John Tomase

With Yamamoto gone, Red Sox risking another irrelevant winter

Red Sox ownership doesn't seem to recognize the threat posed by another inactive offseason.

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Maybe we've had Tom Werner's "full throttle" quote all wrong. Perhaps he meant the Red Sox were preparing to choke the life out of another offseason.

It's scary to think how far they reside from fourth place in the American League East at the moment, let alone the playoffs. Under new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow, they prioritized Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, only to watch him never seriously consider them before taking two meetings with the Yankees and Mets and then signing for $325 million with the Dodgers, which we probably should've called a month ago.

That leaves the Red Sox without their top target and facing stiff competition for what remains of the upper-echelon pitching market. Per multiple sources, they've had contingencies in place post-Yamamoto, so they're ready to pivot, but we'll see if it matters.

That's because wanting to do something and actually pulling it off are not always overlapping outcomes on the Venn diagram. Thus far, Breslow has plugged some holes around the margins, but he has yet to address any of the three big issues facing his team: reinforcing a skeletal rotation, upgrading the league's worst defense, and improving an offense that has lost three of last year's top performers.

A lot has been made of Boston only spending $1 million in free agency so far -- or 1,000 times less than the Dodgers have committed to Yamamoto and Shohei Ohtani this month -- but in reality that number is actually negative, because outfielder Alex Verdugo was due about $9 million in arbitration that's now off the books following his trade to the Yankees.

If the Red Sox wanted to keep lowering the payroll, they should've just left Chaim Bloom in the big chair. Breslow's here to be bold and aggressive, and there's still time for that, but the shot clock is ticking away and he's struggling to run an offense.

The next two weeks will probably tell us everything we need to know about the upcoming season. If Breslow signs a free agent like left-hander Jordan Montgomery and swings a trade for Brewers Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, then we can exhale and get on with the winter.

But if Montgomery joins the Mets ... and Blake Snell signs with the Phillies ... and the Yankees decide they like Marcus Stroman's makeup ... and the Cubs jump into the bidding for Shota Imanaga ... and ... you can see how this ends, with the Red Sox once again shut out and another season over before it begins.

Despite Werner's proclamations, ownership doesn't seem to recognize the threat posed by another inactive offseason. If you spend five years showing your fans what you are, they're eventually going to believe you, and John Henry feels more comfortable waiting for prospects who might never arrive than striving to build a winner today.

It should concern someone on Jersey Street that no one experienced wanted Breslow's job, and it should also ring alarm bells that top-tier free agents no longer view Boston as a serious destination.

However "all in" they were willing to go on Yamamoto, their effort merited no better than a parenthetical in the "others receiving votes" column. They're an afterthought, and for an organization once obsessed with the power of the brand, they're very passively watching it degrade before our eyes.

If you're sensing some pessimism as we enter the new year, you'd be correct! The Red Sox have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it. The time to save their winter is now.

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