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Assessing the Red Sox’s 2022 Trade Deadline

Let’s take a dive into what turned out to be a pretty strange trade deadline for the Red Sox.

San Diego Padres v New York Mets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The 2022 MLB trade deadline passed yesterday and with no shortage of fanfare. Juan Soto is now a Padre, Jorge López is now a Twin, Frankie Montas is now a Yankee, Joey Gallo is now a Dodger, and that’s just naming a few of the major deals that went down.

Such an active deadline was fun to watch, but if we just look at it from the perspective of the Boston Red Sox, it is a bit more puzzling. The Red Sox didn’t tear everything down by any means, but they also didn’t make any huge impact moves. As you probably know by now, they made a trio of trades on Monday, sending longtime starting catcher Christian Vázquez to the Houston Astros for a pair of prospects, reliever Jake Diekman to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Reese McGuire and the promise of a player to be named later to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Tommy Pham. Then, on Tuesday, they got in on the San Diego Padres’ trade bonanza, dealing for first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Not rocking the boat too much at the deadline is not necessarily a bad thing (although the Hosmer deal certainly made some waves), especially for a team that has been struggling as much as the Red Sox lately, but as Bryan wrote on Monday, the philosophy behind these deals is bewildering at best and worrisome at worst. How Chaim Bloom and the front office continue to approach roster construction will be fascinating beyond this trade deadline, and there will be plenty of time to wring our hands about that later, but for now, let’s actually look at the details of these recent moves.

Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Christian Vázquez for Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu

Vázquez has been a key piece of the Red Sox’s roster since 2014, although he did miss all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery. Along the way, he became the team’s primary catcher and at times, one of the better backstops in baseball. No, he was never an All Star or end of season award nominee, but he accumulated 11.9 fWAR over 698 games, including a career-best of 3.5 in 2019 when he hit 23 home runs. He wasn’t always that offensively effective, producing a wRC+ of 85 over the course of 2,525 plate appearances with the Red Sox, but he always called a good game and was usually solid defensively, if not exceptional. Plus, he was behind the dish to clinch the 2018 World Series and gave us this moment last fall. He’ll definitely be missed.

In exchange for Vázquez’s services, the Red Sox picked up a pair of position player prospects from the Astros

Let’s start with Valdez. The 23-year-old infielder is pretty close to MLB ready, with FanGraphs estimating his arrival for this season. He was promoted to Triple-A for the first time earlier this season and has flashed solid numbers (.296/.347/.560) in 173 plate appearances. He’s also recently found some power as his slugging percentage indicates, hitting at least 20 home runs both this season and in 2021.

Abreu is a 23-year-old outfielder that FanGraphs gives a 35+ rating in future value, with his speed and power the most highly rated of his skills. FanGraphs had him hanging around the back end of the Astros’ top 35 prospects and he’s certainly helped his cause this year, posting a wRC+ of 125 while hitting 15 home runs, stealing 23 bases and producing a walk rate of 19 percent in 411 plate appearances in Double-A.

In terms of short-term implications of this deal, the Red Sox picked up a pair of guys who are at least nearing MLB ready, meaning there might not be a ton of upside beyond who they are now, but you never know. At worst, they provide positional player depth in the upper minors. As for the other side, Vázquez is in the final year of his contract and about to enter his age-32 season. Unless the Astros extend him, it’s possible the Red Sox could swoop in and bring him back in the offseason, but it’s just as (if not more) possible they didn’t plan on bringing him back, so they figured they’d add some younger talent while letting him go.

Jake Diekman for Reese McGuire

Diekman wasn’t expected to be a savior for the bullpen, but he struggled more than succeeded in Boston, accumulating -0.5 fWAR while walking 17.5 percent of the batters he faced, all but wiping out the benefits of his nearly 30 percent strikeout rate. The 35-year-old southpaw is now off to help the White Sox, who sent back McGuire in exchange.

McGuire will likely serve as part of a catching platoon with Kevin Plawecki. The former Blue Jay produced just a 55 wRC+ in his 166 plate appearances with Chicago this season, but he is still pretty young (27 years old) and at least average to decent as a defensive catcher, depending on which metric you use. However, he also did this, so, yeah.

