By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The 2017 trade deadline has come and gone, and the Red Sox did not make any major moves. They did get their eighth-inning guy in Addison Reed and added some offense with the hot-hitting Eduardo Núñez, but these moves weren’t the kind of Earth-shattering deal that you’d assume could “put them over the top” in their quest for another World Series.
The lack of a trade for another hitter – especially one who can hit the ball out of the ballpark – will certainly disappoint a large number of Red Sox fans hoping for someone who can improve upon the team’s league-worst home run total of 105.
Those fans must now be asked: What exactly were you expecting to happen?
With the arrival of third baseman Rafael Devers to the big leagues, the Red Sox are left without a plausible spot to add an everyday player who can give them power. And it looks like the 20-year-old may be able to give them some pop anyway, as he’s off to a strong 6-for-20 (.300) start with two homers and three RBIs in his first five games.
Even Núñez, who hit two homers on Saturday against the Royals, could give them a little something in that area, even though he’s not really known for power.
Otherwise, where were you expecting the Red Sox to add an impactful slugger? The outfield is set. Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia aren’t coming out of the lineup. Mitch Moreland isn’t becoming a permanent bench player. Neither Sandy Leon nor Christian Vazquez are going to the minors. Taking Hanley Ramirez out of the lineup would have been counterproductive.
The real answer for the Red Sox’ power outage this season is for the guys they already had to step up.
Both Ramirez and Mookie Betts need to be better than their current pace. Both have 17 home runs, which is not a very impressive total considering how much the ball is flying out of the park this season and that each of them hit 30-plus in 2016. Bogaerts needs to do much better than the six home runs he’s hit this season to justify the hype he had as an elite-level prospect. Offensively, those are the Red Sox’ core guys and the ones who simply need to take it up a notch for the team to have any hope of improving in the power department.
If the current core of the Red Sox lineup simply is what it is – which is positively punchless with David Ortiz gutted from the middle of it – then their home run issues are a big-picture, long-term problem anyway, and one that wouldn’t have been fixed overnight with someone like Todd Frazier.
Ultimately, the only way for the Red Sox to hit for significantly more power this season would have been to make a major trade that involved a player on the major league roster. Something like Giancarlo Stanton for a package including Jackie Bradley Jr. or Andrew Benintendi. The kind of trade that would be too improbable to hope for, and heinously unreasonable to expect.
The Red Sox will probably find themselves battling other big-budget teams for high-end free agents hitting the market in the coming years, like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. That may be the only way to get back to the kind of thump the team had with Ortiz in the middle of the lineup for over a decade.
One way that was not going to happen was with any kind of move that took place during the 2017 season. If you expected a major power improvement to come by 4:00 on Monday, you were setting yourself up for disappointment.
But the biggest disappointment this season is, and always has been, a post-Ortiz Red Sox lineup that has lost its pop.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.