These days, whenever the words “free agency” or “trade” are mentioned in New England, Boston Red Sox Fans automatically spasm. The departures of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, along with the stressful Rafael Devers contract negotiations, have damaged the amount of trust fans have in the organization.
A recent trip to the American League Championship Series is not holding much weight either, as general manager Chaim Bloom remains Red Sox Nation's top scapegoat for the franchise's pitfalls (two last-place finishes in last three years). Nothing he has done or will do in the future will change that. Fair or not, he is always going to be the man who did not retain two of the most beloved and consistent producers of this era.
That being said, an active trade deadline should keep the pitchforks and Bloom voodoo dolls locked away for a bit. Despite being in last place in the loaded AL East, the Sox (30-27) have taken big strides from 2022. They have one of the best offenses in baseball, the bullpen is competent and Masataka Yoshida is far from looking like the bust some predicted. And maybe most importantly, this is just a fun team to watch.
The postseason remains quite an ambitious goal, however. Moves need to be made to ensure Boston stays in the Wild Card conversation until game No. 162. Last year, the front office did not seem to know if they wanted to sell or stay competitive. That puzzling approach resulted in no postseason berth and saw Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha all walk for nothing.
The decision should be obvious this year. Go for it. Here are two early MLB trade deadline targets the Red Sox should be pursuing.
2. Kyle Freeland SP- Colorado Rockies
For a team who could use more starting pitching, Kyle Freeland is hardly an exhilarating option, especially if the Chicago White Sox actively shop Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease. A reunion with Eduardo Rodriguez is also appealing. Those feel like moves true World Series contenders make, though, and the Sox are not that right now. The Colorado Rockies southpaw is the more practical route to take.
Freeland's numbers are unspectacular but steady, making him a solid addition to the middle or back end of a starting rotation. It is also a good idea to bring in another lefty with Chris Sale devastatingly headed back to the injured list right after finding his groove. Freeland's ceiling is the 2.85 ERA and 200 innings pitched he displayed in 2018, and his floor should dip no lower than a 4.50 ERA (currently 4.22).
Not every deadline deal is going to sizzle. The objective is first and foremost to add depth, a top priority for a roster containing the vastly-declining Corey Kluber and injury-prone James Paxton. There is no room to be picky. On paper, Kyle Freeland is an upgrade over half of the team's starting pitchers. He should be available and hopefully capable of taking some of the pressure off the Sox bullpen.
But this fan base wants more.
1. Tim Anderson SS- Chicago White Sox
Ask and you shall receive. Concessions need to be made at the trade deadline. This team will not make more than one flashy move. While many will correctly argue that pitching is the main area of concern, White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson is a potential difference maker who comes with financial flexibility.
The two-time All-Star, whose future in Chicago is in doubt, has a $14 million club option in 2024. Trevor Story will be back by then, but having another middle infielder with good contact skills is too tempting to pass up. At least in the short-term. The 30-year-old should not command too much of a loot, given his current struggles- .268 batting average, .306 on-base and .317 slugging percentage- and lengthy injury history.
A new environment could cure all, though. Or at least enough to give Boston more juice in the lineup and a boost at the most important position in the field. Kike Hernandez leads the league with 13 errors and is also near the bottom in advanced metrics. Anderson has his own defensive issues with a -3 outs above average but is still a clear upgrade. His bat should fit in well in this line-drive lineup, too.
These hypothetical acquisitions will not silence all the fan backlash, nor fill all of the roster's holes, but they will send a strong message that the Red Sox are still fully committed to winning baseball games. And that needs to be heard right now.