It’s not easy to assess the work that Chaim Bloom has done since becoming the Chief Baseball Officer at the end of 2019. As we all know, he was appointed just as the global COVID-19 pandemic hit, which caused major disruptions globally, and also greatly impacted his ability to build a roster. The shortened season of 2020 was further impacted by the suspension of Alex Cora and the departure of the best player on the team, Mookie Betts.
The 2020 season was a massive disappointment that saw the Red Sox finish in last place. The draft was shortened due to the pandemic, and the Red Sox didn’t even have a second round selection as a penalty for Cora’s transgressions. Things were kind of back to normal in the following offseason, but not entirely — there were still alternate sites for players, roster limitations were different, and the world was far from normal. The Red Sox seemed to be in a transition period, but at least now they had Cora back in the mix.
2021 went extremely well, as the Red Sox found themselves just two wins away from the World Series. On top of that, Bloom added Marcelo Mayer, perhaps the best talent in the entire draft, to the farm system. It seemed like big things were poised to happen in the first normal offseason we would have in a number of years. Then came the lockout. So much for a normal offseason — months were lost and spring training was condensed as a result.
None of this is being said to give Bloom a pass, but I do think it needs to be mentioned. Barring some unforeseen calamitous events, we will finally have a normal offseason following this already massively disappointing year. I wanted to sort all of Bloom’s major moves into buckets to see what he has done well and where he has failed during his tenure. Three years isn’t a huge sample size, but it’s enough to inform us about how he may operate in the future. This is particularly important as we approach the impending free agency of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, and as we prepare to enter the first normal offseason Bloom has encountered.
So first, let’s take a look at Chaim Bloom’s moves:
Waiver Claims and Rule 5 Picks That Had An Impact
- Christian Arroyo
- Garrett Whitlock
- John Schreiber
Waiver Claims and Rule 5 Picks That Had Little Impact:
- Chris Mazza
- Jonathan Araúz
- Phillips Valdez
- Jaylin Davis
- Travis Shaw
Trades That Worked Out:
- Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to the Phillies for Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold
- Cash (as in money, not Kevin) to the Yankees for Adam Ottavino and Frank German
- Aldo Ramirez to Washington for Kyle Schwarber
- PTBNL or cash to Cincinnati for Tommy Pham
- Jay Groome to San Diego for Eric Hosmer, Cory Rosier, Max Ferguson, and $44 million in cash
- Jake Diekman to the Chicago White Sox for Reese McGuire and a PTBNL or cash
Trades That Didn’t Move The Needle One Way Or The Other:
- Mitch Moreland to San Diego for Jeisson Rosario and Hudson Potts
- Kevin Pillar to Colorado for Jacob Wallace
- Yoan Aybar to Colorado for Christian Koss
- Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs to Tampa Bay for Ronaldo Hernandez and Nick Sogard
- C.J. Chatham to Philadelphia for Victor Santos
- Alex Scherff to Minnesota for Hansel Robles
- Michael Chavis to Pittsburgh for Austin Davis
Trades That Worked Out Terribly:
- Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong
- Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City for Franchy Cordero, Josh Winckowski, Grant Gambrell, Luis De La Rosa, and Freddy Valdez
- Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee for Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Binelas, and David Hamilton
Free Agent Signings That Worked Very Well:
- Mitch Moreland
- Hunter Renfroe
- Kiké Hernandez
- Jose Iglesias
- Rob Refsnyder
Free Agent Signings That Were Fine:
- Kevin Plawecki
- Hirokazu Sawamura
- Michael Wacha
- Rich Hill
- Matt Strahm
Free Agent Signings That Did Not Work:
- Martín Pérez
- Jose Peraza
- Matt Andriese
- Garrett Richards
- Martín Pérez (again)
- Marwin González
- Danny Santana
- Jake Diekman
- Matt Barnes (extension)
Free Agents He Let Walk, Right Decision:
- Jackie Bradley Jr.
- Eduardo Rodriguez
Free Agents He Let Walk, Wrong Decision:
- Kyle Schwarber
- Adam Ottavino
Good Draft Picks and International Amateur Signings:
- Nick Yorke
- Blaze Jordan
- Marcelo Mayer
- Miguel Bleis
Too Soon To Say:
- FA Signing of James Paxton
- FA Signing of Trevor Story
- Christian Vazquez to Houston for Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu
- 2022 Draft picks
- 2022 J2 Signees
Bloom has been very effective at claiming players off of waivers or in the Rule 5 draft. The most exceptional example of this is Garrett Whitlock. We know he’s been excellent as a reliever and good as a starter, the fact that he was taken from the Yankees also makes me positively giddy every time I think of it. You could also make a strong argument that John Schreiber, who was claimed off the scrap heap from Detroit, has been the best reliever in the Red Sox bullpen this year. While Christian Arroyo hasn’t developed into a true starting caliber player, the former first round draft pick has proven to be an important and versatile piece in the middle infield for nearly two full seasons now.
On the free agent side, Bloom has had significant success with low-risk players on short-term deals. This is partly a result of the fact that he’s done it so much (the vast majority of contracts he’s given out have been for less than two years in length). But he’s also shown that he can identify undervalued talent, with the best examples being Hunter Renfroe and Kiké Hernandez who signed before the 2021 season and went on to enjoy career best years. Unfortunately, Renfroe was traded following that year and Hernandez has been hurt and underperformed this season, but nonetheless, those were good signings. Mitch Moreland, Jose Iglesias, and Rob Refsnyder also worked out well, albeit in much smaller roles.
