Logic and emotion aren’t always in agreement when the Red Sox are the topic. But they might be now as we ponder how this flawed, faltering team should proceed for the remainder of the season.
The Red Sox dropped back-to-back games to the Yankees over the weekend by a combined 27-3 score, have lost 6 of 7, 14 of 20, and are out of the frame of the American League playoff picture.
They trail the Mariners, Rays, and Blue Jays in the wild-card race, and at 48-45 are barely ahead of the Guardians (46-44), White Sox (46-46), and, yes, the Orioles (46-46). The Red Sox have become the least-interesting type of team in baseball: one that dwells in the mediocre middle and deserves nothing better than being there.
So for many among us, if not most, common sense and the lingering frustration — even anger — from their string of recent debacles collide at one conclusion: The Red Sox should be sellers at the trade deadline.
I cannot join that chorus yet. I don’t think it’s wrong, mind you. It’s probably the right thing to do, with Chris Sale injured again, and J.D. Martinez and Nate Eovaldi headed toward free agency and holding legitimate appeal as trade-deadline pickups for authentic contenders.
It’s just that if you’re going to be serious about being a seller, you have to do it right. And being serious and doing it right probably means dealing Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox’ most appealing realistic trade asset, even as he can opt out of his team-friendly contract after the season.
I’m just not ready to see that happen, even if the classy shortstop’s eventual departure feels like an inevitability given management’s borderline insulting approach to negotiations.
It must be noted that the one game the Red Sox did win in the three-game set in the Bronx was settled when Bogaerts made a savvy dash for home to score the deciding run on a wild pitch in the 11th inning Friday night. It was an example of a winning player making a winning play for a team that needs every win it can get. Those smarts combined with his ability will make him a cornerstone into his mid-30s for whichever fortunate franchise he plays.
Pardon my reluctance to pound the keyboard and shout “sell, sell, sell” at the moment. The Red Sox have seemed to tip their hand about Bogaerts’s Red Sox future, or utter lack of one if he doesn’t sign another discounted deal, time and again, from signing Trevor Story to spending their last two first-round picks on prep shortstops. But I still hope that somehow he stays, or more accurately, that management offers him a reason to stay.
Here is what I do know for sure: The Red Sox are not going to be a championship contender if they refuse to pay the going rate for stars and superstars. Bogaerts is going to get a couple hundred million somewhere. Rafael Devers, when the time comes, is going to get a $350 million-$400 million contract somewhere. Juan Soto, who will get $500 million somewhere, is exactly the kind of ascending superstar talent that the Red Sox should be in on if the Nationals do indeed trade him. And I’m already preparing to see him in pinstripes.
There’s a lot to like about what Chaim Bloom has done since he was hired as the Red Sox’ chief baseball officer in October 2019. The farm system is reloaded with quality and depth. The front office has shown an uncanny ability to find overlooked pitchers, from Garrett Whitlock to John Schreiber. The Sox won 92 games last year, unexpectedly, and wound up two wins from the World Series. It was, by most measures, a very successful season.
But I can’t help think, as we sit here in July awaiting the Red Sox’ first series win against an American League East foe, that last year was the pinnacle for what they can achieve with the current team-building approach.
The Red Sox have too many resources to mirror the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are almost always an excellent team, even with a roster dotted with who’s-hes and where’d-they-find-hims. They have won at least 90 games in each of the last three full seasons, and eight times since 2008. They’ve been to the World Series twice in that span, in 2008 and during the COVID-19 abbreviated 2020 season. But they haven’t won one. Both times — to the Phillies 14 years ago and the Dodgers in 2020 — they lost to a star-studded team. That last step is the hardest, and the difficulty is maximized when you’re facing a talent deficit.
The Dodgers, the happy home of Mookie Betts, are the team the Red Sox should emulate. They find bargains, draft and develop talent with great expertise . . . oh, and pay for elite talent. They have five players making at least $21 million this season, and another three making at least $17 million. The Dodgers have the best of all worlds.
Yes, this is a “bridge year” of sorts for the Red Sox, with so many pending free agents. But in 2010, the season when Theo Epstein made that term part of our sports lexicon, at least we got to watch Adrián Beltré.
This year? We get practical negligence in giving Bobby Dalbec and Jackie Bradley Jr. a combined 513 plate appearances before the All-Star break. There’s no rationalization for leaving the lineup so short for so long.
Perhaps when the rest of the organization is built up, the final phase for Bloom will be paying for elite talent. But I’m going to be skeptical until it happens.
Red Sox fans love their stars. Many become legends. Three Red Sox were chosen for the All-Star Game on Tuesday night — Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez. The first two should be representing the Red Sox for a long time.
Something is wrong when all we can talk about is when they might leave.