The Red Sox used 44 players in 2018 on their way to a 108-win season followed by a resounding World Series championship.
Only 14 remain in the organization from that team, which includes the essentially retired Dustin Pedroia. Just eight were in uniform for Sunday’s 9-5 victory against the Nationals.
Mitch Moreland, one of the heroes of the ’18 Series, was the latest out the door. He was traded to the Padres on Sunday for two legitimate prospects.
It was absolutely the right move. Moreland turns 35 next week and the Sox sold high on him while making room for Bobby Dalbec to play first base.
It was a good idea to trade Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman to the Phillies, too. Consensus around the game is that the Sox received better than expected value in both deals.
The sell-off could well continue before the trade deadline hits at 4 p.m. Monday. The Sox would certainly do Jackie Bradley Jr. a favor by trading him to a contender.
But where does it stop, this creeping anonymity? Outside of a few core players, the Red Sox are loaded with fringe big leaguers not even the most avid fan could pick out of the lineup.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is adept at making moves that incrementally improve the team’s overall talent base while reducing the payroll. It was why ownership hired Bloom, to buy low and sell high enough times until you create sustainable success.
It works. The Rays won 186 games from 2018-19 and are in first place this season. Their farm system is loaded with high-end talent.
But the Rays also haven’t won a Division Series since 2008 and are exploring the idea of eventually playing half their games in Montreal to make up for the lack of interest in Florida.
It’s a style that can seem antiseptic at times. Brock Holt, a valuable player who was immensely popular with the fan base, said Sunday he “didn’t really hear from the Red Sox at all” after becoming a free agent last fall.
“A little strange to me,” Holt said. “It’s one of those things, first time through free agency, didn’t really know what to expect. Figured I’d get a phone call or something. They called a couple of times just checking in. But it was never really close to offering [a contract].”
Holt ended up with Milwaukee and was 3 for 31 before being released, then signing Saturday with the Nationals, so the Sox had it right.
Holt video chatted with Moreland on Saturday to congratulate him on reaching 10 years of major league service time.
“I asked him, ‘You going to get traded?’ He said, ‘No.’ But obviously he got traded,” Holt said. “I’m proud of him. He’s one of my favorite teammates of all time. He’s a winner, good to have around. Padres are lucky to have him.”
Moreland joined the Sox on a one-year, $5.5 million deal in 2017. He left with an .803 OPS over four seasons.
Moreland was an All-Star in 2018 and had one of the biggest swings in Red Sox postseason history, a three-run homer in Game 4 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium.
With the Sox down, 4-0, Moreland pinch hit with two outs in the seventh inning and crushed a Ryan Madson changeup to right field that for a second seemed like it might end up in the parking lot. The Sox went on to a 9-6 victory and a 3-1 series lead. They wrapped it up the next night.
Like Holt, he was a good teammate whose effort you never had any reason to question.
Holt has watched the dismantling of the ’18 team with a mixed sense of melancholy and reality.
“That’s part of the business of baseball,” he said. “It’s the [lousy] part of it but it happens. It’s time to move on. It’s tough to see because we were so close, such a fun group of guys to be a part of. But that’s baseball.”
But, unlike Tampa Bay, baseball is part of the day-to-day fabric in Boston and you wonder how fans will adapt to the constant turnover.
If the team is successful, maybe it won’t matter. They’ll learn to root for the jersey and not who’s in them.
I asked Bloom on Sunday to what degree he takes intangibles into account when making these deals.
“We think about it. How can you not think about it?” he said. “We know what someone like Mitch Moreland means to our fans and the group in here and to us. That makes all of it harder.
“We’re aware of that; we think about it; we factor it in. We also know that our job is to make sure that we can set ourselves up to win a lot in the future. If there’s something we think that helps us do that, then even though they’re difficult emotions that come with it, we need to be willing to do that and we need to be willing to make those hard decisions.”