John Tomase

Return of injured Red Sox doesn't validate passive trade deadline

John Tomase isn't buying Boston's justification for standing pat.

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The first time I heard the argument, I nodded vigorously. It made so much sense.

"Whatever we do at the trade deadline," the narrative went, "our biggest move is going to be getting Nomar back."

Of course! Rewind to 2001, when Nomar Garciaparra missed the first four months following wrist surgery. The Red Sox awaited his return for months, and it finally arrived on July 29 in stunning fashion, with a homer and game-winning single against the White Sox. Who needs trade deadline help when it's already on the roster!

The rest of that season didn't exactly validate the approach. Garciaparra lasted less than a month before shutting it down in late August, by which point manager Jimy Williams had been fired, the clubhouse was well on its way to imploding, and any dreams of overtaking the Yankees vanished in a hail of losses. The Red Sox fell from four games out to 16.5 in about five weeks. Sayonara.

That's the last time I bought the myth that the best trade deadline help is actually your own injured list. And it's why I'm extremely skeptical of Chaim Bloom's approach on Aug. 1, when the Red Sox could've bought to augment the current roster, sold to build for the future, or tried a little of both.

Instead, they chose to do nothing and wait for shortstop Trevor Story and starters Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck, a point CEO Sam Kennedy telegraphed in a July appearance on WEEI's Greg Hill Show.

"We've got the potential post-trade deadline for three impact starters to come back hopefully in the month of August with Whit and Tanner and Chris Sale and then, fingers crossed, but we might have Trevor Story coming back sooner than later, an impact arm in the bullpen in John Schreiber," Kennedy said. "So, frankly, it's much more important that we get those guys back healthy and contributing, because I think if they had been healthy over the balance of the season, we probably wouldn't be a couple games out of the wild card. I think we'd be firmly ensconced in a playoff position."

Color me unimpressed. Story looks understandably rusty after a year away, with six strikeouts in eight at-bats. Sale is due to return on Friday vs. the Tigers after missing two months with a broken shoulder blade, while Whitlock and Houck should follow shortly, the former in relief.

That's a lot of talent, no question, and the Red Sox will probably benefit in the short term with six games against the woeful Tigers and Nationals after Thursday's series finale vs. the Royals.

But sitting out the deadline because you're waiting for the injured guys is a cop-out of the highest order.

For one, the Red Sox were a last-place team with those three pitchers heathy, so it's fair to argue they needed additional help. For another, injured players get that way for a reason and aren't typically great bets to stay healthy even when they come back, as Garciaparra proved more than two decades ago.

And perhaps most importantly, too much time has passed between the need for help and its arrival. The Red Sox required reinforcements for their series against the Blue Jays last weekend. They didn't get them, and they were swept. Likewise, maybe they don't lose eight of 10 if there's an extra arm for the bullpen or a better solution at second base than Christian Arroyo and Luis Urias.

As it is, they trail the Jays by five games for the final wild card spot. The help that arrives may be too late, and that's before we question the wisdom of relying on a shortstop who hadn't faced big league pitching in a year, or a left-hander who has proven that he can't stay healthy.

That's not much of a trade deadline. I bought the Nomar hype two decades ago, but I learned my lesson. If your best acquisition is one of your own injured guys, keep it to yourself, because I don't want to hear it.

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