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Tomase: Red Sox in danger of being left behind in loaded AL East

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Escaping the American League East won't be nearly as easy as it was last year, when the Red Sox needed all 162 games to secure their wild card berth.

If you're wondering what about that was easy, the answer is nothing. But as this bifurcated offseason races to its conclusion, the Red Sox find themselves looking up at three clubs. The question is if they're going to do anything about it.

The defending division champion Tampa Bay Rays return their entire roster and remain on the periphery of the Freddie Freeman sweepstakes. The wild-card New York Yankees have already swung a blockbuster for former MVP Josh Donaldson and Gold Glover Isiah Kiner-Falefa, remaking their defense and adding athleticism. The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly in on everybody, including former Red Sox outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who would join one of the game's best young offensive nuclei.

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The Red Sox have made some additions, with more to come, but so far they've focused on the periphery, where chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom likes to operate.

It worked last year and it might work again. But it's hard to watch the Yankees and Jays trade haymakers while the Red Sox go jab-jab-jab with at least $20 million of CBT money to play with and nothing yet to show for it except a pair of relievers.

"It's the best the division in sports, let alone baseball, so we know where the bar is," Bloom said. "We were fortunate to be the last team standing from it last year, but everybody is going to be loading up. We know that, we know how it works in the AL East and we just have to make sure we can be in that mix."


If there's one thing we've learned about Bloom, it's that he pays no attention to outside calls for a spending spree. His maligned trade deadline ended up delivering potently in the form of Schwarber and even reliever Hansel Robles. On Monday, he pooh-poohed the notion of prioritizing sizzle over substance, noting in not so many words that there are plenty of ways to improve without inviting Scott Boras to a press conference.

"I don't think we should worry about the size or the Q factor or the splashiness of the move," he said. "We should be trying to use all our resources to be as great as we can every year, whatever that means."

We won't know until Opening Day whether he meant to hint that the Red Sox wouldn't be spending for a third straight offseason, or if he was simply creating a little misdirection before introducing Carlos Correa or Trevor Story.

Option A feels like the safer guess, and it's worth noting how dangerous that could be with the rest of the division loading for rhino. While it's true that the playoffs are expanding to 12 teams and the top four finishers in the AL East would've qualified under that scenario last year, no one wants to bet on a fourth-place club playing in October.

A disciplined, under-the-radar approach brought the Red Sox within two games of the World Series last year, but the landscape has changed. The AL East isn't messing around.

John Tomase

And rest assured, the Rays, Yankees, and Jays have their eyes on the 10th month every bit as much as the Red Sox. The Rays started their offseason by signing superstar-in-waiting Wander Franco to an 11-year, $182 million extension. They then added former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and made an offer to Freeman, a former MVP. Coming off of a 100-win season, they remain the team to beat.

The Yankees recognized the need to improve their defense while becoming less one-dimensional offensively, so they added Donaldson, who walks at roughly triple the rate of former third baseman Gio Urshela, and Kiner-Falefa, a Gold Glove third baseman who's nearly that good at shortstop. They remain in the hunt for Freeman after failing to swing a deal for Oakland slugger Matt Olson.

As for the Jays, they might be the scariest team of all, and they're not done adding. They just signed All-Star left-hander Yusei Kikuchi to a rotation that includes former Giants All-Star Kevin Gausman alongside Hyun Jin Ryu, Jose Berrios, and promising youngster Alek Manoah.

Their offense remains stacked, with MVP-in-waiting Vladimir Guerrero Jr., defending AL hits leader Bo Bichette, two-time Silver Slugger Teoscar Hernandez, former Astros star George Springer, and now potentially Schwarber, too.

A case can be made for Toronto owning the best lineup and rotation in the division, with the added bonus of playing in a country that won't let unvaccinated players cross the border.


So that's what Bloom is up against as he tries to keep pace. A disciplined, under-the-radar approach brought the Red Sox within two games of the World Series last year, but the landscape has changed. The AL East isn't messing around.

If the Red Sox are too careful, they'll be left behind.