SAN DIEGO — Phillies owner John Middleton has told his staff he wants to build a team that wins multiple championships, not just one. He backed that up by approving the signing of Trea Turner for 11 years and $300 million.
The Mets lost Jacob deGrom and pivoted quickly to land another ace, Justin Verlander. They’re still in the market for another starter.
The Padres didn’t need a shortstop but actually outbid the Phillies for Turner and would have moved Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield to make it work. The Padres are the only team left in San Diego after the Chargers bolted and chairman Peter Seidler wants to own his city.
The Twins, who are certainly not a big-market team, are doing their best to retain Carlos Correa, with the understanding it will take a $300 million deal.
There was a time when Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner operated in this swaggy fashion. The Sox were in on every big-time free agent or trade target. They were a franchise that roiled the industry with bold moves.
Look at the history. The Sox took a series of unexpected steps in 2004 trying to pull off a trade for Alex Rodriguez.
Theo Epstein put a plan in motion that would have sent Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester to Texas, while at the same time dealing Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox.
The moves were contingent on Rodriguez renegotiating his contract to take less money in return for an opt-out clause. But the Players Association refused to sign off and the deal died.
In 2006, the Sox were successful in signing Daisuke Matsuzaka, sending a contingent of team officials to California to force the issue with agent Scott Boras before a deadline hit to sign the Japanese star.
It was a saga followed step-for-step on ESPN and Matsuzaka threw a pitch off the mound to Henry when he got to Fenway Park the next day.
It didn’t always work. The Sox were aggressive in signing Carl Crawford at the 2010 Winter Meetings only to find out he was ill-suited for a big market.
That didn’t stop them from spending $31.5 million in 2015 to sign young Cuban star Yoan Moncada and paying a $31.5 million penalty to Major League Baseball for exceeding the bonus limits on amateur free agents.
Moncada became one of the prospects traded for Chris Sale in 2016 and that produced another championship two years later. The pitcher who won the clinching game was David Price, another expensive acquisition.
The Sox were players. They were one of the teams that set the tone. For all the grief they’re taking now, Henry and Werner won four championships and will be remembered in history as the greatest owners the franchise ever had.
Now the Sox are Team Caution, casting a wide net on players who would be solid additions, but not jumping in to chase Verlander, Aaron Judge, or the other big names. Under Chaim Bloom, they throw jabs, not roundhouses.
Team president Sam Kennedy, who joined the Sox in 2002, was around for the high times, cigars, and champagne. Why not do that again, I asked him Tuesday?
“There are different ways to build rosters. You have to have a complete team,” he said.
Kennedy pointed out, correctly, that the Sox were on the verge of the World Series in 2021 and the Bloom Backlash we’re seeing is a product of finishing in last place in 2022.
Kennedy trusts his chief baseball officer. As Bloom did his media briefing at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday, Kennedy was in the back of the room nodding his head along to the answers.
Bloom is convinced the Sox will have a contending team and I believe him. Over time he’ll connect on enough of these jabs and the roster will be much better.
The Sox have the resources to chase players like Judge. They’re just choosing not to.
“It’s more a question of what’s really the best way for us to put together a team that we want and make sure we’re doing it the right way,” Bloom said.
It makes sense. Maybe it will work. But there was something to be said for the days when the Sox flexed their muscles and dared other teams to get in their way.
Henry and Werner have avoided the media for several years now. I wonder if they miss those times, too?