Playing nine innings while officially expecting Jarren Duran to turn just about every ball he puts into play into a double…
1. Call it a riddle. Call it the logical mid-season fallout of a mediocre roster. Heck, go ahead and call it boring, just like we did when it happened last year.
But the more I think about it, the more I believe there’s only one way Red Sox baseball manager Chaim Bloom can proceed with the August 1 trade deadline. He has to try to thread the needle again.
I know. It is a delicate, unsatisfactory approach, with a high degree of difficulty. Yet the state of the team practically demands it.
Bloom can’t entirely clear the roster of veterans on short-term contracts unless he wants to spend the next offseason scouring bargains again, and yet his 2023 Red Sox, currently 43-42, aren’t worthy of the commitment to go all-in and the business outlook for veterans, whatever.
The Sox aren’t terrible, but they’re floundering in mediocre midfield, and that quasi-relevant status — they’re only four games shy of stupid third-place wildcard — complicates their deadline.
2. So Bloom has to do both, add and subtract, thread that needle, like he tried to do last season when he traded receiver Christian Vazquez to the Astros, but kept future free agents JD Martinez and Nate. Eovaldi, both of whom walked over the winter and are thriving with their new clubs.
Trading Vazquez made sense. So did the addition of Reese McGuire for Jake Diekman. The acquisition of Tommy Pham from the Reds and Eric Hosmer from the Padres were placeholder moves for a team feigning discord. Do you care about Martinez? It made no sense. I’ll give Bloom the benefit of the doubt on Eovaldi, who they were hoping to re-sign.
But that’s not really an overall success rate. At the upcoming deadline, Bloom’s batting average on his keep-or-trade decisions must be around .900. His professional status at the end of the season could depend on it.
3. Despite all the flaws on this list, one thing the Red Sox have is an abundance of veterans on short-term contracts who would legitimately appeal to playoff teams.
Among them: Adam Duvall, Justin Turner, Chris Martin, Kenley Jansen, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Kiké Hernández (not as a shortstop, obviously, but as a utility player with more than his share of highlights in playoffs), maybe even Christian Arroyo.
It’s an attractive group of trading chips, and yet the Red Sox can’t trade them all. The best prospects remain in Double A or, in the case of Ceddanne Rafaela, have just been elevated to Triple A. Eliminating all of their veterans currently on one or two year contracts means that they would do the same bulk purchases. next winter. Some of these guys should stay for next year as well as this one.
4. The go-to move is Duvall. Although he’s struggled since returning from his wrist injury (.508 OPS, one home run in 19 games) after an Aaron Judge-like start, he’s a legitimate power threat and outfielder. stable corner that ended up being a useful in-season pickup for the Braves in their 2021 World Series title run.
The Red Sox should face the dynamic Duran — who’s improved so much at 26 it’s almost hard to fathom — in center field any day anyway.
If Duvall starts hitting hard again by the deadline, he should have plenty of appeal.
Also locked in the move ’em category: Pivetta and Hernández.
5. The “Trade or Keep” game is trickier with just about every other game mentioned above. Paxton has looked like a rotation-leading starter in his nine starts (2.70 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 50 innings) after pitching just six games since the start of 2020. But at 34, that’s good health and that level of lasting success? He’s a good pitcher, but his injury history makes me skeptical of trusting him to start, let alone year to year. I’m leaning towards trading it when its value is highest.
6. Turner, a professional hitter and good club guy, would be a welcome addition to any team in need of a roster-extending bat. (Aside: Wouldn’t Turner have been a perfect fit on the 2013 Red Sox?) Turner has a $13.4 million player option next season, which is a good price for tangible property and intangibles it provides. But next year will be his season at 39. Will he still be productive when the Red Sox are a real contender again? I can’t decide on this one.
7. I’d like to see the Red Sox keep Jansen and Martin, reliable relievers who have done a good job for the most part fixing the bullpen issues that plagued the team last year. Bloom gets credit for signing both – Jansen’s move came out of nowhere – and unless he receives an extremely attractive offer, I hope he keeps both.
8. On matters unrelated to the trade deadline: I was happy to see Jansen make the All-Star team. But his somewhat surprising selection served as a reminder that the Red Sox should never field a roster so devoid of superstars that they end up with just one questionable selection.
9. The status of Trevor Story didn’t cross my mind much in the first three months of this season. But as he inches closer to his return, I can’t help but wonder how many more wins the Red Sox would have had if he had been their shortstop all season and Hernández had been free to play a role that really suited him.