good so far. This is a little bit of a different path. So we have to stay flexible. But so far, he’s doing as well as you could possibly hope.”

Free agent chatter

Bloom isn’t ruling out engaging with free agents who are tied to qualifying offers.

Six MLB free agents — Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, J.T. Realmuto, Marcus Stroman, George Springer and Kevin Gausman — were extended one-year, $18.9-million qualifying offers. Gausman will accept his qualifying offer to return to the Giants in 2021, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported.

The Red Sox would forfeit a 2021 second-round draft pick and $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money if they signed a qualified free agent.

“I think it’s our responsibility to engage on everybody that could fit us,” Bloom said during a Zoom call Wednesday. “Obviously when you’re talking about somebody that has a qualifying offer on them, the cost to us in signing them is greater and you have to factor that in on some level. But I don’t like ruling us out on anybody.”

The Red Sox must target starting pitching this offseason after they finished the 2020 season ranked 25th in starter ERA (5.34), last in starter WHIP (1.56) and 29th in starter opponent batting average (.279).

Boston also should be in the market for bullpen help and an outfielder. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is a free agent. WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported Sunday that the Red Sox already have approached Bradley about re-signing him for 2021 “and beyond.”

“I think the course we chart this offseason, some of it might be based on what opportunities are there. And just how also things fit into our larger goal, which is to build a sustainable, championship contender,” Bloom said. “So that isn’t just focused on 2021. That’s also focused on longer-term opportunities and we just want to look at everything in the context of that. Not just how it helps us now, but what it could mean for us down the road. .. We just want to make sure that everything we do is consistent with that bigger goal.”