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Final Thoughts on the 2020 Red Sox

It was a bad year, but there’s hope moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles Vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

I’m sure for the next month while the playoffs roll on and the rest of baseball waits to move forward with the offseason, there will be a lot of articles and posts about the story of the 2020 Red Sox. And they sure were a lot of things. Exciting at first, disappointing most of the rest of way, and utterly frustrating to watch.

For me, though, the 2020 Red Sox largely represented the period of change that we’re going to have to adjust to in the Chaim Bloom era. This season was always going to be one of transition, and this season was probably the hardest season we were going to have to experience, especially following the trade of an elite superstar on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

In the pre-season, I was the biggest downer on the staff (if only barely) and somehow even I overestimated this team. The pitching, as many of us predicted, just wasn’t enough. The offense at times stagnated, as we got career worst years from J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi. We saw significant action from cast offs from other organizations like José Peraza, Kevin Plawecki, Christian Arroyo, and half of the pitching staff.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Some of these names, like Plawecki, did very well. Others, like Matt Hall, did not. But it gave us a sign of what to expect going forward, that the Red Sox were going to try to make smart low-risk moves when they can, and hope for the high rewards that follow. My belief is that in 2021, they’re going to do some similar things, but cut the cord when it isn’t working. This season was an anomaly in more ways than one, given the current world climate.

We also saw huge performances from some of our prospects. Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck deserve a lot of credit for how they came up and performed, and you better believe both are part of the plan for the 2021 Red Sox, especially Houck, who has pitched so well in his brief time that there’s a good argument for him not going back to the minors. I believe Houck ends up starting the year in Triple-A to work on his third pitch, but isn’t down for long. First injury, and he’s up. There’s probably even a chance he can win a rotation spot in Spring Training too.

Speaking of prospects, Chaim Bloom gets an A from me this year. He came in with an impossible task, and did better than anyone could have hoped. Seemingly, he was given a mandate to trade Mookie Betts, and he did just that. The players the Red Sox got in return already look to be useful long-term. Alex Verdugo has impressed, and ended up second on the team to Xander Bogaerts on the final fWAR leaderboard. Jeter Downs is arguably the top prospect in the system. We didn’t see him this year, but we’ll be seeing him soon. Connor Wong was also involved. Again, we didn’t see him, but as far as third pieces go, he looks to be interesting.

Bloom performed well in other trades too. He traded Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree for Connor Seabold and Nick Pivetta. Seabold was the true prize in the deal according to many evaluators, but Pivetta looks like a depth option the Red Sox sorely needed. Then Mitch Moreland was traded for Hudson Potts and Jeisson Rosario. Both guys look intriguing, and carry more value to the 2021 and beyond Red Sox than the expiring contract of Moreland. Kevin Pillar was traded for Jacob Wallace. Wallace looked pretty good in brief action last year. He may be a quick mover through the system. We’ve yet to hear the return on Josh Osich, but let’s be honest, we’re fine with whatever that ends up being.

Bloom also did alright with low-risk pickups. Since January, Bloom has brought in Plawecki, Trevor Hildenberger, Pillar (who was obviously traded), Phillips Valdez, Collin McHugh, Yairo Muñoz, Zack Godley, Stephen Gonsalves, Arroyo, Andrew Triggs, and Deivy Grullón, not to mention countless other players who were churned through the system and promptly dropped out. Obviously not all of those players worked out, but Bloom kept busy and provided us with a few names — Plawecki, Valdez, Muñoz, Arroyo, Grullón — to keep for potential depth for the future.

All told, his efforts to rebuild the farm system look pretty good in his first season with the team. Per MLB Pipeline, the Red Sox added their new numbers 1, 11, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 23, and 24 prospects since Chaim Bloom took over. While there will need to be some time to see how well each of those players turns out, you cannot fault Bloom for setting out and making immediate improvements to the farm.

For however successful the Sox were on the future development of the franchise, the 2020 version of the Red Sox were mostly painful to watch. In some seasons, the losing starts out painful, before gradually becoming silly and a joke, like in 2012 or 2014. I feel like this season was different though. The losing started out as silly like a joke, before transforming into a waking nightmare that no one could be waken from. With the season finally over, though, there comes a sense of peace and finality, knowing the hope springs eternal, and that next year, the team will have a chance again.

You might be wondering, “How does this team have any chance?”

As constructed, the Red Sox are a bad team, this is true. This is largely because the Red Sox were without their top 2 pitchers, and they got all-time terrible performances from two key contributors. Could the Red Sox still be without Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale for long periods of time next year? Absolutely, yes. Could the Red Sox also continue to get bad performances from Benintendi and Martinez? Sure.

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

But they also may not. If Sale and Rodriguez come back and are healthy by June, and Benintendi and Martinez recover from their 2020 slump, the Red Sox will certainly have a chance at a back end playoff spot, especially if the new 16-team playoff format is here to stay. This chance is further improved if the Red Sox are active in free agency, especially where the rotation is concerned. It may be a pipe-dream, but can you imagine this Red Sox team with Trevor Bauer holding down the fort?

There will be changes to come over the next six months. In those six months, Chaim Bloom will make numerous decisions, but this season, despite how it appears on the surface, has reminded me of one thing: That I trust Chaim Bloom to do well with the rebuild/reload that the Red Sox desperately needed. And that the light on the other side of the tunnel is coming more quickly than we expect.