Currently, in the MLB, there have been two main lines of focus: the World Series and manager hirings. Yet, it was a move that didn’t get much attention that could end up having monstrous effects in the future. On Friday, the Red Sox found their leader of the baseball operations department: they hired former Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom to be their “Chief Baseball Officer”. As we’ll dissect in this article, not only should this not be overlooked, but in a way, this could turn out the be the biggest signing/hiring of the entire offseason.
Bloom, 36, was easily the most qualified front office member in baseball who wasn’t a lead decision-maker yet. He had been apart of the Rays organization since 2008, and is cited as a master of player development. In fact, he’s even credited with creating the “Rays Way”, which has shaped how Tampa Bay has developed their prospects in recent seasons, something they’ve had great success with. Before taking this Red Sox job, he had worked his way up to being second-in-command behind general manager Erik Neander (arguably the best GM in the MLB). He’s also been a critical part of some of their most risky decisions, such as trading franchise legend Evan Longoria and starting the “opener” strategy- two moves that have worked out brilliantly for the Rays. We haven’t had this high-profile of a front-office hiring since 2014, when then Rays general manager Andrew Friedman was hired to run the Dodgers’ baseball operations department. Since then, Los Angeles has won the division in every single season, has boosted its farm system, and has managed to have a modest payroll; it’s definitely encouraging for the Red Sox how many similarities Bloom has to a brilliant mind like Friedman.
Obviously, any team hiring Bloom would be a “big deal”, but for the Red Sox, it definitely means more. After winning the 2018 World Series, then general manager Dave Dombrowski made the same mistake many World Series winners make: he got too comfortable. Stuck in a payroll crisis created by Dombrowski, the Red Sox two moves were to re-sign World Series MVP Steve Pearce to a one-year deal and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi to a high-priced four-year deal, and both contracts have turned out to be a disaster. Furthermore, although the move to extend shortstop Xander Bogaerts worked out, they also signed ace Chris Sale to a five-year, $150 extension, and since then, he’s regressed and is dealing with a worrisome elbow injury. Plus, not only does Boston have zero financial flexibility, but because of several win-now trades by Dombrowski, they also have arguably the league’s worst farm systems; Bloom won’t have the money to spend, nor young, cost-controlled players; he faces quite to challenge with Boston.
So, how can Bloom fix the Red Sox? Right now, it looks like Boston will not be able to keep one of their top two most popular players: designated hitter/outfielder JD Martinez and outfielder Mookie Betts. For the 32-year-old Martinez, he can opt-out of the remaining three years, $62.5 million of his contract, which he may do. Getting out that contract would be huge for them, as it would free up money that would otherwise be committed to a defensively limited, aging designated hitter, and allow them to keep a much better player, such as Betts. The 27-year-old remains a top-five player of baseball, with a combined 17 WAR over the past two seasons, and is the clear face of the franchise. However, with him projected to break the arbitration record, keeping him AND Martinez appears to be impossible, and some believe that Boston should look to add young talent by trading Betts. Still, you cannot trade a player of this magnitude who’s right in his prime if you want to have any chance of contending in the near future; if the Red Sox trade Betts, I don’t seem them as a legitimate threat to make the playoff next season. I do trust that an innovative decision-maker with such a terrific history of managing small payrolls realizes the value of Betts, and whether it’s by dumping Martinez’s contract (if he opts out) or trading a different high-profile player, there are better ways to improve the team’s future, especially since Betts’ value won’t be as high as anticipated since he’s a rental.
Chaim Bloom faces a daunting task in fixing Dave Dombrowski’s mess in Boston, but given his impressive resume, he’s more than capable of doing so. This is an amazing hire for the Red Sox, who needed a decision-maker like this to stop them from foolishly making a splash move, such as trading Betts. With Bloom and manager Alex Cora, the personnel is in place for the Red Sox to be extremely stable and functional; now, how will Bloom start his tenure in Boston? That’ll be quite the headline this offseason.