We’ve known for some time that the Red Sox wouldn’t be part of this postseason.
Sunday’s loss brought their official elimination. The Yankees finished a four-game sweep in the Bronx with a curtailed 2-0 victory. Boston skulked home in the rain after an empty weekend against the American League East champions in waiting.
The Red Sox are nowhere near that standard in 2022. They’re likely to finish in last place for the second time in three years and the fifth time since 2012. That this came off the back of a deep run to the A.L. Championship Series last year feels unacceptable.
This roster was noticeably flawed going back as far as spring training. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom wouldn’t have his current job if he didn’t see those certain glaring areas of weakness. The primary question to be answered about this season — about his three-year tenure on the whole, really — involves his level of urgency to prevent such circumstances in future years.
Featuring an outfield platoon of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Arroyo stretched credibility. Relying on a small sample of production from Bobby Dalbec and one last gasp from Travis Shaw at first base carried unnecessary risk. Spending only token cash to improve a bullpen that saw Austin Davis and Hansel Robles make meaningful appearances last October left Boston well short of quality.
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The starting rotation was another area where Bloom came up short for different reasons. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, James Paxton, and Michael Wacha all spent time on the injured list. Given their own personal histories, that shouldn’t have been unexpected. Paxton was signed coming off Tommy John surgery and didn’t throw a pitch — he’s spent the better part of seven months with the Red Sox rehabbing his left elbow.
Bloom was brought here from the Rays to build a sustainable championship contender. They’re a franchise with none of the demands that exist in Boston. Players wind up in Tampa Bay because they’ve been drafted there, traded there or cast aside by virtually everyone else. It’s not a destination or a real selection for the game’s elite talent.
Players come to or stay with the Red Sox for two primary reasons — to be paid at the top of the market and to win championships. The first step has generally preceded the second. Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke, John Lackey, J.D. Martinez — they’ve all played key roles in four World Series titles this century, and they all carried a considerable price tag.
That’s partly why tepid action at the last two trade deadlines and moving on from popular teammates like Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki creates an additional ripple or two here. Players in Boston are used to having a certain amount of control over their respective careers. They’re willing to accept the pressures of the market for two layers of security — financial and competitive. This is never supposed to be a cheap alternative, and it’s not a chronic rebuilder.
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Will the Red Sox meaningfully engage in the free-agent market this winter? That means paying Xander Bogaerts if and when he opts out of his contract, locking up Rafael Devers for the long term and having more than token conversations about players like Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon and Edwin Diaz. Boston wasn’t realistically involved when All-Stars like Juan Soto and Luis Castillo were moved at the August trade deadline — it was just another irrelevant organization on the side.
That speaks volumes about the franchise’s vision at the moment — it’s the opposite of bold. The Red Sox have built up their farm system through some extended patience, but they have little blue-chip talent outside of Triston Casas and Brayan Bello currently above Double-A Portland. There is a balance to be found between development and using those pieces to acquire proven players from elsewhere — perhaps the pendulum has swung too far back toward the Ben Cherington days of relative inaction.
How long should fans here be forced to endure a nebulous timeline? Attendance this season at Fenway Park suggests some sort of breaking point could be near. Boston is off more than 8% at the gate from the 2019 season, and that number could sink toward double digits by the time the Rays depart next week. That’s real capital coming out of ownership’s pockets, with families of four unwilling or unable to pay the most expensive average prices in the game for this product.
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It’s not an overstatement to say the winter months could shape this Red Sox roster until 2030 and beyond. Multi-year extensions for Bogaerts and Devers would allow Boston to keep a pair of franchise cornerstones and build around them through the end of the decade. This particular 2022 team was a house of cards waiting to collapse otherwise, and it ultimately did.
On Twitter: @BillKoch25
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: The Boston Red Sox have problems on the field and in the front office