The Red Sox are at a crossroads. With less than two weeks to go before the August 2 trade deadline, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has a monumental decision to make. Does he proceed as a contender and invest in his team, or act as a pretender, subtract, and continue to build upon a much improved farm system? It’s a difficult determination, but one which should never have been on the table.
Saying the first half has been a rollercoaster ride would be a massive understatement. For the first 6 weeks of 2022, the team couldn’t get out of its own way. The season looked over before it had really begun. Then suddenly, much like the Celtics, they appeared to be a new team. They seemed re-born, energized, and ready for a playoff run. They had taken themselves out of the basement, and put themselves squarely in contention for a wild card spot. Then came the last few weeks. Disaster struck. The team looked completely lost yet again, playing terrible baseball in all aspects, leaving the fan base to wonder if winning in 2022 was nothing but a pipe dream. Currently sitting 16 ½ games behind their arch rival New York Yankees, the Sox are in fourth place, 1 ½ game ahead of the hard charging Baltimore Orioles. Ouch.
Remarkably, with the addition of an extra playoff team this season, the Sox are just 2 games out of the final wild card spot. The Red Sox in the first half went 12-26 vs. divisional opponents, going 0-10 against those teams while not winning a single series. The only reason the team is still in contention for the postseason is that they played the remainder of their first half schedule against mediocre teams and beat them up. The question for Bloom and baseball operations now becomes, do they add to the current roster in hopes of making the playoffs, or do they decide this just isn’t the year, subtract, and sell off major pieces? It’s a tough call, but Bloom has no one to blame but himself for being in this position.
Sure, the team has had injury issues. Substantial ones. Most recently, and perhaps the most significant, came in the final game pre-break. In only his second game back from yet another extensive absence from action, star pitcher Chris Sale took a 106 mph line drive from Yankee Aaron Hicks directly to his pitching hand, fracturing his pinkie. Sale had pitched less than 50 innings in the span of the last 3 seasons. Now he’s down again. This latest setback could very well be the end of yet another lost season for the southpaw. Is that a sign to Bloom as we approach the deadline? Will that latest incident have him lean more toward becoming sellers?
Sale wasn’t the only player lost in the first half. Ace Nathan Eovaldi recently returned from over a month on the injured list. Second baseman Trevor Story currently sits on the IL with a bruised right hand. Starters Michael Wacha and Rich Hill are also hurt. Perhaps the team’s best all-around pitcher, Garrett Whitlock, missed time but returned last week. Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter Kiki Hernandez, hasn’t played in months. To make matters worse, he suffered a setback with his injured hip, making it unlikely he returns this season. These are just the injury concerns. Even with complete health, the Sox and Bloom have bigger questions to answer. Questions fans deserve answers to, which they have yet to receive.
Why does this team still not have a serviceable first baseman? Since Opening Day, Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero have split time at the position. Both have been dreadful. Cordero finished the first half going 0-16, with 15 strikeouts. Dalbec, once thought to be a promising prospect, has shown he is not a major league player. With a paltry .205 batting average, and zero discipline at the plate, it’s time for Dalbec to be sent to the minors, traded, or flat out released. Same goes for Cordero. As the roster builder for a big market team, Bloom has zero excuses for not having a serviceable player at a power position.
Regarding the outfield, left fielder Alex Verdugo has been the best of the bunch, hitting .262 with 6 homers. He’s had clutch hits for the team and has certainly held his own. But when your best OF is just “average,” and isn’t providing any power, you have problems. Trading for right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the offseason, Bloom counted on Bradley’s defense to save some runs. It has. But on the flip side, his offensive has been an absolute black hole at the bottom of the order, barely hitting .200 with a single home run. To make matters worse, Bloom had no backup plan in the outfield, and signed no right handed compliment to Bradley. The Hernandez injury certainly hasn’t helped matters. But relying on a young kid in Jaren Duran, who clearly has continued to struggle at the major league level, isn’t the solution.
Having such meager production come from first base, the outfield, and the leadoff position, has severely hamstrung the lineup, putting all the pressure on the only All-Stars on the team: third baseman, Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and DH J.D. Martinez. All three are hitting over .300, have consistently hit the first few months, although only Devers has provided any source of power. If the Sox choose to become buyers, they must find a power hitting first baseman, and get some help for a below average group of outfielders.
The bullpen has been a mess for most of the season. Shockingly, Bloom made the decision never to sign a closer. Mistake. He also felt the best approach to the pen was to put together a collection of mediocre talent to see what sticks. The answer has been almost nothing as the team has suffered the second most blown saves in MLB (20). That’s inexcusable. How can the man responsible for running a team with one of the highest payrolls in the game not construct a serviceable bullpen?
Bloom has failed to put a product on the field in 2022 that gives them a chance to compete for a championship. They were two games from the World Series last season. Going backwards now is unacceptable. Without a major league first baseman, a right fielder, and outfield that is well below average, and a bullpen that is one of the worst in the game, Bloom has frustrated diehard Red Sox fans. Many are rightfully questioning his abilities to run a big market team. With the trade deadline approaching however, there is still time for him to address and answer many of these questions. But for him to satisfy Red Sox Nation, he will have to show them he knows what he’s doing. Three years in, we’re still waiting to find out.