Just how well is a GM/executive reign supposed to go when the first task given to them is to trade the best player in baseball? That was the road set out for Chaim Bloom, who came to Fenway from Tampa, probably with hopes that he could set up a Rays-with-money set-up like Andrew Friedman in Los Angeles. And then he was forced to punt Mookie Betts to Friedman because Fenway Sports Group decided they didn’t want to pay Betts, or really anyone anymore.
So that’s where it starts. Even if Bloom had hit a home run with the Betts deal, there’s no replacing a regular MVP candidate. But Bloom very much did not hit a home run with that deal, though with the caliber of player that Betts was and still is combined with his status as being a year away from free agency, the market for him wouldn’t be as large as one might think. Still, all the Sox have to show for it is an at-best solid everyday player in Alex Verdugo and that’s it. Jeter Downs isn’t even part of the Red Sox anymore. Connor Wong is 27 and has 146 games in MLB. This is quite the eight-ball to work around when a GM hasn’t even set up his pictures around the office yet.
Another thing working against Bloom is that he followed Dave Dombrowski, who is known to bring success to a team but also will leave their system completely scorched. Deals for Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and others strip-mined what few prospects the Red Sox had. Bloom had a clean slate, but a lot of work to do to fill that in.
And along with all of that, Bloom was clearly under strict orders from FSG to cut payroll. Which meant that he was always headed to a game of chicken with the players the Red Sox did develop, namely Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers (signed or drafted well before Dombrowski), as well as an aging JD Martinez. And then to compete in a division with the New York Yankees who can spend, or the Baltimore Orioles and their headstart and wealth on building a raft of prospects, or the Tampa Bay Rays and their black magic, and whatever it is the Toronto Blue Jays are doing.
Bloom was also unlucky in that he was given the charge to rebuild a minor league system at a time when the pandemic was going to make things awfully screwy. Either drafting players who hadn’t played for a year, or recent draftees having to take a year off thanks to no minor league baseball. It’s been tough to negotiate for a lot of teams.
That doesn’t mean Bloom is blameless. He handed Chris Sale a contract extension a couple days before the southpaw’s arm exploded. He signed Trevor Story without really having a place for him to play at the time, before his arm also exploded. Cory Kluber and James Paxton were stopgaps. The rotation was never bolstered after Sale’s injury and Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez leaving in free agency. Though maybe that also had to do with the bear trap FSG put over the team’s checking account. Looking over the current roster, there are not a lot of important pieces one can say Bloom has installed on the team for the long haul. Verdugo maybe? He extended Devers. What’s Story now? Wilyer Abreu is now up after the Christian Vasquez trade, maybe he can be a thing? Bloom’s work in the past couple drafts can’t be graded for a couple years.
Red Sox fans will focus on what might be a second straight last-place finish in the East. But a last-place finish in the East isn’t the same as it is elsewhere. The Sox are over .500 at the moment, and won 78 games last year. They aren’t the Rockies.
It’s hard to know exactly what conditions Bloom was working under and how much John Henry put the screws to the whole organization. Certainly, FSG is now spread a little wide with Liverpool and the Penguins.
Bloom had a lot of gaps forced on him through FSG’s penny-pinching, and we’ll never know how many resources he was given to fill them. But he also didn’t fill them well, and patience has never run deep on Jersey St. Whoever comes in after Bloom will have to know what it is FSG wants the Red Sox to be. If they’re not going back to their free-spending ways, then there are a lot of contracts the new GM will have to wait out or find a way to leave in the dumpster outside Fenway. It seems a near-impossible job.
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