“We’re trying to make the postseason,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told NESN’s Tom Caron prior to Tuesday’s game (hat tip to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith). This declaration, made a week prior to the trade deadline, seemingly ended some speculation that the Red Sox would look to be deadline sellers, though Bloom did couch his statement with some intriguing caveats: “So whatever that means, we’re going to explore a lot of stuff [at the trade deadline]. Some of them might be things people expect. Some of them might not be. But you know, we want to get this group into the postseason.”
It is worth noting that the Sox lost to the Guardians on both Tuesday and Wednesday, dropping Boston’s record to 49-50 for the season. With a 7-19 mark over their last 26 games, the Red Sox have gone from leading the wild card race to four games out of a wild card slot altogether, and in last place in the competitive AL East.
If Boston can’t string some wins together quickly, it is possible the Sox could turn into more full-fledged sell mode by the August 2 deadline. However, Bloom’s comments seem to hint that the team could try to thread the needle and both buy and sell at the same time — perhaps moving some pending free agents, but adding longer-term pieces that could also still provide some immediate help.
Beyond Bloom’s public comments, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier writes that when it comes to deadline plans, “typical responses from those inside and outside the organization have ranged from ’it’s all in play’ to ’maybe both’ to objections to the buy/sell dichotomy to shrugs of uncertainty.” Despite all of these options, a truly big shakeup doesn’t appear to be in order, as both Bloom and (in an interview on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show) team president/CEO Sam Kennedy each ruled out the possibility of Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers being dealt.
“There’s been no discussions or commentary internally or externally about moves related to the trade deadline involving Xander, Raffy, or anyone else to my knowledge. At this point, we’re focused on getting back in this thing and winning,” Kennedy said. Not only have talks about the two All-Stars not taken place, “we don’t plan to” hold such talks, Bloom added.
Bogaerts can opt out of his contract following the season, and ever since Boston signed Trevor Story to a free agent deal, there has been widespread feeling that Bogaerts will be playing elsewhere in 2023. Extension talks with both Bogaerts and Devers prior to the season didn’t result in any progress, which then led to increased speculation about Devers also perhaps leaving in free agency following the 2023 campaign.
If a teardown isn’t in order, and standing pat doesn’t appear to be an option for a team with clear roster needs, it then becomes a question of what types of upgrades the Red Sox will pursue by August 2. One obvious name on paper doesn’t appear to be a priority, as NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase reports that the Sox have had only “cursory interest” in Nationals first baseman Josh Bell. While the Sox have had some talks about Bell, “their interest was described more as kicking the tires.”
First base has been a weak link for the Red Sox all year long, and since Bell is perhaps the likeliest player to be moved prior to the deadline, the two sides seemed like a logical match. Bell would be a pure rental, as the slugger is set for free agency after the year, and the Nats would be in line to recoup a compensatory pick if Bell left given that the qualifying offer system will again be in place for the 2022-23 offseason.
Anything the Sox or other teams offer the Nationals for Bell, therefore, would have to top the value of that compensatory pick for Washington to go ahead with a deal. For a team like the Red Sox that is perhaps on the fringes of contending, that could be too much of a price to pay, whereas other known Bell suitors like the Astros, Mets, or Brewers could be more amenable since Bell would increase their chances of winning a championship.