In my head, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, the former almost certainly becoming a free agent this coming offseason, and the latter hitting the market the next, are as good as gone. The writing is on the wall and I can read it, and even if I didn’t want to I could guess what it said. Something like, “Chaim Bloom doesn’t pay market price for talent,” am I right?
It sucks. But also it’ll stop sucking soon. It’ll stop soon because Mookie Betts, Bogaerts and Devers are the holdovers from another era, and this one is set to be vastly different, going forward. There will still be big contracts, relatively speaking. They just won’t happen during free agency.
The most important deal to understand what Bloom is about is two deals he didn’t make. The first is the Mookie Betts long-term deal, which he was effectively hired to avoid making. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he succeeded! Betts is not on the Red Sox, instead playing under a huge-money contract on the Dodgers.
The other deal he didn’t make is the Wander Franco extension. While the Red Sox are unlikely to cultivate someone of Franco’s talent, a) in fairness, no one is and b) that would only make signing their precocious draft-raised youngsters cheaper, in theory. Because that’s the plan: Spend “big” money, but do it on players with cost caps. Negotiate from a position of strength.
When I put it like that, it sounds admirable. And in some ways it is, but it’s going to push Bogaerts to another team and maybe Devers too. Maybe. Because I want to believe there are good things in this world, and because he’s still freakishly young, I’m not totally counting out Bloom signing Devers long-term just yet, especially if and when Bogaerts walks they are pilloried in Bettsian fashion anew for being fake-poor. Which they are.
The good news for me is that once the Bogey and Devers situations are resolved I can stop griping about the way the Sox refuse to pay their generational players when their owners are so preposterously rich, because the Sox will then at least attempt to sign every promising player to a long-term contract when they’re young and stop the argument in its tracks. That’s been Bloom’s goal since Day 1, and I’m guessing last year’s surprise ALCS run has helped him cover up the bad feelings about Mookie a little bit. That said, they’ll be back if and when Xander and/or Devers leaves. Oh boy, will they be back.
Just not from me. I have complained enough that I cannot possibly claim not to know the score. I know the score. It’s not about winning a World Series for John Henry. It’s about using the system’s weaknesses against it to win a World Series at the lowest possible cost–which, to be fair, is higher than that of most teams. It just doesn’t mean much when it’s a zero-sum game.
Henry, through Bloom, has decided that “winning a title because everything broke right” is a better value proposition than “winning a title because you had the best players,” and as cheeky as I am about it, I get it. The playoff system encourages this type of approach, and last year’s Braves, who won on the back of a decent record and fruitful deadline dump trades even after they lost one of the five best players in baseball, is the perfect object lesson to this end.
In some ways, this is not all that surprising after four titles largely achieved the old fashioned way, i.e. by trying. Beat a game enough times and you want to raise the difficulty. Henry is no different, it’s just that his fantasy baseball is our baseball-baseball. Partially–especially–because we have no control, it seems especially important that the Sox win. If we were in charge, we might get bored from time to time.
Despite all this, I am largely fine with it. Bogaerts, frankly, can leave if he wants, and I mean that exactly the opposite of the way it sounds. He’s such a good guy and is so good that I just want him to be happy. Devers would (will?) be harder. There’s something magical about that man. But then again, that was true of Betts. We know what they’re up to.
TL;DR, enjoy Bogey and Devers while you can. If you’re still here, you obviously love the Sox. But it’s gonna be tested. After that, it’s probably, for the first time in several years, all good. And I truly cannot wait for it.