Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox have come a long way since last summer, a last-place team playing in front of an empty Fenway Park. On the eve of the trade deadline, Bloom’s players are in first place, and awaiting to see how he supplements this roster. Jim Davis/Globe Staff
I’m relieved they did something. I’m optimistic by the end of Friday it’ll feel a little less like just something.
In trading for Washington’s Kyle Schwarber on Thursday night, some 17 hours before MLB’s 4 p.m. Friday trade deadline, Chaim Bloom took a small bit of frenzy from our final day of social media refreshing. Seemingly every other contender had supplemented itself already, and I clearly wasn’t the only one irrationally worried the Red Sox would somehow consider Chris Sale and Jarren Duran’s additions enough.
“I don’t think we’re panicking yet,” Xander Bogaerts told the Globe before Thursday’s whomping by Toronto, “but there’s obviously room for improvement. If [the front office feels] we can get better, then pull the trigger on that.”
Bloom did, adding three months of Schwarber to the lineup for Low-A righty Aldo Ramirez, either eighth (Sox Prospects) or 19th (MLB.com) best in their system should you wonder how goofy the ratings can be — especially now. A month ago, Schwarber was a phenomenon, batting .338/.409/.974 with 16 home runs in the 21 games before he suffered a bad hamstring strain on July 2.
That the streak coincided with Washington moving him to leadoff, a bugaboo for the Red Sox all season, is attention grabbing. That it came in his last action before the Nationals were sellers is a coup in D.C., who’ve disassembled the 2019 champions in less than two years.
It’s also beside the point: Boston’s lineup has looked pedestrian since the All-Star break outside of Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández, and Schwarber’s arrival (likely in a couple of weeks) will lengthen it wherever he hits.
If only he was more than a bad defensive corner outfielder with a cannon arm. He’s not a first baseman, though the Red Sox “will give him a look,” according to Speier, with all the optimism of someone checking the Mass Cash numbers. (Or someone giving Franchy Cordero a look at first base.)
Schwarber at designated hitter sits J.D. Martinez. Schwarber at a corner is a significant defensive downgrade, though Fenway’s left field covers that some, and both Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe are significant contributors to the slumping lineup. It’s not as though Alex Cora hasn’t already been playing Lineup Jenga every night.
Anthony Rizzo is a worse hitter at this point in his career, but an infinitely better fit. Alas, the Yankees knew that, and were willing to part with more (if the Cubs took all of Rizzo’s remaining salary obligations) having largely watched the last two trade deadlines pass without them. Until proven otherwise, they’ve helped themselves and hurt one of the teams they’re chasing.
Is Rizzo in pinstripes Bloom’s fault? Hard to know what choices he was presented with. His team, however, remains in need even with Schwarber. Bullpens are like boats, constantly in need of more, but with Eduardo Rodriguez’s continued struggles on full display Thursday, it’s worth remembering the current playoff rotation.
Nate Eovaldi, a coming-off-Tommy-John Sale who’ll be expected to be Chris Sale immediately, and …
The question is not whether the Red Sox have the chips: They’re facing a 40-man roster crunch this winter, and the Low-A Ramirez does nothing to ease it. They can’t keep them all, and their name popping up in the derbies for Scherzer, Rizzo, and plenty more make clear they know it.
Alas, being in on everyone won’t make anyone feel better, including most of their current players. Nor will reading this from Speier, written before the Schwarber deal: “Some in the industry noted that they were having a hard time lining up with the Sox [on potential trades] given the team’s efforts to protect the gains of its farm system.”
Deadline purchasing is, as any baseball fan knows, a common way to make a franchise-altering mistake. Still, Bloom and the Red Sox have gained so much goodwill with this surprise contention. (Mookie Betts struggling, by his standards, and battling a balky hip with the Dodgers hasn’t hurt either.) Reticence to make that one more move, even coming from a good place, threatens that.
“We talked about building up this organization. . . . We’re going to stick with that because we think that’s the ticket to sustained success,” Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said on NESN before Thursday’s game. “It’s a hard thing to balance [the present and future].”
It certainly is, which is what makes today fraught with excitement and relative terror. His Red Sox, ahead of schedule, have played their way into today being of utmost importance. Bloom’s pushed so many correct buttons in these first two years, it feels likely he’ll thread the needle today, and the Red Sox will be better than they were on Friday morning.
Until he does, however, every ugly narrative’s in play. Whether he and his long-term plan are worried about it or not.
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