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Thoughts Amid the Chaos
“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.”
That’s how I summed up my feeling the day before this season started. 43% of the way through the year, with a 34-35 record, the Red Sox season has certainly been chaotic, and after a very nice start, it feels like their fingertips are grasping for something to stop a downward spiral that has left their playoff odds already in peril.
To reach 88 wins, which is the expected neighborhood needed for the final wild card spot, the team is going to need to go 54-39 the rest of the way. That means playing .581 ball, which is 94 win pace. An extremely tall task created by themselves from playing incomprehensibly poorly against teams they shouldn’t be losing series against.
The team needs to sustain the good starting pitching they have had over the past month, break their offense out of an incredible cold stretch, avoid more injuries, and have breaks start to go their way again. Not impossible! But the math is the math when it comes to trade deadline decisions.
With things spiraling, Chaim Bloom has come back under intense fire, which I think is fairer now than it’s been in the past, but still mostly ridiculous. He was hired so that the team could stop wildly changing course every few years, and he should at least have his full contract to find out where the organization stands at the end.
Bloom has been on the job for 3 years and 7 months. He arrived and had to part ways with Alex Cora within months. Betts wanted the Red Sox to pay him $420M, we know what happened, and there is no reason to rehash that for the millionth time. When he showed up to his first spring training, his inherited ace, with 5 years, $25.6M AAV remaining on his contract, needed Tommy John surgery, and he’s got to have Sale on the mound for 107 total innings with a 3.94 ERA. Covid happened, the market dried up. He traded for Schwarber at the trade deadline, and they went to the ALCS. A lockout happened, the market was dead. This past winter, in the most normal time of business since Bloom has been on the job, the trade market was almost totally dormant. This has been a total shitshow of circumstances, and still, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, at least in my opinion.
Devers, Yoshida and Story are signed, and should be healthy going forward. The middle and back end of the rotation looks solid with long-term controlled pitchers in their twenties. The process of integrating young players onto the major league roster has begun — with an out of touch with reality impatience from a segment of fans who seemingly don’t see how hard this is across baseball. The minor league system looks the healthiest it has in a long time, even though it is not as loaded as some of the organizations that tanked for long periods of time and stacked top draft picks on top of each other. The payroll is in a good spot going forward.
That said, there are negatives. The Red Sox spend more time apologizing for stupid, avoidable shit than should ever be possible considering how many smart people there are in the front office and organization. I feel there has been an overly cautious approach to preserving depth, on the fringes of both the active and 40-man rosters. Is that being wary after the Springs trade? The team showed great conviction in going out and making sure to land Yoshida, and it feels like there hasn’t been enough of that in free agency or trades. Such as, if they really wanted Eflin, make it too uncomfortable for Tampa to match your offer, rather than moving on and eventually settling on geriatric starting pitcher option 9.
Also, while resurrecting a farm system and dealing with unprecedented market upheavals don't really lend themselves to major prospect trades, it's still hard to believe how few prospects — and their lack of quality — Bloom has used in deals.
Like with every powerhouse franchise, the Red Sox should be significantly over the luxury tax for two years, before resetting. It’s 99.99% likely that they are staying under the tax this year, so with that, if there is no significant payroll expenditure this winter, the pitchforks should be out for ownership in a way that has never been voiced before. FSG has always spent, and spent massively when appropriate, on payroll during their tenure. This winter will be appropriate, and if they don’t spend accordingly, it’s indefensible.
Reset years happen. The Red Sox do it, the Yankees and Dodgers too, and I guarantee at some point Steve Cohen and the Mets will get into the business of resetting as well. That’s just how it is. But when you dip under, it has to be followed up with one of the few ways left to flex financial superiority, paying MLB players. Bloom has had the time to build his infrastructure, get the books in order, and this winter is when you take your big shots.
If they are allowed to take those shots, and are not a very good team next year, that’s it for the front office.
Position player free agency is so bad this winter, I wonder if the Red Sox will try to get Duvall to sign a 1-year deal before the trade deadline. Rafaela isn’t MLB ready, Abreu is a left-handed hitter, and their best outfield prospects (in my opinion) are in A-ball. They need center field coverage for another year, and Duvall should be able to supply the lineup with much-needed right-handed barrels. Seems like it could make sense for both sides, and if the Red Sox are spending this winter, a deal like this wouldn’t have them counting nickels.
On The Fenway Rundown podcast today, Ken Rosenthal said, “Honestly, if Paxton stays upright and pitching like this, he's going to have tremendous trade value.”
Unless the Red Sox go on a crazy-hot streak soon, Paxton is very likely to be traded, I would think. I wouldn’t have a problem with signing him to an extension before the deadline if they think this is generally sustainable for a couple of years, but if offers are out there for a top-100-type prospect, that would be pretty hard to pass on and instead roll the dice with health / qualifying offer / free agency.