Heading into the latter part of January, the Red Sox' offseason has yet to include the kind of difference-making free agent signings many anticipated.
Friday, the reminder came in the form of the Yankees reeling in both Corey Kluber and DJ LeMahieu. The Red Sox counter? Martin Perez, a player they parted ways with for a grand total of 2 1/2 months.
There have also been swings and misses on Japanese pitchers (Yusei Kikuchi, Tomoyuki Sugano) and a highly-touted South Korean infielder (Ha-Seong Kim).
There is still a long way to go, with oodles of free agents still available.
But appearing on the Bradfo Sho podcast, former Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell did offer an example of how things have changed when it comes to the landscape of free agents choosing Boston.
"It’s the winning," said Lowell regarding one of the chief factors when it comes to free agents choosing their next homes. "I think the biggest challenge for the Red Sox is that it’s tough to recruit someone who knows that there is going to be a lot of added, let’s call it pressures and distractions because this is a very different market than most others, when you’re not sure of the winning.
"If you basically take the Los Angeles Dodgers team right now and put them in Boston, you know there are going to be a lot more good days than bad days because you’re just more talented than other people. Then I think that has a carry-over to then recruit … ‘You know what, we kind of need a corner outfielder. Let’s go after that free agent.’ Then it’s kind of like Boston is the place to be. You know why? Because you win three of the four nights. Three out of four nights is great. If you lose, guess what? You just won three in a row. That gets massaged a little.
"It gets hard in markets … I would put, for me, Boston and New York are so unique to everyone else. I don’t want to downplay a Chicago or LA or San Diego, but it is different. You have more eyes on the East Coast. There is a little bit more of that fast-pace life. They want answers now. West Coast is stereotypically a little bit more laid back. Midwest, they’re kinder. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. But it kind of seems that way a little when it comes to the media and the treatment of players. It is very different."
The Red Sox have previously secured the services of free agents before after down years. Take David Price following the last-place finish of 2015, for instance.
But there were a few differences in those situations.
In some of cases, the Red Sox countered any uncertainty by overpaying and outbidding. That won't happen this time around. While the organization did reset its luxury tax situation, the pandemic has left the Red Sox' spending power in a state of flux.
This isn't to say the Red Sox can't get difference-making free agents. It is just a reminder that in order to do so they are facing a challenge that isn't going away in the next few months.
"The fact that you’re kind of projected to not be one of the better teams, and you’re in that market, it does affect you," Lowell said as part of the City of Boston Credit Union's "Uniquely Boston" series. "How do you change it? Get the good players and start winning it will be a snowball effect, trust me. When people are winning in Boston it’s like no other place."