In the days and then hours preceding Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline, the Red Sox contemplated a significant reshaping.
Already, the move to send Christian Vázquez to the Astros on Monday had jolted the organization. It seemed but a prelude, with J.D. Martinez, Nate Eovaldi, Rich Hill, and others seeming likely to relocate.
Instead, after Monday’s three-trade flurry, the Sox did not deal away any other signature contributors of their last title run. Instead, the team made just one more move Tuesday — an entirely unexpected addition.
The Sox landed Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer and two prospects in exchange for Triple A lefthander Jay Groome. San Diego will pay nearly all of the $44 million that Hosmer is owed, with the Sox on the hook for just the major league minimum salary to acquire the four-time Gold Glover.
The Sox saw the addition of Hosmer — on top of the Monday deals for outfielder Tommy Pham and catcher Reese McGuire — as offsetting the loss of Vázquez and reliever Jake Diekman, while viewing the addition of four prospects (despite the subtraction of Groome) as a gain for the farm system’s health.
With the addition of Hosmer, the Sox concluded a deadline of partial measures. They didn’t gut their club for prospects. They didn’t shed the payroll necessary to duck below the luxury-tax threshold. They didn’t address their deficient bullpen, instead thinning their relief corps by dealing Diekman. While Hosmer will upgrade their defense, they also introduced an element of uncertainty by parting with Vázquez.
The collective moves felt indecisive — perhaps appropriate for a team that carried a 52-52 record into Tuesday’s game, good enough for a shot at the postseason but with no guarantee of contention.
“If you had asked me [Monday] night I would’ve thought we would’ve made more moves than we did [Tuesday],” said chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “[But] when you have a chance at the playoffs, a real chance, even if it’s not the chance you were hoping to have, or even the chance we had a month ago, that’s not something you take lightly. And we wanted to do what we could to bolster that chance and still do the right moves for the organization.
“At the end of the day, we weren’t going to force anything that didn’t fit those goals.”
Still, the Sox explored numerous scenarios leading up to the deadline. But it quickly became evident that the asks for players from Juan Soto to Shohei Ohtani to A’s catcher Sean Murphy would vastly exceed anything the team was comfortable doing.
More recently, according to several industry sources, the Sox on Tuesday discussed possible trades involving Eovaldi, Martinez, and Hill. But the Sox sought what other teams considered extremely high returns — top prospects in some proposals, both big leaguers and prospects in others.
“[It] felt like they just wanted to see if someone would get dumb,” said one AL evaluator.
In the absence of teams willing to pay such costs for rentals, the Sox kept their big league group together, hoping that the deadline additions and players soon returning from injury (Hill, Michael Wacha, Trevor Story, and Kiké Hernández) can propel a postseason bid.
“Simply put, we do think we have a chance to make a run,” said Bloom. “When we have a shot like this, even if it’s not the shot we hoped to have in April, we set a high bar before we throw away that shot.”
When the deadline passed with the addition of Hosmer and no further departures, the Sox players in Houston experienced relief and a measure of excitement.
“It’s like on New Year’s Eve — 3, 2, 1, fireworks,” manager Alex Cora said about the deadline. “We get a phone call [saying no one else has been traded] and here we go. There’s a lot of excitement. For how down we were [after the Vázquez trade on Monday], there’s a lot of people excited in the clubhouse keeping some of these guys to make a push.”
The Hosmer deal was the unexpected collateral outcome of a blockbuster that didn’t initially involve the Sox.
Early Tuesday, the Padres landed megastar Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell from the Nationals. Hosmer, who has three-plus years remaining on the eight-year, $144 million deal, was initially among the players going to Washington. But the first baseman, who had the Nationals on a 10-team no-trade list, exercised his right to veto the deal, leaving the Padres scrambling.
In past years, the teams had discussed deals in which the Sox would assume Hosmer’s contract and receive a top prospect in return. More recently, San Diego and the Sox discussed deals, including a catcher swap of Vázquez for Austin Nola along with Hosmer and other parts.
But Tuesday, San Diego — mindful of avoiding a clubhouse conflagration — came back to the Sox with a new proposition. The Padres would pay all of Hosmer’s roughly $44 million, save for the big league minimum.
The teams then figured out a prospect swap, with San Diego sending a pair of lower-level prospects — middle infielder Max Ferguson (the No. 23 prospect in the Padres system, according to Baseball America) and outfielder Corey Rosier (unranked) — while getting back Groome, a 2016 first-round pick who never recaptured his top-of-the-rotation potential after Tommy John surgery in 2018.
The chance to add Hosmer for no real cost in salary offered the Sox an obvious chance to upgrade. The team’s first base production this year has been abysmal, near the bottom of MLB teams in average (.203, 29th), OBP (.278, 27th), and slugging (.349, 28th), with dreadful defense.
Hosmer, 32, is hitting .272/.336/.391 with eight homers — good for a 112 OPS+. He won his last Gold Glove in 2017 and now grades as an average fielder, a description that represents a huge upgrade for the Sox.
“Not saying anything that’s not obvious, we have struggled to find stability at the first base position this year and we think Eric will provide that,” said Bloom.
With the additions of Hosmer, Pham, and McGuire, as well as the prospects, the Sox believe they did justice to any hopes of contending while adding to their farm system. It wasn’t necessarily the path the team anticipated but ultimately the Sox decided it was their best path forward.
“I think we have a roster that I hope will be more functional than what we’ve seen over these first four months, especially as we get healthier,” said Bloom. “[And] I think we made the organization stronger going forward as well.”