The last time I wrote one of these, the Red Sox were 2.5 games back of a wild card spot with a 28% chance of making the playoffs. Exactly two weeks later, they are now 2.0 games back of a wild card spot with a 24% chance of making the playoffs.
In the 11 games they played between, the Sox went 6-5 overall, and in true 2023 fashion, it was a 5-1 stretch followed by a 1-4 skid.
“This is a game where you can look at the odds and the odds are real and they’re based on a lot of really good evidence,” Chaim Bloom said. “They’re based on fact. They are what they are. Again, this isn’t something that should be surprising. We are a couple games out of a playoff spot right now. So clearly we’re going to need to run some teams down if we’re going to get in.
Not only will the team need to run down Toronto or Houston, but they’ll also need to outlast New York, Seattle and Los Angeles. It’s a daunting task ahead.
Luis Urias is an interesting acquisition, presuming he is in Boston either tomorrow, or shortly after a stint in Worcester, possibly to get a few reps in playing up the middle with Trevor Story.
Urias was a top prospect in 2018 and 2019, part of a big trade before 2020, and was a solid 2-3 WAR infielder in 2021 and 2022. This season has been a mess, missing two months after getting hurt on opening day and being sent to Triple-A after 51 at-bats in June. The Brewers decided to turn an infield spot over to their former 1st round pick, Brice Turang, and the Red Sox get to see if they can get Urias back on track and in line to start at second base for them in 2024.
Before the Angels decided not to sell, I wrote that Brandon Drury would be a nice fit, slotting into 2B down the stretch and for next season. Urias isn’t the sure bet Drury would have been, but ideally this works out similarly.
The Red Sox desperately want a young, controllable starting pitcher, the same as everyone else in MLB. Aaron Civale was the only player that changed hands at the deadline fitting that description. He’s heading to Tampa from Cleveland in exchange for a Top 100 first base prospect that’s nearly MLB ready.
Civale is a nice starter that has really limited damaging contact, but he doesn’t generate whiffs and his strikeout rate has dipped this year, so it will be interesting if Tampa can take him to a new level, or if he will slide back to being a nice, but not true impact starter. His 0.6 HR/9, .242 BABIP, and 83% left on base rate this season is driving his 2.34 ERA, but those are unlikely to hold. He’s only going to finish 2023 as a 2.0-2.5 fWAR pitcher, but will be making important playoff starts for the Rays.
That left the Sox looking at something like trading (Mikey Romero?) (Brainer Bonaci?) to rent Michael Lorenzen, or giving up something for Rich Hill, which would have been a waste, in my opinion. It sucks finding a starter didn’t work out, but it’s hard to be unhappy not going after rentals or missing out on unavailable players.
Which takes us to this morning’s report about the Red Sox being “one of the clubs that pursued a deal” for Justin Verlander. Obviously eye-opening, but it’s hard to imagine that ever having a real shot of happening, and I’m glad it didn’t.
The Red Sox one major need heading into the 2024 season is a very good starter, and if their path to that was dealing a major prospect haul for a diminished, discounted, (STILL GOOD!), 41-year-old Verlander, that would have been unappetizing in my view.
The report of deep trade talks involving Justin Turner going to Miami seems more likely to have been possible, and is especially intriguing considering Miami's abundance of young pitching. According to Ken Rosenthal, when the Turner trade didn’t get pushed across the goal line, Miami ended up trading their No. 2 prospect Jake Eder for Jake Burger, and No. 3 prospect Kahlil Watson for Josh Bell, both controlled beyond this year, provided Bell doesn’t opt out.
Such a trade would have been an incredibly ballsy move by Bloom, and in this alternate universe I’d guess James Paxton and Adam Duvall would have been shipped out as well. Certainly there would have been a meltdown from corners of the fan base, but that was happening no matter what the Red Sox did anyway.
It’s hard not to wonder what the haul could have been for those three. Obviously the playoff odds would have taken a hit, but activating Story, Urias, Chris Sale, and calling up Ceddanne Rafaela, would have still left the team very interesting for the final two months, with Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock sounding like they are about 10-14 days away from returning as well.
We’ll never know how such a path would have played out. It’s time to focus on a two-month rock fight, the Sox are right where I thought they may be eve of the season:
The fight for the last one or two playoff spots in the American League should be pretty chaotic, and I'm hopeful that the Red Sox will be in the middle of it all.