By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The Alex Cora saga is now complete, the former and current manager of the Red Sox due to be formally (re)introduced by the Red Sox today. For Chaim Bloom, Cora and the Red Sox, the real task now begins.
And it is hardly an easy one.
And so, before you start fantasizing about quick-fix moves the Red Sox can execute this offseason with the hopes of becoming relevant again, here’s a tip: get real. Yes, the Red Sox have money to spend, but Bloom isn’t likely to throw around stupid money or forfeit draft picks and/or international signing money, both of which he would have to relinquish if the Red Sox were to sign a free agent who obtained a qualifying offer.
Translation: Trevor Bauer, George Springer, DJ LeMahieu, J.T. Realmuto Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman aren’t likely to be on Boston’s radar this offseason – unless the Red Sox can orchestrate a series of maneuvers or trades that mitigate the cost. (For example: if the Sox traded, say, Andrew Benintendi for the equivalent of a high second-round pick and bonus money, maybe then they would pursue Springer.) The bottom line is that the Red Sox are trying to move upward, not sideways.
With that in mind – and with limited choices – here are a few options the Sox should consider:
Sign one or two starters from a group that includes Jon Lester, Jake Odorizzi, Charlie Morton, Rick Porcello, Julie Teheran, Corey Kluber, Mike Foltynewicz, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Chris Archer, Rick Porcello, Taijuan Walker, Jose Quintana, Drew Smyly and others. That’s a lot of names, right? Well that’s where the Red Sox are shopping. There are no aces out there. So the guess is that Bloom will take a shot with team-friendly deals on what amounts to a group of mid- to back end-of-the-rotation starters. The player willing to take the best contract wins.
Uninspiring? You bet it is. But this is where the Red Sox are. Bloom did relatively well with Martin Perez in 2020 and he’ll be looking for pitchers with a similar profile. Keep an eye on former Tampa Bay Rays like Odorizzi, Archer and Smyly, among others. Most team architects are creatures of habit. And the hope, of course, is that Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale come back and give the Red Sox something.
Rebuild the bullpen. Obvious, right? The Red Sox need a closer and at least one other reliever, maybe two. But don’t expect a big expenditure on someone like Liam Hendriks, who is projected, in some places, to earn in excess of $15 million annually. (It’s a not a ridiculous sum, but it just doesn’t feel like a Bloom move.) Still, they could use a closer (Brad Hand?), but it doesn’t seem likely that they would overspend on one at this stage.
The guess here is that the Red Sox make some strategic, pointed maneuvers that are team-friendly – there’s that term again – that are based on analytics and matchups. (Get ready for it.) Again, keep an eye on the former Rays (Alex Colome?) and don’t be surprised if the Red Sox think outside the box, which is to say that they might target a former starter (the next Shane Greene) with the idea of using him in the bullpen.
Look, we’re trying to be realistic here. It would be great if the Red Sox signed Trevor Rosenthal, Hand and Hendriks – but don’t hold your breath. Bloom doesn’t seem to operate that way. In this way, he’s the complete opposite of Dave Dombrowski, who simply went after the best players and paid whatever he had to.
The Red Sox hired Bloom to be shrewd – and that means picking players who aren’t obvious. Undoubtedly, some names will pop up here that will likely send you scrambling to the Google. But that’s what we’re in for.
Fortify the lineup and bench, especially on the right side of the infield. All things considered, the lineup should be fine. With Cora back, expect the trio of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers to be the core and strength of the team. (Martinez flat out quit in 2020, but he won’t do that to Cora.) Depending on how the Sox feel about prospect Jarren Duran, they could use an outfielder who has the capability to play center field, though they could just as easily get by for a year with Benintendi or Alex Verdugo there. Ideally, a right-handed-hitting outfielder would be preferred, but they seem in short supply. (Robbie Grossman feels like the perfect Ray – I mean Red Sox – and don’t rule out Kevin Pillar coming back.)
More important, the Red Sox need some stability on the right side of the infield, regardless of whether you like Bobby Dalbec and Christian Arroyo. Maybe that means yet another reunion with Mitch Moreland, maybe that means a different platoon-type (and former Ray) like Brad Miller. Maybe it means a more versatile part-timer like Tommy La Stella, especially if the Sox have any designs on moving Devers from third base.
Or maybe it means waiting out Jeter Downs, whom the Sox acquired in the trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers.
In the end, remember this: predicting Bloom’s moves this offseason will be very difficult – for a lot of reasons. First, he’s likely to go smaller rather than bigger, at least based on his background. Second, there could be an abundance of players who will hit the market late thanks to the financial uncertainty that comes with a pandemic and an expiring collective bargaining agreement. Third, we’ve never seen him operate with a bigger payroll before.
On paper, Bloom feels like the closest thing the Sox have had to a young Theo Epstein since Epstein. (Ben Cherington doesn’t really seem to count for an assortment of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with him.) And remember that when Epstein started, some of his better moves were on players like Bill Mueller, David Ortiz, Todd Walker and Kevin Millar – players who gained recognition in Boston. Of course, Theo also had misses like Jeremy Giambi and Chad Fox.
The point? Don’t expect anything huge. Expect the unexpected. And prepare to be underwhelmed.