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A New Era
I started writing a couple drafts over the last ten days, but decided to hold off to see how the last few top free agents played out before starting to make judgments. Bogaerts, Correa, Rodon, and now Swanson have tied a bow on the final few elite free agents in this top-heavy class. The only remaining free agents that are projected by Fangraphs to be worth 2+ WAR next season are 33-year-old 2B Jean Segura and 33-year-old SP Nathan Eovaldi.
Everyone is asking what the hell are the Red Sox doing, and the only thing that makes sense to me is that they were completely convinced that at the end of the day they were going to be able to sign Bogaerts to a deal in the area of what Swanson got, 7/$177M, and they built their entire offseason around that.
Just a guess on my part, but I bet up until the last 48 hours before Bogaerts signed with the Padres, they still thought that signing him was a very likely scenario. In that time frame we learned that the Phillies didn’t grade out Bogaerts close to Turner or Correa, and national reports were saying Bogaerts was expected to land in the $180M-$200M range, which I ultimately think the Red Sox would have won out if that were the case. Alas, San Diego gave him a Godfather offer, the following days have been spent killing the Red Sox for not putting their best foot forward in the months and years leading up to that point, and now here we are.
I’d been pretty curious over the last few days if the Red Sox were going to pivot to Swanson. He got a “reasonable enough” contract, the draft and international penalties would have been annoying, but it seemed like most people were getting excited about a Bogaerts - Jansen - Martin - Yoshida winter, and if you just substituted Swanson into that I don’t think it would have made much of a difference, in fact it’s not out of question that the team would have been in better shape.
My issue with that hypothetical was that it would have been more middle class shopping when Correa, a young version of what you desperately need, with no qualifying offer penalties attached, was right there for the taking and the Red Sox apparently felt like paying only money for his services was totally unreasonable, and that is absolutely pathetic.
Now the shortstops are all gone elsewhere, with Story penciled in at short for the Sox. Segura, Andrus, and Iglesias are up the middle free agent depth still available, along with some other shit that shouldn’t even be in consideration for a Red Sox roster spot, let alone actual playing time.
The Red Sox are still $40M below the first CBT threshold, but it sounds like they had already flipped into trade mode last week, which was mind-boggling to read. I still presume they will still spend that money, but now it’s at least in question if they actually will, which is another disgusting feeling.
Alex Speier had some good insights on Keith Law’s podcast the other day. One that I thought was interesting was that the Red Sox were never going huge on Bogaerts because of how their model projects him going forward. That makes sense to me. If I had to guess, his power will bounce back some in 2023, but his defense will start to look ugly again, and he won’t have another historic season of ground ball hits. Maybe that all equals out for another very good year, but it’s clear that he’s already in some decline, and it may get ugly before the midway point of his contract. He’s also going to be fighting a major swing in home ballpark friendliness.
Another comment from Speier was that the Red Sox seem unlikely to set the market for players for the time being.
“They certainly aren’t the Red Sox they were under Dave Dombrowski, when they were setting the market, when they were the ones signing David Price to a record-setting 7/$217M deal. Chaim Bloom was hired to not do that sort of deal, to not set the market in free agency. Instead, to create the next homegrown group, the next wave of guys who are going to anchor what they hope are championship ambitions, with high-end players, but not highest-end players.”
That was alarming to hear, and something that should send shivers down your spine if you’re looking for an ace or middle of the order superstar in the near future (After Devers? With Devers?). Liverpool is for sale, reportedly, because Fenway Sports Group doesn’t care for the endless pockets in European soccer nowadays. Same sentiment hitting close to home now?
Since the start of spring training, the front office has given us Hall of Fame level lip service about everything under the sun, and it feels like it’s fallen short at every crossroad.
Over the summer they amended their messaging from, “they are cornerstones, we want Bogaerts and Devers here forever,” to, “we want Bogaerts and Devers here, on deals that make sense for both sides, but we know that people are sick of hearing us say that until deals are signed.” Then it was we are still are going to make a run at the playoffs, followed by the Red Sox are ready to spend this winter, then the endless Bogaerts is Option A talking point, then they sweetened their offers, then it was adding multiple number 2 starters, then the adding 7-8-9 players, and now it’s on to impacting the club with trades and that the team is going to surprise in 2023 (you're the Boston Red Sox with the highest fan costs in baseball, you shouldn’t have to surprise anyone, you should be fucking awesome) and they want to be a competitive team going forward. Great. People get mad that John Henry doesn’t talk to reporters, but hearing the front office talk for the last year has turned from encouraging to borderline nauseating.
ALL THAT BEING SAID — the offseason isn’t over, and the Red Sox aren’t going to be bad next year (most likely). But at this point, any free agent additions aren’t going to drastically change the talent outlook from a 2023 projected WAR standpoint. Trades can be made, and I expect a couple to happen, but it’s been reported Mayer, Casas and Bello are basically untouchable, which leaves Rafaela and Houck as probably your two best trade pieces, and in the Globe today it was reported, “the Sox have seemed less than eager to move Rafaela.” Soooo, what is there to trade for any sort of impact player? Ahhhh.
Note: Fangraphs doesn’t have a steamer projection for Yoshida, so he’s not included. His 50th percentile ZiPS is 2.8 WAR, so after you adjust for cutting back Refsnyder’s playing time, and some of Duran, Abreu, etc., the Sox are probably around 40 Projected WAR.
Heading into the winter I said spreading out the $90M of available money in middle class shopping would be the worst possible outcome, and after missing out on every MLB star free agent, signing two good, but geriatric, relievers to short term deals, and a hopefully good, but completely unknown Japanese position player with literally all his value tied to his bat, that is the type of offseason staring us in the face. Maybe even worse, since now we’re unsure if they’re going to even get to $233M in payroll.
If the Red Sox end up signing Eovaldi, Segura and Drury — or Kluber, Profar, and Carpenter — or any such combination — it’ll be hard to look at that with anything more than a shrug at this point. It feels like we’re at the tipping point of pissed off Red Sox fans turning their attention to spring postseason runs by the Bruins and Celtics, and stronger apathy setting in. Finally signing Devers would be a strong defibrillator jolt, but even then, there are still serious transactions needed to improve next season’s expectations from, “hoping things break right and we stay in a wild dog fight for the final wild card berth.”