Mazz: If Chaim Bloom’s wheeling and dealing has your head spinning, you’re not alone (updated)
NEW YORK, NY – JULY 23: Eric Hosmer #30 of the San Diego Padres gestures to the stands during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 23, 2022 in New York City. The Padres won 2-1. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
Confused? You should be. This is what happens when you try to do too much at once, when you try to build for the future while claiming that you value the present.
Whether the Red Sox are better today than they were two days ago remains open to debate, particularly when the Sox did nothing at this trading deadline to improve their pitching. Christian Vazquez went out. Eric Hosmer and Tommy Pham came in. Jake Diekman went to Chicago in a salary dump for a backup catcher. The value of each particular deal seemed more important than the glaring needs of the team, which raises questions about the focus. Is the goal for Bloom to outsmart other executives? Or is the goal for the Red Sox to win games.
And then there’s this: over the last couple of years, Bloom and the Red Sox have traded away Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Hunter Renfroe with almost nothing to show for it – at least not yet – which ,raises the question of whether Bloom can do the most important thing for any baseball decision maker: evaluate talent.
Bloom made three different trades before the Red Sox’ 3-2 win over the defending American League champion Houston Astros last night, and the 2022 Sox currently feel like a worse team than they were at the beginning of the day. While Vazquez went to the Astros for a pair of prospects and/or minor leaguers, the Sox acquired outfielder Tommy Pham from Cincinnati for the typically insignificant future considerations.
So here, still, is question: where, exactly, are the Red Sox headed in both the short-term and the long?
A recap of the Red Sox’ maneuvers this week:
Vazquez to the Astros for Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 10: Christian Vazquez #7 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his game winning two-run homerun in the 13th inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Fenway Park on October 10, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Is Vazquez an All-Star? No. But there’s something concessionary about giving up your starting catcher when you don’t have an immediate solution behind him. Catchers, by definition, are anchors, though the Red Sox have been aimlessly drifting for some time now. This was obviously a long-term move and everyone will love it if either Valdez or Abreu – or both – can be an impact player. Valdez feels like a hitter without a position. Abreu feels like a speedy, plus defender with some power who strikes out a lot. Can they play in the majors? We’ll see. But it’s a hard deal to like right now.
Tommy Pham from the Reds for future considerations
CINCINNATI, OH – JULY 27: Tommy Pham #28 of the Cincinnati Reds is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a run during the first inning of the game against the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park on July 27, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
The right-handed-hitting Pham has played left field for the Reds this year, which raises obvious questions about where he would fit in Boston for the balance of this season. (He is batting just .219 against right-handed pitching.) This feels like a platoon move to address the relative ineptitude of left-handed-hitting Sox outfielders Alex Verdugo (slugging .367 with no home runs against lefties), Jarren Duran (.483 OPS vs. LHP) and Jackie Bradley (.419 OPS Vs. LHP). Can he help in the approximate one-third of the time the Sox will face lefties? Sure. But it’s hardly a big move.
And before you ask, the answer is yes. Pham is the same guy who slapped Giants outfielder Joc Pederson in the face earlier this season over a fantasy football dispute. Pham was suspended three games.
Diekman to the White Sox for Reese McGuire
CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 12: Myles Straw #7 of the Cleveland Guardians scores past Reese McGuire #21 of the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning of game one of a doubleheader at Progressive Field on July 12, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
Signed to a two-year, $8 million contract during the offseason, Diekman was Bloom’s biggest addition to the bullpen – and a move that failed badly. What the Red Sox did yesterday was to rid themselves of Diekman’s contract for a backup catcher once arrested for masturbating in public. (You can’t make this stuff up.) Defensively, Maguire is reportedly better than anything the Red Sox currently have, but they still don’t have a starter now that Vazquez is gone.
Eric Hosmer from the Padres for Jay Groome and cash
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 22: Eric Hosmer #30 of the San Diego Padres celebrates after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 22, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
There’s a lot to like about this deal. Hosmer isn’t the player he used to be, but he’s a significant upgrade for a Red Sox team that has had perhaps the worst all-around play at first base in the majors for nearly two full seasons. On top of it, while sending left-hander Jay Groome to San Diego, the Sox got the Padres to essentially pay Hosmer’s entire salary, even if he opts in to the remaining three years of his contract (at $13 million per) at the end of the season. The obvious question: what the (expletive) took so long? It often feels like Bloom is more intent on finding the perfect deal than in improving his team, which might be necessary in a place like Tampa Bay. In Boston, it costs you control of a playoff spot and damages both player and consumer confidence.