On the trade front, no one will ever accuse Bloom of being overaggressive as he tends to lay back and pick his spots, but a few have worked out well. The Nick Pivetta deal is the best example as Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman have been completely worthless since. Getting Adam Ottavino and Frank German from the Yankees was phenomenal since you essentially just needed to take on Ottavino’s money, and German looks like an interesting piece for the future. Giving up Aldo Ramirez to get Kyle Schwarber paid off massively down the stretch last year, and at least three of the deals from this most recent deadline — the trades for Tommy Pham, Eric Hosmer, and Reese McGuire — seem to have no downside whatsoever.
On The Red Seat podcast, I accused Bloom of simply shifting the deck chairs around during this deadline. He made the team better in some areas while weakening it in others. Ultimately, I’m not convinced that he really changed the trajectory of the season. I think this is actually pretty indicative of Bloom’s style: he often appears busy without doing anything of consequence. Just look at all of the deals that fell into the category of “didn’t move the needle one way or the other.” Maybe the team is better off with the players that Bloom got back, but ultimately none of those returns are likely to impact the club positively or negatively. The same can be said of the vast majority of the claims he has made; the majority of those players filled a need for a time, though not particularly well, and now most are somewhere else. No harm, no foul.
The free agent signings that fell into the category of “fine” or “bad” are really mostly the aforementioned short term/money deals. The problem is that many of those guys were asked to fill a role that was larger than their talent level. For example, this bullpen needed massive help in the offseason. Most of us were hoping for at least one top level bullpen arm, but instead we got Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm. Strahm has been fine and Diekman was terrible and then traded, but those were not the type of players that the team needed. Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez were not the starters we needed them to be, but they were low risk moves. Rich Hill and Michael Wacha have honestly been better than I expected, but at the end of the day we are talking about adding two 1.0 fWAR pitchers to a staff in need of more than that. Bloom gets players to fill in the roster, but most of time the players are not the caliber that the team needs.
When it comes to the big trades of Betts, Renfroe, and Andrew Benintendi, he simply hasn’t gotten enough in return to make the trades worthwhile. I do think each of these moves deserves its own look and its own context.
I firmly believe that Bloom was told by ownership to trade Betts. I also believe that he did okay in the return by getting at least one everyday player under team control in Alex Verdugo. I also believe that the pandemic changed Betts’ calculus about what kind of deal he would accept, and I don’t believe he wanted to be here long-term. That said, when you trade the best right fielder in team history, it is incredibly difficult to get a return that will make your fans okay with that move.
The Benintendi trade also needed to be made because it had become clear that the player needed a change of scenery. This happens; sometimes good players need to start again somewhere new to get back to being productive. What is also true is that Benintendi returned to being a 2.0 fWAR player, while none of the five players Bloom got in return have anywhere close to that potential. Bloom should have either kept Benintendi and tried to rebuild his performance in Boston, or traded him for one or two high potential prospects. The return was bad.
The Renfroe trade rubs me the wrong way more than any other deal because the process of this trade made total sense until it didn’t. 2021 was a career year for Renfroe, but it was also clear that the player had some limitations. He wasn’t great defensively, his OBP left a lot to be desired, and he was invisible in the playoffs. The idea of trading him while his value was high made sense. The return and what came afterwards, though, made no sense. Alex Binelas and David Hamilton are a far cry from blue chip prospects, and it is likely that neither makes a meaningful impact in the future. Bloom also took on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s bad contract, after he so deftly let him walk and sign with Milwaukee following the 2020 season. I could have lived with all of that had he then gone out and signed a real right fielder like Seiya Suzuki, but instead he went into the season with JBJ, one of the worst hitters in recent memory, as the starter. Now JBJ plays for the Blue Jays, and his money is still on the books.
It’s really hard to look favorably at Bloom’s tenure thus far. It seems to me that he takes too many half measures. The great thing about Dave Dombrowski was that he identified a team need and then went out and got the best possible solution for it. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t, but it was decisive. We’ve heard the terms “lack of urgency” and “confusion” several times about the Bloom regime. He really likes to assess all of his options logically and figure out which path carries the best return on investment and the least risk. I’m sure this is a great philosophy in other lines of work, but here it’s not ideal.
As the lead decision-maker for a baseball team, every player you land is a player the other 29 teams can’t have. That means there is value in being aggressive on players you think can help your club. There is risk to being first and maybe spending too much or going one year longer than you should have, but that is part of doing business and an acceptable risk when you have the payroll of the Boston Red Sox and the highest ticket prices in the league. What we as fans have been left with is third and fourth option solutions where Bloom is asking players with significant warts to come and play roles that they are not equipped to play. This is a team where the players and other front office staff that predate Bloom, as well as the club’s legendary players, are openly questioning the future of this team.
We’re left with two franchise cornerstones with uncertain futures in Devers and Bogaerts. We’re facing a potential last place finish—the second in three years—because of myriad issues in roster construction, including a bullpen that wasn’t reinforced and issues at first base and right field that weren’t addressed. This is a team that was so confused with its place in the league that they were neither buyers nor sellers at the deadline, choosing instead some tepid middle way that certainly does not lead to enlightenment, let alone a payroll under the luxury tax.
The future is always uncertain, but with Bloom at the helm it seems to be cloudier than ever.