The Boston Red Sox hit the All-Star break tied with Tampa Bay for last place in the American League East. It’s hard to remember that the Sox were in first place at 58-39 last year at the All-Star break.
This is usually the time of year when the Red Sox are looking at adding a bat or a pitcher before the trade deadline, looking to separate themselves from the pack in the division. Instead, for the second time in three years, the Sox are looking at trading players to secure a better future.
That process has begun. A.J. Pierzynski was jettisoned last week, the first step toward committing to the future. Christian Vazquez, the catching prospect who was called up to replace him, is 5 for 11 in the big leagues. Nice start.
Plenty has been written about Pierzynski’s departure, that he was a poor fit in the clubhouse and one of the least popular teammates the Red Sox have had in a couple of years.
It reminds us of what everyone said about Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford after they were traded to the Dodgers in August 2012. That deal paved the way for the unforgettable 2013 season.
First the Red Sox had to survive the remainder of the 2012 season. They won only eight games after that blockbuster, nine-player deal. Why should this edition of the Red Sox be any different if they are in the midst of trading off veterans again?
The difference is this team has a bumper crop of prospects that management believes can carry them for years to come.
The final days of 2012 saw players like Pedro Ciriaco, Mauro Gomez, Darnell McDonald and Kelly Shoppach playing every day.
You weren’t going anywhere with that group.
Now the Sox are trotting out rookies such as Vazquez, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Brock Holt.
They have provided a bolt of energy and were all instrumental in the team winning 4 of 5 games before the break.
Before we get carried away, let’s note that those wins came against the White Sox and Astros, two of the weakest teams in the game. Not the type of wins that inspire confidence in a second-half run for the ages, but wins that should help build the confidence of the young players in the lineup.
By and large, Sox management has refused to say they are waving the white flag on this season. Yet they have publicly acknowledged that they have committed to players under contract beyond this season. They know the future looks bright.
In the meantime there’s the rest of this season to play out. The Sox would have to go 47-20 to win 90 games. That’s a lot to ask of any team, let alone one playing five or six rookies every night.
Yet watching a group of young, talented players with high ceilings is a lot more fun than watching a team with no real future. Unlike the group that finished up the 2012 season, this team has a future it can feel good about.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.