Indisputably, the Red Sox came a long way in 2021. They needed a good year and they generally got one. But even if you’re happy about how far they have come, you should still have questions about where this is all going.
And so, when the Red Sox were essentially asked yesterday what kind of players they might be on the open market this offseason, the following answer by team president Sam Kennedy stuck out.
“We talked a lot at spring training about trying to build up this organization at every level while trying to compete at the major league level. And thanks to the group sitting to my left, we were able to do that,” Kennedy said while flanked by his baseball operations staff, headed by Chaim Bloom. “I think Alex (Cora) said it well – there’s a lot of unfinished business. No one is celebrating. I think this year was a validation of our organizational plan and our strategy, which is to continue to build a robust organization at every single level, win at every level, and remain committed to the major league level. And our fans responded well to that, players responded well to that, and that’s going to be where we’re going. So in terms of the organizational place in terms of where we are, that holds true and we’re not going to deviate from that plan one bit.”
It’s that last line or two that should garner your attention.
We’re not going to deviate from that plan one bit.
Look, there’s a lot to unpack here, but the Red Sox need to be careful. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers both preach player development, but they’re at opposite ends baseball’s cash system. The Red Sox should always be more like the Dodgers and less like the Rays, which is to say they should always be in the market for the best players, independent of cost. Sometimes you have to think for the short term and sometimes you need to think for the long. Skewing too far in either direction isn’t good.
In 2021, the Red Sox stayed below the luxury tax. They chose low cost-options on the free agent market, hitting on some (like Hunter Renfroe) and missing on others (Garrett Richards). Given how thin their player development system was a year ago, it was the right plan. But guys like Richards aren’t going to win you championships. Let’s not forget that the Rays are still without a World Series title.
This offseason, there are a lot of variables. Baseball might be looking at another work stoppage. The rules for free agency might be changing. The Red Sox would be foolish to recklessly throw around money before owners and players agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, but they’d also be foolish to think their pitching staff, lineup and bench were deep and talented enough to beat (and be) the best team in baseball.
In some ways, getting back to this stage was the easy part for Bloom.
But the next step is the harder one.