Since becoming Chief Baseball Officer of the Boston Red Sox, Chaim Bloom has made multiple difficult decisions about the direction of the franchise. In one offseason, he was able to transform the team from last-place to second-place finishers in the American League. But, like everyone, he has also made his fair share of mistakes. This author breaks down Bloom’s five best and five worst moves as the primary decision-maker for the Red Sox.
Top 5 Moves
5. Signing Hunter Renfroe for one year, $3.1 million
Renfroe may have disappointed during the postseason in Boston, but he was a crucial contributor during the 2021 season. Although he was initially signed to be a platoon hitter to start against left-handed pitchers, Renfroe became an everyday starter, crushing 31 homers and driving in 96 runs in 144 games. On the defensive side of the ball, Renfroe led the league in outfield assists with 16 and finished in the top three in gold glove voting. For only $3.1 million, Renfroe was one of the best bargain free-agent signings of the 2021 season.
4. Signing Kiké Hernandez for two years, $14 million
In 2021, Hernandez was arguably the Red Sox best player. He led the team in Baseball-Reference wins above replacement and was absolutely dominant during the postseason, hitting .385 for a .1.254 OPS. He completely filled the void in center field left by Jackie Bradley Jr. with 14 defensive runs saved. It is rare to see a player so solid in all aspects of the game as Hernandez was in 2021, as evidenced by his Statcast percentile rankings below.
Regardless of how well Rodriguez performs in 2022, he has already paid off his contract.
3. Acquiring Kyle Schwarber for Aldo Ramiriez
On a rate basis, Schwarber was probably Bloom’s best addition ever. Over 41 games, he had a .435 on-base percentage and added necessary plate discipline to a lineup that was severely lacking it. Schwarber also managed to learn the first base position quite easily, giving the team lineup flexibility and filling the biggest need at the trade deadline. But perhaps his biggest influence is the one he had on Bobby Dalbec. After joining the Red Sox, Schwarber worked with Dalbec to improve his swing. Dalbec improved remarkably after the trade deadline, hitting for 174 wRC+, likely due to Schwarber’s influence. Whether or not his time with the Sox is over, Schwarber’s time with Boston will certainly be remembered.
2. Acquiring Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold for Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman
Regardless of whether Pivetta or Seabold were any good, this trade was instantly a win for the Red Sox. Hembree and Workman were relievers on a team with no chance to make the playoffs, and were likely not going to stay on the team in 2021 regardless. They both struggled on the Phillies, and ended up on different teams by 2021. The cherry on top was when Workman ended up back with the Red Sox in 2021, and was able to contribute to the ALCS run in 2021.
The trade became even more impactful when Pivetta turned into a solid starter for the Red Sox this season. For a team short on pitching, Pivetta turned in 155 innings for a respectable 4.53 ERA. He was essential in allowing the team to reach the playoffs in relief against the Nationals, and his legendary appearance in game three of the ALDS will not be forgotten.
Connor Seabold has dealt with recent injuries, but he still ranks 11th overall among Red Sox prospects. He struggled in his only major league start last season, but he tossed 54 innings in AAA last season to a 3.50 ERA. Even if Seabold never manifests into a contributor for the Red Sox, this deal absolutely tops the list of trades by Bloom.
1. Drafting Garrett Whitlock in the Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 Draft is usually a crapshoot, and entire years pass during which none of the players drafted ultimately have success at the major league level. So, the fact that Bloom was able to get a major league contributor out of the Rule 5 Draft was impressive in itself. The fact that Garrett Whitlock was a former Yankee, and ended up as the Red Sox best reliever in the 2021 season secured this move as the number one spot. Whitlock had a 1.96 ERA over 73.1 innings, and by the end of the year was one of the only relievers Alex Cora could trust.
Whitlock is entering his age-26 season and is under team control for five more years. He has the pitching repertoire to move into the starting rotation, but even if he stays in the bullpen, he has the potential to make the Yankees regret their decision not to protect him for a long time.
Worst 5 Moves
5. Trading Mookie Betts and David Price for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs
Some would argue that this move was one of the best of the Chaim Bloom Era, while others would argue to this day that Bloom still royally screwed up by trading Mookie. I find myself placing it in the middle, ultimately realizing that it was a necessary move, but could’ve been done better.
It is important to establish that ownership essentially mandated that Mookie be traded, as they were not willing to pay the luxury tax in 2020. The main issue stems from the return that the Red Sox received from this trade. Getting rid of half of David Price‘s contract was important, but also heavily limited the quality of prospects the Red Sox got back. Verdugo is a solid major league starter, but both Wong and Downs have struggled in the minor leagues. It’s impossible to draw conclusions until Downs reaches the major league level, but currently, it seems like Bloom would have been better off unloading all of Price’s contract in return for a less promising prospect load, or eating the contract and getting a potential star in return like Dustin May.
4. Signing Jose Peraza for one year, $2.85 million
Many people may not remember Peraza’s time with Boston, since it was not very noteworthy and took place in a dreadful 2020 campaign. But, in 34 games, Peraza had -0.3 fWAR, reaching base at a .275 clip and slugging a meager .342. Since it was only a one-year deal, the move was inconsequential. But, that $2.85 million could have been spent elsewhere, such as Jose Iglesias, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Orioles in the offseason and had 1.6 fWAR in 39 games.
3. Signing Martin Perez for a total of two years, $11 million
Both of Perez’s signings with the Red Sox were inconsequential, one-year deals that just required him to be an innings eater when the team was low on pitching. But, when Perez was pitching, he had very limited success, pitching to a 4.65 earned-run average over 176 innings pitched. That money likely could have gone to a pitcher like Robbie Ray, who won the AL Cy Young award despite signing a one-year deal worth only $8 million.
2. Signing Marwin Gonzalez for one year, $3 million
Marwin Gonzalez is very similar to Peraza in that he was a cheap, utility infielder on a one year deal. By the end of the season, Gonzalez was on the World Series roster for Astros, which is a pretty good indicator of how his time in Boston was. Over 91 games, Gonzalez hit under .200 and had a -0.7 fWAR. In August, the Red Sox designated him for assignment.
1. Signing Garrett Richards for one year, $10 million
Garrett Richards time in Boston was quite eventful, as his season was an up-and-down rollercoaster that featured flashes of greatness as both a starter and a reliever. Ultimately, Bloom spent $10 million to get 136.2 innings with a 4.87 ERA. Robbie Ray represents the extreme of who Bloom missed out on, but signing Richards also meant not signing pitchers like Anthony Desclafani and previously signed Colin McHugh. One more strong pitcher may have been the difference between reaching the ALCS and winning a World Series championship.
Future of the Red Sox
Over the past three years, Bloom has dealt with a media and fanbase that is not always willing to trust his decision-making. From his first move to trade Mookie Betts to his relative silence at the 2021 MLB trade deadline, Bloom has constantly been questioned about his direction of the franchise. However, it is hard to argue with the results, and the good has certainly outweighed the bad.
In his third offseason, Bloom has still yet to commit to a major contract with any player, which is why so many of his best and worst moves are just one-year deals. With an extension for Rafael Devers looming and Seiya Suzuki heavily linked to the Red Sox in free agency, Chaim Bloom still has one more question to answer. Is he willing to commit to a player long-term?
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