A lot has been made of the Red Sox current roster construction over the past few days. Each year, the trade deadline represents opportunity for teams. Usually it's either to improve their current roster for a championship push, or to add young talent in hopes that it will lead to future success.
Normally, fans and analysts alike want every franchise to choose one direction or the other. It sends a clear message when your team falls under one of the two "buyer" or "seller" categories. Try to do both and (unless you're Tampa Bay) people might question the logic behind a series of moves. That doesn't necessarily mean that Bloom is spinning his wheels aimlessly, as some have suggested. Rather, it means that Boston's front office is trying to achieve multiple goals, as opposed to narrowly focusing in on one.
It's important to note that criticism is not synonymous with failure. Last year, I conducted this exercise (spoiler alert: Bloom didn't exactly make Honor Roll) after what I considered to be a fairly underwhelming trade deadline for the Red Sox, and ultimately, the results were better than I could've imagined. Nobody has a crystal ball, and these trades can't be adequately judged until we see how everything plays out on the field. That being said, I'm going to give it a shot:
Trade #1: Sending catcher Christian Vazquez to Houston for UTIL Enmanuel Valdez and OF Wilyer Abreu
From a personal standpoint, this one stings. Vazquez was Boston's longest tenured player before being traded Monday afternoon. He helped record the final out of the 2018 World Series, and he provided his fair share of clutch hits over the years. The decision to pick up a $7M team option this past offseason was a no-brainer (even though some folks foolishly questioned this decision at the time) and his improved offensive production has helped Boston hang in the Wild Card hunt despite a plethora of injuries.
However, the future is less certain with free agency looming, and Vazquez might require a longer commitment than Bloom is comfortable making to a catcher who's about to turn 32 later this month. While Vazquez himself hasn't even ruled out a return to the Red Sox, it seems like 2022 might have been the backstop's final season in Boston. If that is truly the case, then cashing him in for a pair of top 30 organizational prospects makes sense.
The names coming back don't raise any eyebrows, and they might have relatively low ceilings. In that regard, the juice might not have been worth the squeeze, so to speak, especially considering the Red Sox aren't completely out of the playoff picture. Still, I doubt that Vazquez would've proven to be the difference between a Red Sox championship run and an early offseason. With free agency on the horizon, Boston's 2023 Opening Day catcher was always unlikely to be Vazquez, and now Bloom has something to show for the loss. Final Grade: C-
Trade #2: Acquiring OF Tommy Pham from Cincinnati for a PTBNL
While some pundits are still caught up in the silly slap incident between Pham and Joc Pederson, I personally could not care less. The veteran outfielder has done little on the field to distract consumers from that headline, but he has quietly hit 11 home runs and stolen 7 bases in 9 attempts. I'm not suggesting Pham will make a huge difference down the stretch. However, he is undeniably an upgrade over some of Boston's existing options in the grass (namely JBJ and Cordero) and some actual lineup protection, which didn't exist in Cincinnati, might lend to Pham seeing better opportunities at the plate.
The best part of this deal for Boston is the cost, which is virtually nothing. The PTBNL is a formality that equates to a meaningless body. For comparison, Bloom got a PTBNL for Josh Osich during the 2020 fire sale. He got another one for CJ Chatham a few months later. The only downside here is that Pham will receive a $1.5M buyout for next season when his mutual option is inevitably declined, which will come out of John Henry's pocket. Considering that it's not my money, and $1.5M amounts to less than 1% of the CBT, this was an easy sacrifice to make in exchange for an improvement to the existing collection of outfielders. Final Grade: B
Trade #3: Acquiring catcher Reese McGuire from Chicago (AL) for LHP Jake Diekman
After moving Christian Vazquez, the catcher position immediately became the biggest hole on this roster. Reese McGuire addresses that problem, to some degree. He's a clear downgrade from Vazquez, at least offensively, and he shouldn't prevent Bloom from exploring other options for next year (Sean Murphy, anyone?) this winter. That being said, McGuire is a former top prospect who just turned 27 and remains under team control for 3 more years after this season. It's not impossible to think that Jason Varitek could help him unlock some remaining untapped potential. Even if there isn't any, McGuire could take Plawecki's place as the backup catcher next season, assuming Conner Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez don't force the issue.
