What it’s like to be traded: MLB players share the ups, downs, and oft ignored facets of the job

McGuire says he “packs light” for the season, which came in handy as he gathered his belongings from his Chicago apartment that night. The next day, he was on a flight to meet the Red Sox in Houston.

Less than 48 hours passed from the time McGuire left Chicago to when he played his first game in a Boston jersey on Aug. 3.

“Once you experience it once, it doesn’t surprise you when it happens again,” said McGuire. “You’re kind of prepared for that.”

Midseason trades are nothing new to baseball, but the stressors associated with these moves often go unnoticed.

“Whenever you leave that comfort zone and you go somewhere new, it’s kind of raw and it can be anxiety provoking,” said former Red Sox mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury. “The more distractions that you have, whether it’s potentially being traded or being traded or changing leagues, it’s really easy to get away from the task at hand and that’s what the most important thing is.”

Finding a place to live, moving family, renting furniture, and many other off-the-field factors shift when a player changes teams. Before the Red Sox lost to the Braves on Aug. 10, Tommy Pham was still living out of a suitcase.

Pham was acquired by the Red Sox from Cincinnati on Aug. 1, when the Reds were in Miami. The things he packed for that road trip ended up having to last his first few weeks in New England.

“All my stuff is still in Cincy,” Pham said. “I have to try to get re-situated here. Currently trying to find a place and they’re trying to charge me a fortune. It’s always tough, but you figure it out.”

Maybe he could talk to manager Alex Cora about housing. When Cora was traded from Cleveland to Boston for infielder Ramón Vázquez in 2005, the two agreed to swap places.

Cora had a four-bedroom home in Cleveland that was a similar price to Vázquez’s Boston residence. The only problem? The Cleveland home was equivalent to a one-bedroom apartment in Boston.

“That’s how it works, ya know? It’s baseball,” Cora said with a laugh.

Red Sox senior vice president of baseball operations Ben Crockett said there is a fixed period of time after a trade when the team will cover lodging, usually in a hotel. After that, the player will find their own apartment, home, or in some cases negotiate a long-term stay at the hotel.

Crockett said resources like family support and medical care are given to players acquired midseason just like they are to full-season players.

But coming to a new city also means adjusting to a new clubhouse. A few days after he was acquired from San Diego, Eric Hosmer told Cora he didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Cora replied, “’Bro, there’s no toes here.’ “

“You’re coming into a clubhouse where there’s a lot of guys that have won a championship,” said Hosmer, a 2015 World Series winner himself. “There’s a lot of guys that have great résumés and have continued to be successful here for a long time, so just try to come and mix in and fit in as well as you could.”

Eric Hosmer was nervous about stepping on toes in the Red Sox clubhouse.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Rob Refsnyder, who has been traded three times since 2017, can relate to the new clubhouse adjustment.

“It’s like that weird high school, ‘Where am I going to sit?’ feeling,” Refsnyder said. “That’s what fans don’t really get to see. It’s kind of just like a new job. You don’t know anybody.”

Moving with a family can be helpful and stressful to a traded player. Hosmer said his wife Kacie, a former NESN broadcaster, has handled most of the logistical things so he can focus on baseball, while Pham said moving his belongings has been slightly more difficult without the help of a partner.

When Christian Vázquez was traded — somewhat surprisingly — on Aug. 2, Refsnyder sympathized with the abrupt uprooting of his wife and child.

“I was making sure how he was doing, and then I think the first question was, ‘What’s your family doing?’ Refsnyder said. “As a player, you kind of feel that burden, right? It’s not just your life, you’re affecting your family’s life as well so that’s the biggest adjustment.”

Christian Vázquez shares a hug with Sox manager Alex Cora after he found out he had been traded from Boston to the Astros.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

however, players agreed that trades are part of the game and each is done on its own agenda. Sometimes a trade can involve switching to play for a one-time rival.

“I think you get used to it over the course of time, however many times you move teams,” said Andrew Benintendi, who came to Fenway as a Yankee earlier this month. “It’s definitely different facing guys that you’re pretty close with, guys you probably don’t have a lot of at bats off of, is the only thing that is kind of dicey.”

Other times, a trade can be a positive change, as was the case for Eddie Rosario and the Braves last season en route to the World Series title.

“When you come here, you feel better, you feel happy and the other team misses you. Everything is different,” said Rosario. “You feel awesome when they trade you to a winning team.”

Among the moving logistics, trying to impress a new fanbase, and filling a role on a new team, Tewksbury said having conversations with athletes on these adjustments is important.

“Controlling your controllables … This is a business, you’re a commodity. Things happen,” Tewksbury said. “They’re not trading you and asking you to fix the Rubik’s Cube, they’re asking you to go play baseball and you know how to do that, so remember what you know how to do and go do that.”


Jayna Bardahl can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Jaynabardahl.

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