Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

  • At the end of the day, all anyone should really care about is winning. How the Red Sox get there really shouldn’t matter. But it’s very difficult to look at anything the Red Sox are doing right now and feel even remotely good about their ability to compete, entertain or plot the future.

    We’ve been asking this question a lot of some time now, but we’ll ask it again:

    Where, exactly, is this all going?

    Last-place finishers this year for the fifth time in the last 11 seasons, the Red Sox will wrap up the Winter Meetings today in San Diego looking like a team that is unwilling to commit. Or afraid to. Or indifferent. Aside from 36-year-old right-hander Chris Martin (two years, $17.5 million), who was admittedly dominant for the Los Angeles Dodgers after being acquired in a trade, the Red Sox swung and missed like a slumping Bobby Dalbec. The Sox either got used or denied – or failed to even ante – in a series of moves that seemingly would have sense for them. And before someone includes the name of Joely Rodriguez as some kind of significant addition, don’t embarrass yourself. The Sox spent that instance shopping with Macklemore.

    So what are the Red Sox trying to tell us all? Good question. I’ve suggested this before, but maybe the Sox are building bridge teams while waiting for the prime years of Brayan Bello, Tristan Casas, Marcelo Mayer et al – much in the same way they did from 2013-2015. If so, they should probably try telling that in terms far less cryptic or suggestive, because what we’ve seen from them thus offseason qualified as a massive failure.

    Could that change? Sure. Maybe the Sox have a big trade lined up, though that would require the sacrifice of real prospects. Maybe they’re going to hard on Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga or outfielder Masataka Yoshida. Maybe both. Even if the Red Sox retain Xander Bogaerts – and that seems iffy or unlikely at best – that would merely get them back to where they were in 2022, which wasn’t good to begin with. Meanwhile, the fan base is in the dark, angry and completely devoid of confidence, the latter of which led last season to what was effectively the lowest attendance numbers in the history of the John Henry ownership.

    If the Sox want you to care, they first have to show that they care.

    In the meantime, here is a look at the Sox’ misses so far this offseason – and one they hit on this morning:

  • Jose Abreu

    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 16: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox hits a two run double in the eighth inning in front of Eric Haase #13 of the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 16, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 16: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox hits a two run double in the eighth inning in front of Eric Haase #13 of the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on September 16, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    Needing a right-handed hitter to replace J.D. Martinez and fill out the middle of the lineup, the Sox reportedly offered Abreu a three-year deal worth roughly $40 million before he signed with the Houston Astros for three years and $59.5 million, an average of $19.5 million per season. No matter how you slice this one, the Sox looked pretty foolish. First of all, they missed the final number by roughly 50 percent. Second, Abreu chose the team that won the World Series over a club that finished last. From the start, this outcome sounded alarms. First, the Sox misread the market – and badly. Second, they needed to offer more than Houston given where they finished in the standings. Abreu would have been a good fit and complement to Tristan Casas at first base and designated hitter if they had signed him. But they whiffed. On three pitches. Not even a foul ball.

  • Zach Eflin

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 03: Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in Game Five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 03, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – NOVEMBER 03: Zach Eflin #56 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in Game Five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 03, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    If you don’t know who Eflin is, fine. But his story is every bit as damning as that of Abreu. A medicore starter for his entire career, the 28-year-old caught fire for the Phillies as a reliever late in the regular season and playoffs. According to Alex Speier, the Sox and Eflin had agreed to three-year, $40-million terms before he took the offer to Tampa Bay and asked them to match. The Rays did. That salary would have justified using Eflin in any number of ways – out of the bullpen or in the rotation – and we all know that everyone just loves flexibility. But given that Eflin ended up with a division rival, we have to again wonder about the team’s negotiating methods and, in the wake of Abreu, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s ability to close a deal. The Sox got used. By Effin Zach Eflin. And by Tampa. Not a good look.

  • Tommy Kahnle

    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 12: Tommy Kahnle #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates the third out in the ninth inning in game two of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 12: Tommy Kahnle #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates the third out in the ninth inning in game two of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on October 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    Now 33, Kahnle is a hard-throwing right-hander who blossomed with the Chicago White Sox in 2017. He basically missed all of 2020 and 2021 before resurfacing with the Dodgers in 2022, striking out 14 and walking just three in 12.2 innings. Those numbers, while in a very small sample, drew predictable interest from the Red Sox,, who were reportedly outbid by the Yankees, according to reports, Given that Kahnle ended up with a two-year deal worth just $11.5 million – and average of $5.75 million per season – one can’t help but wonder if the Sox could have bid more, especially given the relatively minimal cost of the player, not to mention the money the Sox have to spend this season. (That has been reported at somewhere in the range of $80-$100 million.) Regardless, the Sox lost a reliever to the Yankees after losing another pitcher to the Rays. Again, not a good look.

     

  • Andrew Heaney

    SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Andrew Heaney #28 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the second inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 29, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 29: Andrew Heaney #28 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the second inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 29, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

    Another day, another swing, another miss. And according to reports on this one, the Sox offered the 31-year-old left-hander more money (believed to be roughly $30 million guaranteed) than the Texas Rangers, who signed Heaney to a two-year contract worth $25 million. The “explanation” in this case is that the Oklahoma native wanted to be closer to home, which may or may not be entirely accurate. But let’s say it is. If that’s true, than playing for the Red Sox isn’t nearly the draw that it might have once been, which suggests the Sox lack juice at the bargaining table. Of course, the trading of Mookie Betts and the status of the unsigned Bogarts do little to help this perception, but when players start picking the Texas Rangers over the Red Sox for something other than money, it should get your antennae up.

  • Justin Verlander

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 03: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros reacts after the end of the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 03, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – NOVEMBER 03: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros reacts after the end of the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 03, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    By all accounts, the Sox were never really in on the 40-year-0ld Verlander, who won the American League Cy Young Award. The question is … why not? Unlike Jacob deGrom, who got a ridiculous five-year, $185 million deal from the Texas Rangers – an average of $37 million per season for a pitcher who has been blasted with injuries – Verlander for just two years and $86.6 million from the New York Mets, an average of $43.3 million per season. Historically, the Sox have suggested they would prefer a deal like Verlander’s to the one signed by deGrom, meaning they would rather pay a higher salary over a shorter period of time. If that’s the case, they should have been in more aggressively on Verlander, who could have filled a gaping hole at the front of the rotation. But they weren’t. This , too, raises an obvious question: what kind of player do they actually want to sign? And can they succeed?

  • Kenley Jansen

    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Pitcher Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks down at the mound after giving up a solo home run to tie the game at 4-4 to Steve Pearce #25 of the Boston Red Sox (on his way to home plate) in the eighth inning of Game Four of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 27: Pitcher Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks down at the mound after giving up a solo home run to tie the game at 4-4 to Steve Pearce #25 of the Boston Red Sox (on his way to home plate) in the eighth inning of Game Four of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    Let’s get this part out of the way: there’s a reason I’ve never mentioned Jansen among the Red Sox’ options. I don’t love the pitcher. Maybe that’s because Jansen’s poor World Series in 2018 left a mark (two blown saves, two home runs in four innings), not to mention the fact that he can sometimes lack command and control. During his peak years, Jansen was a strike thrower. Over the last three seasons, he has regressed some to his early-career performance, walking an average of almost four batters per nine innings. The Sox seem to have prioritized strike-throwers this offseason – Martin, Eflin and Heaney all throw strikes – and Jansen doesn’t completely seem to fit. Two years at an average at $16 million per isn’t horrible given the cost for relief pitching and Jansen has plenty of postseason experience.

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