By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and when—or if—the 2020 regular season begins, the Red Sox will officially be without ace left-hander Chris Sale. Two weeks ago, news surfaced that Sale would require a season-ending elbow operation, and the star underwent Tommy John surgery. Sale will miss all of 2020 and likely the first half of 2021, an unfortunate occurrence given that he is set to enter into the first season of a five-year contract extension signed prior to the start of last season. Sale’s injury paired with Boston’s trading of Mookie Betts sets the Red Sox up for a rough season in the ultra-competitive American League East.
Interestingly, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery last August, Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon announced on Tuesday that he is unlikely to pitch in 2020. Given the obvious late start to the year, and a possible late finish as a result, it is highly surprising to see news that Taillon is already ruling out a return to the big league mound this year. Even in a best-case scenario, the Pirates aren’t likely to contend in 2020, but Taillon is an important piece for the franchise’s future. It seems as if Pittsburgh has already made the decision to play for 2021 and beyond.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has struggled through injuries, but the team’s manager stressed that the franchise has zero long-term concern. There had speculation the Yankees could look to shift Judge to first base as a means of sustaining his health, though that speculation ignores the presence of Luke Voit at the position. Limited to 102 games in 2019, Judge still impressed with 27 home runs and a .272/.381/.540 batting line. Initially, Judge was ruled out to be in New York’s lineup on Opening Day. It is now far more likely he’s recovered from his ailing cracked rib and suiting up as an integral part of one of baseball’s best lineups.
Like Judge, Rays ace left-hander Blake Snell will likely be ready for action when the start of the 2020 season arrives. Initially expected to miss a few weeks following an injection in his pitching elbow, Snell now looks poised to be healthy when Tampa Bay’s season commences. Last year was a disappointing encore to Snell’s incredible 2018 breakout (1.89 ERA in 31 starts, 4.8 fWAR), but Snell remains among baseball’s most electric young hurlers. The Rays are again poised to be in the playoff race, and getting a full season of health and production out of Snell would be a huge boon to the team’s postseason push.
Keeping with the trend, Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez was likely going to start the season on the injured list following offseason shoulder surgery. Now, he looks to be on track to be manning the hot corner and thriving in the heart of Cincinnati’s batting order when the season begins. In 2019, Suarez posted a third consecutive star-level season, hitting .271/.358/.572 with a whopping 49 home runs. With the Reds built to win the NL Central, Suarez will garner a lot more national attention with anything resembling similar production in 2020. Ignore any claims to Suarez being a one-year fluke. His 2019 was monstrous, but he has been a star for the past three seasons.
In the NFL, rumors that the Vikings were looking to trade safety Anthony Harris surfaced last week, but now it appears the franchise is looking to lock the playmaker up to a multi-year deal. Franchise tagged earlier this off-season, Harris is seeking to capitalize on a 2019 season that saw him join the best safeties in the NFL. The Vikings would be wise to ensure he remains in town, alongside Harrison Smith in what is easily the best safety duo in the league. It seems all but certain a deal will be completed.
As the Vikings look to extend Harris, a former Vikings looks to move on. Pass rusher Everson Griffen opted out of his deal with Minnesota a few weeks ago, and it appears he’s finally narrowing in on a team for 2020. The Seahawks have long been linked to Griffen, as have the Cleveland Browns. Both would be excellent landing spots for the veteran defensive lineman. Now 32 and on the downside of his career, Griffen remains a highly effective pass rusher, notching a total of 66 pressures this past season. A short-term deal is likely wherever he lands, but he could have a big impact for his new team during the upcoming season.