Less than an hour before the clock both figuratively and literally struck midnight on the Phase 1 of the Red Sox' offseason, they made one last transaction.
They traded a guy (Hunter Renfroe) coming off a career year - having hit 31 home runs with an OPS north of .800 while leading the majors in outfield assists - for another player (Jackie Bradley Jr.) who hit .163 with a .497 OPS, along with a couple of who-knows-what minor leaguers.
It's complicated. Welcome to the bumper sticker version of the Red Sox' offseason, to date.
On the surface, the Red Sox are heading into this period of inactivity carrying the frustration of a fan base considering almost half of the Top 50 free agents have signed deals with none of them landing in Boston.
The Red Sox offseason has unfolded thusly:
Departures: Eduardo Rodriguez, Renfroe.
Additions: Michael Wacha, James Paxton, Rich Hill, Jackie Bradley Jr.
Members of 2021 team still in limbo: Kyle Schwarber, Jose Iglesias, Adam Ottavino.
"We still would like to add more pitching," Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said after making the Bradley Jr. trade. "Particularly, we’ve got some guys who could fill multiple roles. But as far as short relievers that’s something we have yet to address in meaningful fashion, and we’re going to continue to look at doing that. And then, with this deal, it’s basically a one-for-one swap of position players and I do still think we have room to add position players to this crew. Obviously, swapping Hunter for Jackie does changed the handedness of our group a little bit. So, maybe the dial moves a little more toward a right-handed bat, where before it might have been more toward a left-handed bat. But there’s different ways it can come together with the versatility and flexibility that we have, so we’re going to keep looking to supplement."
So, where does this leave the Red Sox whenever phones can once again be dialed and answered?
Starting pitching: Nathan Eovaldi. Chris Sale. Nick Pivetta. Hill. Tanner Houck. Garrett Whitlock. Wacha. That's where we are at, right now.
Hill is the best option to fill in for Rodriguez. So that's four. Wacha had an ERA over 5.00, and while his late-season adjustments were interesting, right now it certainly feels like this is a Matt Andriese-type acquisition. Maybe he becomes the No. 5 guy. (Remember, Garrett Richards and Martin Perez entered the 2021 season as every-fifth-day members of the rotation.) It feels like there is still another move to be had here, however. Those Oakland starters (Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt) are too tantalizing to not make a call on.
Relief pitching: Ryan Brasier. Matt Barnes. Josh Taylor. Darwinzon Hernandez. Those are the rubber-meets-the-road bullpen options on this team right now.
Relievers are probably the area Bloom was truly talking about, with plenty of uncertainty lingering. While so many are intrigued by the image of Whitlock in the rotation, his presence might be more valuable in the multi-inning, late-inning role that we saw in 2021. Nobody was eyeing this area to be settled by the time December rolled around, but it should be understood that this is currently the most uncertain part of the equation. (It is also probably the easiest area to fix in a creative/semi-inexpensive fashion.)
Lineup: It's a good bunch of bats, but it is also one that heads into the lockout with some uneasiness. There has been no movement on extensions for either Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers. You just lost a guy who hit the second-most home runs on your team. One of the most important bats for the final two months, Schwarber, is possibly out of the equation. And, all of a sudden, there is a need for a right-handed-hitting outfield option, with the next-in-line outfield option - Jarren Duran - hitting from the left side.
Knowing how the Red Sox value versatility, Chris Taylor would have probably been a really good fit, but not at the $15 million-a-year he just signed with the Dodgers for. The big-ticket item would be Kris Bryant, but it's going to cost you. (MLB Trade Rumors projects his deal at six years, $180 million.) Nick Castellanos, relatively same deal. (Projected at five years, $115 million.) Jorge Soler is another name to consider. The wild card might be Seiya Suzuki, who has been posted and the Red Sox have scouted thoroughly. Suzuki - who one evaluator actually compared to Renfroe - might be the most logical target.
Defense: After an offseason where the Red Sox wanted to get more athletic, they head into this offseason ... wanting to get more athletic.
There is no doubt that the addition of Bradley Jr. into the mix immediately puts the Red Sox' outfield on par with virtually any team - even Tampa Bay - when it comes to tracking down fly balls. But how about the infield?
Without moving Bogaerts or Devers - which doesn't seem like a likely scenario, even with Carlos Correa still on the market - the Red Sox are left with second base. Perhaps they loop back on Iglesias as a defensive fail-safe, although Christian Arroyo's defense is more than adequate. And while Hernandez does represent an option to fill in at the spot he was originally earmarked for - second - the Red Sox should prioritize keeping him in center field full-time for Gold Glove consideration. He's that good.
The fact that the Red Sox didn't dip their toes in the deep end of the free agent spending pool to this point shouldn't come as a surprise. As one major league source said, they had seemed to be targeting the "second wave" for some time.
But, make no mistake about it, when this whole lockout thing is done, Bloom and Co. have left themselves with plenty of work to do.