HOUSTON — To hear Chaim Bloom tell it, the Red Sox are either better or just as good now as they were before they made four trades ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. The question that remains is if it was all worth it.
It’s arguable if Boston’s deals — which added Eric Hosmer, Tommy Pham and Reese McGuire and sent Christian Vázquez and Jake Diekman packing — actually make the 2022 version of the team better. But that’s beside the point. The ripple effects of the moves — most notably the Vázquez deal — might matter more. The clubhouse was shocked, saddened and frustrated by the deal that sent Vázquez, a long-tenured player and team leader, to another American League contender in Houston. It remains to be seen whether it was worth reshuffling the deck considering the consequences behind the scenes.
Both Bloom and manager Alex Cora said that they feel the new roster, with Pham in left field, Hosmer at first base and Kevin Plawecki and Reese McGuire manning the catching position, is worthy of competing. That might be true. Hosmer gives the Sox a more settled first base than they have had at any point this year. Pham will be more productive than Jackie Bradley Jr. and that trade likely means the end of Jarren Duran’s time in the majors if and when Kiké Hernández returns. Cora said he thinks this version of the Red Sox is more complete, at least on paper. Bloom called it “more functional.”
But it came at a cost. Xander Bogaerts, the team’s de facto leader, admitted the Vázquez trade made him question the team’s direction. That’s not necessarily something you want to hear your best player say when he’s just a couple months away from free agency. Even after welcoming Pham and McGuire into the clubhouse and hearing about the Hosmer move, Bogaerts was downtrodden.
“If you ask me, yeah,” Bogaerts said when asked if he wondered where the Red Sox were headed. “No one saw that coming. You obviously saw a lot of stuff coming out, but it doesn’t kick in until it really happens. I think, for all of us. And obviously, Diekman going to the White Sox. That was two pieces going out and nothing coming in. So the first move was going out, then coming in.
“I wouldn’t say waved the white flag,” he added. “But that’s a big piece going out before all of us expected or hoped that someone was coming in. I wouldn’t say, in particular, the white flag. It was a big move, it was a big piece of the team, yes. But it was at least trending in that direction (of the white flag) if you ask me. We got a couple good players back. We’ll see how it goes.”
Yes, you read that right. That’s Bogaerts saying the Red Sox were trending toward waving the white flag on the season by trading Vázquez. Maybe it was just an emotional reaction to a good friend being traded. But Bogaerts isn’t alone in that opinion in what was a downcast clubhouse after Monday’s win.
What makes Bloom effective is his ability to detach emotion from the equation, even if he himself has gotten close to certain players. Remember, this is the guy that traded Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi in consecutive years. But the message sent by dealing the beloved Vázquez from a team that was within shouting distance of a postseason spot, then supplementing the roster with outsiders, might not be well-received. On his end, Bloom said the Sox were trying to fortify themselves to push for a playoff spot.
“We did not have the first four months of the season we were hoping to have. That’s not news. We’re in last place,” Bloom said before Boston’s 2-1 win over the Astros. “But it is a unique year in the division. When you have a chance at the playoffs — a real chance, even when 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.
“We wanted to give this group a chance at the postseason and I do think they have that chance,” Bloom said. “Anybody who felt this group was good enough to make a run at it a few days ago, in my opinion, should still feel that way. The group looks a little different. I don’t think it’s any less talented.”
In the days leading up to the deadline, Red Sox players pleaded publicly for Bloom to keep the band together. The simple fact is that he didn’t. It’s reasonable to expect confusion from some inside the walls of the clubhouse. A full sale shipping other pending free agents like J.D. Martinez, Nate Eovaldi, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha out of town would make more sense, though that’s not saying it would be more tolerable to guys like Bogaerts. Walking the buy-sell line, as the Red Sox set out to do, led to one of the more confusing deadlines in recent franchise history.
“We were trying to get greedy and do everything we could,” Bloom said. “Do the right things for the organization in the big picture and get better now. We’ll see how this plays out.”
Bloom admitted that after making three trades Monday night, he was expecting to make more than the one trade (Hosmer) he completed Tuesday. But opportunities simply didn’t turn into matches. It’s known that the Sox pursued upgrades, including in their bullpen, while listening on Martinez, Eovaldi and others. But when the clock struck 6 p.m. they had completed one deal as a seller, two as buyers and one that did a little bit of both.
If Hosmer, Pham and McGuire help the Red Sox beat the odds and reach their second consecutive postseason, any ill will from the fallout of the Vázquez deal will be forgotten. But until then, it’s fair to question if the ripples were worth it. For now, Bloom contends that he made the moves he did — and avoided the ones he didn’t — because he had an eye toward October.
“When we have a shot like this, even if it’s not the shot we hoped to have in April, that we should set a high bar before we throw away that shot,” he said.
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