Overall, this was your classic reshuffling trade, with the stakes not particularly high. McGuire isn’t likely going to be the heir to Vázquez, but he can fill in this season behind the dish and is under team control for the next three years. Meanwhile, losing Diekman doesn’t help the Red Sox’s bullpen issues, but it doesn’t really hurt them all that much either.

Miami Marlins v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

A Player to Be Named Later for Tommy Pham

This was the deal that first set Red Sox fans’ eyebrows up a bit. There’s no denying that the Red Sox have not gotten the best production from their outfield this season, but if the team is moving on from a key contributor like Vázquez, why make a move to bring on an aging and declining player who is under contract for another year? Pham was once a dynamic outfielder with speed and power to spare, but it’s been a long time since those halcyon days. He’s been a slightly below average hitter this season (92 wRC+) and a bad fielder based on outs above average. The positive spin is that he is still hitting the ball hard and walking at a pretty high level, so there’s at least some aspects of his profile to like, except maybe if you’re Joc Pederson.

We obviously can’t entirely evaluate this trade until the PTBNL is revealed in the future, but for now, it still seems like an odd move from the Red Sox. Pham is perfectly OK at this point in his career, but he’ll be 35 next season (the second of his two-year deal) and isn’t likely going to move the needle in either direction for the Red Sox this year or next. I suppose getting better in the outfield, even marginally, is good, but is such a marginal improvement worth much on a team that needs significant upgrades to get back in contention? Probably not.

Jay Groome for Eric Hosmer, Corey Rosier and Max Ferguson

It’s difficult to call a trade for Hosmer, a slightly above average first baseman being paid like an All Star, a blockbuster deal, but this is the closest the Red Sox came this year. Hosmer was originally supposed to go to Washington as part of the Soto trade, but he put the brakes on that, as the Nationals were one of 10 trade destinations he could veto. Luckily (or unluckily?) for the Red Sox, Boston was not on the list, so Hosmer and a handful of Padres prospects are headed to the East Coast from San Diego.

Hosmer is obviously the biggest name in this deal, but he’s a long way from his glory days with the Kansas City Royals. In the five years since he inked a gargantuan eight-year, $144 million deal with the Padres, he’s been a roughly league average hitter (103 OPS+) and accumulated a total of 0.3 fWAR. Yikes. Like Pham, Hosmer has still had some things to like. He doesn’t strike out or whiff at pitches much, sporting a 14.9 percent strikeout rate this season alone, and he can still catch fire like he did early this season. For the Red Sox, he’s also a huge upgrade at first base, where even an average player could easily take the job all to themselves. Also, for those concerned from a financial point of view, according to Alex Speier, per MLB Trade Rumors, San Diego will foot a large portion of the bill.

The deal looks a bit sweeter with some of the prospects the Padres were willing to give up as part of this deal, which ostensibly freed up first base for Josh Bell, whom San Diego also traded for yesterday. Rosier is a left-handed outfielder who was the 15th-ranked prospect in the Padres’ system, according to FanGraphs, and Ferguson can play multiple positions and was the 24th-ranked prospect in San Diego. Rosier will be 23 in September and is only in High Single-A, where he is hitting well enough (122 wRC+ in 373 plate appearances) while showing off solid patience (14.5 percent walk rate) and exciting speed (33 stolen bases). Ferguson is another guy who can really run (55 stolen bases between Single-A and High Single-A this season), but his hit tool has been a little less effective (71 wRC+ in 125 plate appearances in High Single-A).

The Padres didn’t just make this deal for their health, of course, so the Red Sox are sending Groome over to complete the deal. The 23-year-old southpaw was the Red Sox’s first round pick in 2016, but injuries have kept him from rising more quickly in the minors. Ranked the 16th-best prospect in the Red Sox’s system, he finally got to Triple-A this season and has a 3.94 ERA and 4.72 FIP in his first three starts at that level after posting similar numbers in Double-A to start the year. The Padres are clearly hoping he’ll be able to recapture his first-round pedigree.