Virtually since the day he came in with the don’t call it a mandate to trade MVP Mookie Betts, Chaim Bloom has faced questions about his priorities.
Did you want to build a farm system or a big league winner? Would you ever spend a significant amount of money on players, whether they were free agents or your own? Would your Red Sox operate as giants of the big market or bargain hunters?
For the first time, and perhaps just because he was asked the right questions, Bloom has presented a compelling view of why the Red Sox are about to enter a new phase of his administration.
Appearing on the podcast Bradford Show with WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Bloom argued that teams can’t afford to sign players big contracts until there is a farm system in place to support them. He noted that the Dodgers could extend Betts for more than $300 million not only because of his financial resources, but because they had developed a local talent pool to augment big spending.
By juxtaposing the Betts trade with the current situation of Rafael Devers, Bloom suggested that the Red Sox have positioned themselves to take the next step as a franchise.
“I strongly believe that we are heading in the right direction with that, that we are in a much better position than we were a few years ago,” Bloom said. “But we still have to get on with it. If we make good decisions, we should be able to win and compete on the road.”
The Red Sox came under fire for trading Betts at the start of spring training in 2020, but the way Bloom saw it, he didn’t have much of a choice. Because the farm lacked talent, he had no way to balance a $350 million contract with cheaper productive talent. The Red Sox couldn’t surround Betts with the pieces necessary to compete, making the most valuable years of his contract from an individual production standpoint the least valuable from a team perspective.
“The organization at the time was in a position where they were clearly … not of the division class and they were at the bottom of the heap in terms of the quality of the farming system,” Bloom said. “And there were a lot of compromises on the books. We’re fortunate to be blessed with great resources here. But obviously you still need to be able to have freedom with those resources. And a lot of those resources were tied up.” So it wasn’t a very good position, short-term or long-term, that would lead to some tough decisions.”
So Betts was gone, along with $48 million of the $96 million owed to left-hander David Price, which was effectively dead money. That allowed Bloom to begin to balance the books, but did little for the organization’s young talent base.
Since then, the Red Sox have taken on one of the worst farm systems in baseball and climbed to 11th in Baseball America’s organizational rankings.
Last year’s No. 4 overall pick, Marcelo Mayer, is a top 15 prospect. Slugging first baseman Triston Casas and right-hander Brayan Bello are already in the big leagues and show promise. Youngsters like versatile Ceddanne Rafaela, former first-round pick Nick Yorke and slugger Blaze Jordan are highly regarded.
The farm’s contributions at the major league level still may not be overwhelming, but the lower levels of the minors have at least put the Red Sox in a position to trade their prospect inventory to fill in the gaps, and in the next two years, some of its most outstanding players will arrive.
That puts them in a much better spot to make a legitimate offer to retain Devers, their All-Star third baseman.
“With Raffy, we’re in a different position as an organization, where I think our talent base is in a much better place,” Bloom said. “And we’re not committed in the same way, financially, to as many players as we were at the time. So I can’t give any guarantees based on that, but part of what we’ve been trying to do is put the organization in a position where we wouldn’t be backed into that corner.
With a staggering number of decisions on the docket this offseason, beginning with the future of Devers and All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Bloom has made a credible case for why the Red Sox could soon be back in business.