Boston still quiet as Hot Stove sizzles

January 20th, 2021

People were once again talking about the Yankees at the end of last week, after they agreed to re-sign DJ LeMahieu and agreed to a deal with free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber -- both deals according to sources. You know people have been talking about the Mets since Steve Cohen bought the team, mostly in a good way until general manager Jared Porter was fired Monday because of inappropriate text messages he once sent to a female reporter.

The Mets have still made the biggest, noisiest trade of the offseason, for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. The Blue Jays are the latest to make noise, reportedly agreeing to a six-year, $150 million deal with George Springer.

And baseball fans sure have talked about the Padres, after the moves they’ve made for Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Ha-Seong Kim among others.

While all this goes on, there is no conversation about the Red Sox, who two years ago were not just the World Series champs, but had just produced the best season in team history.

On Tuesday I said to a big Red Sox fan I know, “Outside of Boston, nobody is talking about your team.”

“Nobody’s talking about them in Boston, either,” he replied.

Perhaps that is a bit harsh. After all, the Red Sox won 108 regular-season games in 2018 and then 11 more in the postseason to win it all. But since then, they have lost the architect of that team, Dave Dombrowski, who was let go and is now the president of baseball operations with Philadelphia.

Then Boston traded perhaps the best all-around player the club had ever seen in World Series champ and 2018 American League MVP Award winner Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers. Boston fans watched Betts show off all of his electrifying skills in the playoffs, all the way through Game 6 of the '20 World Series against the Rays, when he started off a game-changing rally with his bat and his legs, then put away Tampa Bay with an eighth-inning home run as Los Angeles won its first Series since 1988.

Of course the Red Sox have won four World Series in the last 17 years -- two in the first decade of the new century and two in the last decade. But if Boston doesn't build another World Series champion after the current rebuild, and soon -- and if the Dodgers keep winning with Betts leading off and playing right field for them -- then the Betts trade will haunt ownership and the current front office led by Chaim Bloom until the Red Sox do win again.

Boston thought it had a chance to get Corey Kluber, who has a home in Winchester, Mass., on the same kind of one-year deal that Kluber eventually got from the Yankees. It is the only free agent of note to whom they have been attached since last season ended. Until Springer signed with the Jays, we kept hearing that he wanted to play near his native state of Connecticut. The Mets were in it with Springer, until being outbid by Toronto. But not the Red Sox, whose home field is about 80 miles from where Springer played his college ball at UConn.

Just because the Red Sox haven’t done anything yet doesn’t mean they won’t before the start of Spring Training, whenever that begins. Now that Kluber is off the market, there are rumors that they may turn their attention to Jake Odorizzi. And they brought back Alex Cora, their World Series manager from 2018, who remains popular despite the one-year suspension he served for his role in an illegal sign-stealing scheme. But right now, barring Bloom making significant upgrades, Cora looks like a jockey without much of a horse.

Will the Red Sox be more competitive in 2021 than they were in '20? They have to be. They are expected to get Chris Sale back from Tommy John surgery sometime in the early summer. They are getting back Eduardo Rodriguez, who didn't play in '20 because of COVID-19 and heart issues. Alex Verdugo, one of the players Boston got in the Betts deal, showed promise last season in the 53 games he played, hitting six home runs with a batting average of .308, putting some life into what was too often a lifeless team. They still have Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in their infield and in the middle of their order.

And despite the lingering unhappiness in Red Sox Nation because of the Betts deal, Boston fans know that owner John Henry has twice torn down the team over the last decade and then watched them rise up to win the World Series, in 2013 and then again in '18. Now they wait -- impatiently -- to see if Bloom can win for Henry the way Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington and Dombrowski did. They wait to see if Bloom can build a contender more fun to watch than his teams in Tampa Bay.

For now, though, what you mostly get from the team that rocked October 2018 is crickets.