Similar to the Pham deal, my favorite part of this trade is the other half of the equation. Jake Diekman has walked far too many batters (7.0 BB per 9 innings!) this season, and he's signed up to make $4M in his age-36 season next year. Yikes. If it were me, I would've probably accepted a PTBNL for the privilege of clearing that contract off the books. Instead, the Sox flipped him for an actual major league player who happens to fill a need. Bloom turned a mistake into a useful piece, and for that, he deserves some credit. Final Grade: B+
Trade #4: Acquiring 1B Eric Hosmer plus INF Max Ferguson and OF Corey Rosier for LHP Jay Groome
Many fans won't be impressed with what Hosmer brings to the table, and that's understandable. He's an decorated veteran past his prime with limitations, both at the plate (in terms of his power) and in the field (in terms of his positional flexibility, or lack thereof) on an expensive contract. He doesn't produce as much as many full-time first baseman, and he makes considerably more money than most of them. On the surface, he's not a particularly appealing asset. One of my friends used the word "mediocre" to describe Hosmer, and he wondered why the Red Sox (or any team) would want him on their roster.
This is where context is key. My friend is a spoiled Braves fan who's used to watching Freddie Freeman and Matt Olson handle first base, so he's obviously unaware of the degree to which first base has utterly embarrassed the Red Sox this year. It took several attempts to explain to my friend that "mediocre" is actually a MASSIVE upgrade over what Cora and company have been getting out of that particular position up to this point in the 2022 season.
In Boston, it's no secret that first base has been a flaming hot dumpster fire this year. Even Chaim Bloom himself basically admitted as much during a media session after the Hosmer acquisition was announced. The hope during Spring Training was that Boston's internal options could hold down the fort until top prospect Triston Casas is ready. April through July proved that 1) this was a terrible idea, and 2) prospects and their timelines are always unpredictable.
Hosmer's production doesn't put any team, much less a last place team, over the top. However, it patches a glaring hole and brings some semblance of dignity to the right side of the infield. That alone wouldn't justify bringing in Hosmer at his salary (not to mention sending an asset back to San Diego) but this is another example of where context plays an important role.
Once again, I'm stunned at Bloom's ability to extract what he needs from other front offices without giving up any real, meaningful value. San Diego agreeing to pay Hosmer's salary down to the minimum completely alters his value to the point that his profile becomes totally palatable, if not mildly enticing. At the very least, I would think a perennial Gold Glover making the league minimum wouldn't need to be attached to prospects, and yet Bloom managed to pry a couple of speedy 2021 draft selections away from Preller in the deal.
As for Jay Groome, he was eating up a 40-man roster spot and only has 1 option remaining after this season, so it's quite possible he was already a DFA candidate. At this point in time, he's a former first round bust until he proves otherwise. Maybe he eventually cracks the majors (over 6 years after he was originally drafted) with the Padres or some other club, but I have a very hard team envisioning a scenario in which Groome fills a significant role on a contending team. Final Grade: A-
The next few days will be filled with criticism from all sides. Both disgruntled fans who didn't get the full fire sale they wanted and unrealistic diehards who never give any consideration to next season will unite in their slander of Boston's Chief Baseball Officer. None of that criticism means that Boston will miss out on the 2022 postseason, or that Bloom failed to do his job. It just means that Bloom doesn't prioritize public opinion over executing his plans for the organization, which is a good thing if you care more about the standings than the tabloids.
Entering this week, the Red Sox clearly needed a better first baseman as well as help in the outfield. Chaim Bloom accomplished that. Folks in the "sell" crowd will argue that improving the farm system should have been Bloom's focus of the trade deadline. Adding four new prospects (and holding onto the pending FAs that might warrant QOs such as Eovaldi, JDM, and Bogaerts) should satisfy that faction of Red Sox Nation. It probably won't, but it should. The catcher position suffers in the short term, but it gained some clarity beyond this season, and Bloom got out from under a fairly bad (albeit not back-breaking) 2023 commitment in the process. All things considered, I thought he did a pretty good job of balancing present and future objectives without getting carried away. Boston didn't surrender any significant pieces from their pipeline, and while the Red Sox might not be considered a front-runner for an AL Wild Card spot, they most certainly didn't wave any white flags this week.
The Final Grade I gave Bloom after last year's deadline was a C+ based on how he cautiously added to a first place team. The 2022 Red Sox are not the 2021 Red Sox, and therefore had different expectations leading up to this trade deadline. He likely didn't do enough (or go far enough in one direction) to appease the fans that were looking for a dramatic shift in philosophy, but he succeeded in sticking to his plan and finding value in the margins. No rational Boston fan (perhaps an oxymoron) can claim that this front office gave up on the 2022 season. Nor can anybody reasonably argue that this front office severely hindered future Red Sox teams from fielding a competitive team, which happened with regularity during Dombrowski's regime. Bloom put his team in a position to compete for a playoff spot this year, despite their current last-place position in the AL East, and he did so without subtracting from (and possibly even adding to) future versions of the Red Sox. As someone fan who enjoys watching the Red Sox play meaningful games in September, that's all I can ask. Final Grade: B+