Big moves and not small ones will win the crowd for the Red Sox
Is it conjecture, hyperbole, legitimate, staged, or wishful thinking? The Boston Red Sox are deep into it, and a site I admire - Major League Baseball Trade Rumors(MLBTR) - is the focal point with phrases such as team X has checked in on player Y. This certainly migrates into social media, print/electronic media, and sports blogs. Fresh meat for the staving baseball fan. This is merely an updated electronic version of the fabled hot stove league designed for part fantasizing and discussing legitimate concerns. The rumor and sometimes not rumor mill.
There are wants and needs, and the easiest is wants. Looking over the free agent listing top 50 that is being whittled down, I would want Aaron Judge. Who wouldn't? I would want Trea Turner, Carlos Rodón, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, and on and on. That would solve pitching, offense, defense, fan interest, and just about any other ills that may beset the Red Sox. Then comes reality. The need to temper the wants. Wants and needs are conjoined. The Red Sox, as Antonius Proximo would say, is: "Win the crowd."
Needs would have been addressed with the previously mentioned, but at what cost? The Red Sox draft choices would vanish as the next millennium rolls around, and tickets would only be available to the 1%. Boston has started on the needs situation with a giant yawn from a rapidly disinterested fan base, but lately, it has gotten some traction.
Chaim Bloom signed a serviceable lefty in Joely Rodríguez, who did nothing with the Mets, and for the traditionalists, his ERA looks like the calorie count of a donut. But once you migrate beyond that nasty number, it shows a lefty that can get a groundball (55.7%), a strikeout (25.5%), and a 3.23 FIP. Not bad. But no "Winning the crowd," as Proximo would say.
Bloom's rebuilding of the 'pen - a 'pen that resembled the aftermath of an artillery barrage - continued with another want-need combination - Chris Martin. The 37-year-old righty earned his 2/17.5 MM after a sparkling performance with the Dodgers. Martin has a career 1.2 BB% and treats walks the same way a sailor on shore leave would STD. A solid veteran who could bring a jolt of stability to a shattered bullpen.
The Red Sox finally acquired a closer with a two-year deal for right-hander Kenley Jansen at $16 MM a season. A solid move that could free up others for the rotation or the bullpen. Not a "Win the crowd" accomplishment. Close, very close.
The bullpen reconstruction is proceeding and being upgraded as necessary and is undoubtedly part of Bloom's strategy after a relatively lowball approach in the past. Are the days of throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks are gone?
There is more to baseball than pitching, and step right up Narciso Crook - he of eight MLB at-bats - has been signed as a free agent to join the outfield contingent, and now that Xander Bogaerts has departed, welcome Hoy Park to the infield acquired from the Pirates. Crook will not help, but I said the same about Rob Refsnyder.
More will be added, and naturally, some departures, such as the much belittled and scorned Franchy Cordero. Yu Chang has also wandered away from the herd, declaring himself a free agent, and will no longer compete with Judge for top MLB dollars, but I doubt the Giants will be interested in Chang after missing out on Judge. That is just part of the minutia of roster building.
Management did venture into the foreign market by signing Japanese star Masataka Yoshida. Yoshida reminds me of a Nippon version of Mike Greenwell. Yoshida is a solid player and will hopefully help the outfield's stagnant offensive numbers. A solid signing that should further reduce the "Do Something!" hysteria.
Bloom will pick up the pace, but to what degree? So far, Bloom is losing fan support; according to a recent poll, Bloom is as cherished as a mud stain on a white suit. Bloom is losing the crowd, and Bogaert's loss and Devers's potential loss only magnify that. Meanwhile, the Celtics and Bruins are winning the crowd. As a side note, from my perspective, if I was an owner handing out an 11-year deal at $280 MM for Bogaerts, I would have my GM institutionalized.
I expect some diligent trades and free-agent signings to address the apparent needs: pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Can ownership surprise and sign or trade for that potential flagship hurler? This would invigorate the fan base and make the staff appear legitimate, not a collection of cream puffs.
An unknown could stabilize a staff with that sure thing, much like Pedro Martínez and Curt Schilling did. Is there another Josh Beckett available to grab in a trade? Would Bloom part with precious prospects?
The Ace is both the want and the need wrapped up nice and tidy as long as the arm avoids the surgeon's knife and age doesn't raise its ugly head. Would they overpay for Rodón? Is Rodón still on the board? Oops....the lefty is now a Yankee! Is extending Devers in the works? Maybe it will happen? Probably not, but I am not in a 100% dismissive mood. Devers could win it back.
Wants and needs overlap, but within that context, there are degrees. Frustrated fans would open up the vault and spend, which was the Tom Yawkey and George Steinbrenner approach. That has been adopted by other teams, such as the Dodgers, Mets, and Padres, but then there is a pullback. The Red Sox are now in the pullback phase. Will they return to their spending past? So far, it has been judicious spending within the boundaries of the luxury tax.
The Red Sox need that dynamo attraction that can fulfill a want and need. A player that will energize the fan base, provide needed talent upgrades, and send a message to the roster they are serious about being relevant locally and in MLB. Maybe Yoshida will be Ichiro Suzuki with less speed and arm strength?
The moves so far and those to come do have the potential to "Win the crowd" if the W's start to exceed the L's during the season. There has been no immediate gratification with a contract to a Verlander that had the potential to negate the moves made so far. The Red Sox have managed to avoid the excruciating and complex ultra contracts, but there are consequences.
This is entertainment, and you need that big splash to energize the fan base, players, and media, and so far, it is a ripple. Losing Bogaerts is a hit on management that will certainly reverberate with fans and media. Could the Red Sox move on Dansby Swanson to alleviate the pain of Bogaert's departure? How about Carlos Correa, who is Bogaerts Lite? That would be a step toward "Winning the crowd." Naw, since the Giants paid CC the GDP of a small country.
There are many months ahead before the roster needs are finalized. Where is that Big Bat? Depth at just about everywhere. Roll the dice on catching. And an apparent need for pitching of all phases. As mentioned, the needs are in little pieces, but one would expect a premier team to start making more headway or ownership, so Bloom and company can "Win the crowd."Can the Red Sox management win back the crowd?