In losing five straight games to the Yankees and Blue Jays, the Red Sox gave up 54 more runs than they scored. That run differential is the worst, for any team, in any five game span, since 1901, which was not real baseball. Add to that that all five games came against division opponents, in a division where a month ago we thought FOUR teams would come out as playoff seeds, and you have an argument that those five games were the worst such consecutive stretch any baseball team has ever been through.
Boston was 5-15 headed into play last night against the Cleveland Guardians, a stretch that virtually erased their white-hot June and torpedoed their playoff chances — on July 10th, FanGraphs gave them a 75 percent chance of reaching October, at 8 am yesterday that was all the way down to 25 percent. Chris Sale is out for anywhere from four to eight weeks. Rafael Devers is on the IL with a hamstring problem. It is, frankly, a bleak time for our friends in Massachusetts.
And it may be time for the Yankees to go shopping.
I think we can guess a few things about Chaim Bloom, the architect of the potential next great Red Sox team. He learned the game at Andrew Friedman’s knee, helped turned the Rays into one of the most innovative and unpredictable franchises in sports, and he’s trying to do the same thing with this Boston team. I do not think that Bloom is particularly focused on any one season, I don’t think he wants to mortgage the future of the org on a chance to maybe play one Wild Card round. I also think it’s possible that those two things make him not unamenable to trading within the division.
The Red Sox roster features a whole host of rentals, the kind of guys that I think Bloom would be open to dealing depending on the return. Christian Vázquez is a free agent at the end of the year if the Yankees want to consider an offensive upgrade at catcher — he’s hitting exactly as well as Jose Trevino for the season, and while he doesn’t have Trevino’s defensive bona fides, he’d slot in well in a backup role over Kyle Higashioka — Michael Wacha has been annoyingly good in a rotation depth role, and to me, Matt Strahm screams Yankee acquisition: a slightly underutilized relief pitcher who should be better than he is. I’m not saying Matt Blake can take his 27.1 percent strikeout rate and add a few points, but we’ve seen Blake do that before.
The above three guys are all rentals, won’t cost much in prospect return, and aren’t big enough names that the Red Sox would really care all that much about division trades. Take Strahm, for example. The Yankees and Sox play nine more times against each other this season — if Strahm were traded, would he realistically throw more than three or four innings against his former team? The impact on THE RIVALRY just isn’t that great.
And then there are the whales, the two big bats in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, neither of whom will likely be there on Opening Day next year. JD Martinez doesn’t really have a fit on this team, there are too many quasi-outfielders who are used to DH already. That just leaves Xander Bogaerts, he of the upcoming opt-out, the 30-year-old shortstop with a 134 wRC+ (that’s as good as DJ LeMahieu’s).
So much was made over the Yankees employing a “stopgap” last winter, a hold-out to buy time for Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza to develop enough to take over the big league job. I’ve made no secret of my dislike of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but whatever, I’ve stomached it for half a year. But just close your eyes, and imagine no IKF in this lineup — instead, the new, temporary Yankee shortstop adds about 200 points of OPS to the roster.
Bogaerts, to me, represents the perfect moderate for those who don’t want to gut the system for Juan Soto, or think the team can make strides to shore up multiple positions at once. Bogaerts is opting out come October, so there’s no delay on Volpe or Peraza’s timelines. He comes in, hits like he does, adds runs to the lineup, and the team’s a lot better, and then some other team signs him to the big deal. The last time this formula was applied, the Dodgers were trading for Manny Machado.
That deal saw only one of the Dodgers’ top five org prospects go back to Baltimore, outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who will be 26 in October and has yet to reach the majors. In fact, the only prospect dealt that’s made any impact at all has been Dean Kremer, who took four years to get to the major league level, and has had 53.2 innings of terrible pitching, and 47 innings of good pitching. Meanwhile, all Machado did in Dodger blue was add an .830 OPS shortstop to an already imposing lineup — sound familiar?
I think the topline prospect would have to be a little better than Diaz in order to facilitate a trade within the division, but we can look at the Machado deal as an example of how dealing future wins for current studs works out really well for the acquiring team. Getting Bogaerts to the Bronx would be harder than getting Machado to Chavez Ravine, but if the payoff is a deeper, more powerful, and more disciplined lineup — Xander strikes out about 20 percent of the time, the ninth-highest rate of what we would consider the Yankee “regulars” — it’s worth it.
The Red Sox roster is in a weird place, and this certainly feels like the last run with many of the key faces of this window. It hasn’t worked out for them, but one shiny bullpen arm and one slugging shortstop are on the market, and both fit with what the Yankees need in 2022.