John Tomase

Red Sox can't afford another wishy-washy MLB trade deadline

Chaim Bloom and Co. got caught in the middle at last year's deadline, with unflattering results.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Major League Baseball's trade deadline is really about one thing: looking in the mirror and being honest about what you see.

If your chin is sagging and your skin is splotchy, there's no sense pretending that Brad Pitt is staring back. Work with what you've got, maybe apply some ... concealer? foundation? shellac? makeup isn't really my thing ... and go from there.

Last year, the Red Sox butchered this exercise. First they saw an also-ran, so they dealt starting catcher Christian Vazquez across the diamond to the Astros while taking batting practice in Houston. Then they saw a contender, which led them to change course and swing deals for Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer, while holding onto impending free agents Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi, and J.D. Martinez, all of whom signed elsewhere.

They middled the deadline with predictably middling results. They can't make that mistake again, and Alex Cora knows it.

Appearing on WEEI with Andy Gresh and Christian Fauria, Cora laid out a trade deadline vision that makes much more sense for a team that remains tractor-beamed to .500. The Red Sox aren't great, but they're certainly not terrible. They're closer to good than bad, although the need to qualify every statement of their value is damning in its own right.

"We sit down and we're realistic about where we're at," Cora said. "There's a lot of stuff you put on the table -- where you're at in the standings, how we project the rest of the season, where we're at injury-wise. It's a combination of a lot of stuff, and always thinking about the present of the organization and the future. Some will become disappointed if we become sellers, some will probably become disappointed if we become buyers. Hopefully, we put ourselves in a situation where we can be aggressive and add and make a run."

Then came the clearest insight of all.

"The most important thing is you have to be honest as an organization of where we're at," Cora said. "When they ask, I give my opinion."

The Red Sox failed this test last August, but there's still time to determine their course. Despite their current last-place predicament, they're only four games and two teams out of the final wild card spot. That's not an insurmountable deficit, particularly since two of the clubs in front of them are the struggling Yankees and Jays. Pass both, and it doesn't matter what the Astros and Orioles do, because you're in.

The Angels just suffered the disaster triumvirate of injuries to Mike Trout (broken hamate), Shohei Ohtani (blister), and Anthony Rendon (shin contusion). Even if the latter two injuries prove minor, it's hard to imagine the Angels keeping pace in the playoff race without Trout. Maybe the underachieving Mariners catch fire like they did last year, but until then, the Red Sox aren't looking up at four teams.

They need Trevor Story back, but that probably won't happen until the middle of August, after the deadline. Ditto for Chris Sale, the oft-injured left-hander who just began throwing again after effectively breaking his shoulder blade. They can't just survive over the next three-plus weeks, they need to thrive, and maybe they'll be led by the youth brigade of newfound ace Brayan Bello, energetic outfielder Jarren Duran, and slugging first baseman Triston Casas. If that's the case, then add to the roster and hope you hit gold with a Kyle Schwarber-style pickup.

Or maybe they'll just tread water, in which case they should explore deals for every short-termer on the roster, whether it's All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, reigning AL Pitcher of the Month James Paxton, or versatile veteran Justin Turner. They're clearly prioritizing the future, so if that's the path, commit to it.

What they can't afford to do is look in the mirror, fluff up their hair, and ignore the fact that they're less Ariel and more Ursula. The mirror may not paint a pretty picture, but at least it doesn't lie, as long as you're willing to believe what you see.

Contact Us