No matter what the Boston Red Sox front office publicly pretends, anyone who’s seen this team play knows the truth:
The season is over. Has been for weeks, months even.
So, how to cope with an appalling season in which a poorly-constructed, stupidly expensive roster fell apart with more injuries than Jerry would inflict upon Tom in a 30-minute Hanna-Barbera classic?
Look forward, start waiting for next year today.
The 2023 Red Sox can be an entirely different team. They’ll have to be, since they need to replace the many players who’ll hit free agency when this failed campaign mercifully, finally comes to an end. They need pitching and hitting, namely some better outfield options. Should their targets include Aaron Judge?
Should the Red Sox pursue Aaron Judge in free agency?
Judge is having an incredible season. He leads MLB in runs scored (100), homers (48), RBI (105), slugging percentage (.663), OPS (1.056), OPS+ (198), and total bases (297).
Still, the Sox should not let recency bias cloud their judgment (no pun intended), as it has in the past. Judge has a lengthy injury history; after winning Rookie of the Year in 2017, he only played 214 of 324 games between 2018-19 and only 28 of 60 games in 2020.
But above all, if the Sox want to target Judge in free agency, that’s fine. As long as they pay Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts first.
Decorated Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy is right on the money; the Sox have a lot of work to do to ameliorate the tension with their homegrown stars and the outrage from fans begging for them to stay. This season has been a horrid combination of 2012 and 2019 in terms of play, injuries, morale, and failed contract negotiations hanging over each game like a menacing storm cloud. Three years ago, it was Mookie Betts. This season, it’s Bogaerts and Devers.
For years, the Sox have shown their homegrown stars who won them championships that players from other teams were the priority. They did it again when they signed Trevor Story in March, even recruiting Bogaerts to entice him. Story’s hit-by-pitch injury was a freak accident, but he was woefully inconsistent before that, and coming off a down year in America’s most hitter-friendly ballpark, Coors Field.
The Sox definitely need to look for slugging outfielders before next spring, but there’s absolutely no chance that Chaim Bloom makes two $300M offers this winter. And since any enormous, long-term contract comes with the knowledge that the final ‘aging star’ years are the cost of getting the player’s prime, if there’s only going to be one big Sox deal this season, it should go to Devers, who is five years younger than Judge.
Ultimately, Shaughnessy believes that the Sox won’t get Judge. But after signing Story, the Sox cannot keep showing their proven players that they’re constantly second fiddle. Whether it’s Judge or any other expensive superstar, the Sox can’t keep repeating history by lowballing and trading homegrown stars and replacing them with unproven, pricy free agents. Swapping out Jon Lester for David Price didn’t work out, and the Betts trade certainly hasn’t panned out, though it was clearly unbalanced from the start. Squabbling over pennies with David Ortiz while throwing sacks of cash at Pablo Sandoval will go down as one of the most absurd situations in franchise history. Even this week, the Sox are paying one of their greatest defensive centerfielders to play against them.
When will the Sox learn from their own, costly mistakes? The time has to be now.
Besides, it would be great for the Rivalry.