After losing on a free agent top scorer, the Red Sox have shifted their offseason focus to the trade front.
“I really think the commercial market can be a really good way to add impact to our club,” said Chief Baseball Officer Haim Blum. the athlete on Monday. “We’re looking (at) a lot of significant moves there as long as we can do it in a way that doesn’t just steal from Peter to pay Paul, that moves us forward into 2023 and gives us an opportunity to make a significant value step forward from where we sit today.”
Where they sit today is better than it was a couple of months ago, but there are still big holes to fill. Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin purposefully upgrade their bullpen, and Masataka Yoshida gives them a new left fielder or designated hitter, but the Padres pushed the market for Xander Bogaerts far beyond the Red Sox’ comfort level, and so they lost their extended layoff. They still have a great need for a right-handed hitter, and an ongoing desire to add a starting pitcher. The free agent market has weakened, but the commercial market has hardly taken shape.
Free agency is still in play — the Red Sox seem to have quite a bit of money to spend — Bloom said, but the organization is willing to make a deal if and when that market makes more sense. The thaw began Monday with the Braves’ trade for A’s catcher Sean Murphy.
“Frankly, the strength of the free agent market has moved a lot of orders in trades to a point where I think it was difficult to close deals,” Bloom said. “But I think that will start to change.”
The Red Sox spent three years trying to deepen their farming system. They’ve churned out some valuable, upscale talent to the major league roster, but Bloom said he wouldn’t prefer a trade from that group. The Red Sox also have high-cap players in the lower levels who would be easier to trade if the return had an immediate effect.
“I think there are deals we can make — especially if they’re big, young players in the league — that might headline but might not necessarily make you better,” Bloom said. “They may add in one place and subtract in another. As I’ve said all along since I got here, we value being a consistent competitor and so the guys in the making will be a part of that in the years ahead, but what happens now is important. And to get The right effect, we’re going to be fully prepared, and really looking forward to, using that stock of possibilities.”
One explanation: just don’t ask about Triston Casas or Brian Bellew.
Is everyone lower at the table, including Marcelo Mayer, rated as the top 15 player in baseball on Keith Law’s list of top midseason prospects? Bloom won’t go into specific names, but it’s safe to assume that Meyer is among the players who would be extremely difficult to transfer. Baseball’s top 10 most recent prospects include six players (Mayer, Miguel Bliss, Mickey Romero, Nick York, Roman Anthony and Edinson Paulino) who never pitched over first-degree ball, and others, Sedan Rafaela, who ranks first. 100 overall probability and has never played above Double A.
Unless the Red Sox are spending lavishly on one of their remaining free agent shortstops, or perhaps making a punt for the best player in the market, Carlos Rodon, his best bet for adding major league impact might be trading from that-level dugout.
“I don’t necessarily know it’s better, but it definitely plays its part,” Bloom said. “It’s been in the works, but as you point out, there hasn’t been a lot of movement on that (trade) front. Obviously we have to find a partner who is willing to line up something that makes sense. For us to do what we hope to do in the off-season, I think the way is.” Al-Tajri really needs to be a part of it. It requires another club that is willing to do something – even if at a cost – that still makes sense to us and makes us better…. It’s something we’re exploring very, very actively.”
Bloom has worked for three years to build this little depth. Is he ever reluctant to give away important parts of her?
“Not if it’s a good move,” he said.
Murphy has been among the most prominent names in off-season trading speculation, and his Monday trade may have sent the floodgates open. The Red Sox have been linked with Murphy in recent weeks, but the asking price for the A’s is believed to include some major league players who are reluctant to deal with Bloom. Another notable name generating trade speculation is Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds, another player fit for the Red Sox, but the Pirates’ asking price is said to be too high. The trading market for short stops appears to be less robust, or at least generate less interest. Will the Guardians trade in Amed Rosario? Is Paul DeJonge a worthwhile target from the Cardinals?
“We’re fortunate that we have so many guys on this team who really have the ability to stop quickly,” Bloom said. “And that gives us a really good place to start as we continue to work through the season and put together the best team we can.”
If the Red Sox do indeed end up replacing Bogaerts internally, Bloom said Trevor Story is a more natural solution than Kiké Hernández.
“Kiki is our midfielder, and that makes a lot of sense for us going forward,” Bloom said. “So, of those two, I’d like to short Trevor, but I think we’re looking at different possibilities.”
The Red Sox’ unwillingness to commit to an 11-year contract with Bogaerts suggests he’s unlikely to meet the asking price of remaining shortstop Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson either, but Bloom said he’d be open to a short-term deal with a higher annual value like that. Korea occurred last winter.
“I certainly wouldn’t take that off the table,” he said. “I don’t want and shouldn’t get any more specific about what we may or may not consider with any free agent. I don’t think it’s appropriate, but I certainly wouldn’t take that scenario off the table.”
Whether it’s brought to the table is another issue.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Bogart’s departure, Bloom said the Red Sox were still committed to signing Rafael Devers to a long-term extension, and the loss of Bogart “only reinforced” the organization’s desire for a deal.
“We have been and will continue to make great efforts to achieve this,” he said.
Is there a concern that losing Bogart would make it more difficult for Devers to extend?
“I’m sure he wasn’t happy to see Xander Bogaerts leave his team,” Bloom said. “But I also know he loves to play here, and at the end of the day, I don’t think any player is blind to the nature of this business. … When it comes to men’s contractual positions, I think they have this hard-won right to think of themselves and their families. I know there’s a player who doesn’t take that seriously when the time comes.”
Bloom said the Red Sox weren’t surprised by Bogart’s eventual departure. At least not in the end. They suspected that his market had shifted beyond where they were prepared to go, and were laying the groundwork for finding ways to move forward if and when it actually fell elsewhere. Now, they’re on one of those alternate paths and see where it leads.
“In the end, we just couldn’t find that match with Xander,” Bloom said. “Obviously, the market has gone somewhere we’re not going. So now it’s about trying to find those good matches elsewhere in the market, whether that’s through agency or free trade.”
And at this point, a commercial market may be the best way forward.
(Top photo of Raffaella’s sedan: AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
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