ST. PETERSBURG -- The perception that the Red Sox could have used another impact pitcher or two before the Trade Deadline gained more steam when Boston fell, 7-3, to the Rays at Tropicana Field in Friday night’s opener of a three-game series between the top two teams in the American League East.
The defeat, Boston’s second in a row and third in the last four games, left the Red Sox clinging to the smallest lead possible (a half-game) over the Rays in the division.
Martín Pérez (7-7, 4.56 ERA) turned in an uninspiring start, allowing seven hits, six runs and three homers over four innings.
“We’re fine. I think we’re good,” said Pérez. “Every time you ask me questions, I always tell you guys we’re going to be fine. We’ve been fighting the whole season and we’re in the same spot -- we’re in first place. Couple of bad games. That’s part of the game and that’s going to happen in the season.”
Pérez and the 63-42 Red Sox have 57 more games in the regular season to prove they’ll be fine.
When the Sox added Kyle Schwarber’s big bat on Trade Deadline eve Thursday, there was anticipation from media and fans that it could be a precursor to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom beating Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Deadline by adding a big bullpen arm like Craig Kimbrel, Ian Kennedy or Richard Rodriguez. If not, then perhaps a starter such as José Berríos, Kyle Gibson, Andrew Heaney, or what would have been the sentimental favorite -- old friend Jon Lester.
Why not make a bigger splash to bolster a team that has exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations so far?
Simply put, Bloom felt the asking price for marquee pitching was prohibitive in that fine line of balancing short- and long-term interests. The leader of Boston’s front office called it a “seller’s market.”
“We want to win,” said Bloom. “We’re really passionate about what we do. We know how hard it is to get to this position, and we don’t take that for granted. But at the same time, I’ve said it all along and I mean it, we want to win a lot and we want to win every year. If we want the future to be really good, you have to take care of the future, and you have to care about that.
“That’s a very difficult tightrope to walk. It’s a tough balance. I think it was really tough this year in what I think turned out to be a big-time seller’s market in a lot of cases. That’s why we just need to stay strong with our plan and try to walk that tightrope as much as we can.”
While the addition of Schwarber put the Red Sox close to the luxury-tax threshold, they were able to stay below it with Friday’s moves.
Was that a factor?
“Yeah, we were mindful of it,” said Bloom. “I think we have to be, because there are implications to crossing that line that go beyond just money, and some of those implications actually hurt our competitiveness and could hurt our talent base over time. We were mindful of it, but it was never a hard line.
“We did explore a lot of possibilities this week that would have taken us over. We just looked at it as something that we need to factor in. Was it worth the cost? Ultimately there were some things we explored that we certainly would have done that for. We just didn’t feel like it was worth the cost in talent, let alone the additional effects of going over the line.”
What about the rumor floated earlier this week by Jim Bowden of The Athletic that Red Sox owner John Henry was pressuring Bloom to do whatever it took to get Max Scherzer, the ace who wound up going to the Dodgers? Scherzer had a no-trade clause which he waived to go to L.A.
“Obviously, I can’t explain everything that gets out there. Without getting into any specifics, I’m not going to address whether a player who is not our player may or may not have done, but I will say that that report isn’t true,” Bloom said. “We felt nothing but supported and encouraged by ownership. We obviously talked to them a lot about different possibilities and things we might do, but there was never any pressure to do anything besides what’s right for the Red Sox and what’s right for the goal of sustainable championship baseball.”
Bloom is comfortable with the process the front office took this week, and he feels good about Boston’s chances down the stretch, particularly with ace Chris Sale aiming to return from Tommy John surgery as early as Aug. 10.
“Obviously the closer to 100 percent he is, the better. When he’s 100 percent, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. We hope we get that,” said Bloom. “I think it’s almost too much to ask someone who’s coming back from what he’s coming back from. It does happen sometimes. Look, wherever he is, he is.”
Bloom has been in Boston long enough to know what some of the fan reaction was to the club not making a major splash on Friday.
“I get it. Especially when things are flying left and right like they have been the last 48 hours, any fan would like to see their team right in the thick of it, and you love to see your team making big moves,” said Bloom. “We would, too. We just aren't going to do that when we think those moves are running counter to our goal.
“We know how high the expectations of our fans are, and if we do something for short-term gratification that has too high of a long-term price, we're going to end up letting them down more than we're going to help them. It might be fun today. You may or may not get what you're hoping for over the last two months, but you certainly are going to pay the price for years to come.
“There were some moves, including the ones that we made, where we did feel there was some price to be paid, and it was a price we were willing to pay. There were a lot of things that were put to us where we just felt we're not doing our jobs and ultimately we're going to let our fans down, whether it be tomorrow or whether it be next year or the year after or all of the above if we did some of things we could've done to make more of a splash.”