The Red Sox are holding a press conference on Monday afternoon, more than likely to formally introduce Chaim Bloom as the club’s new chief baseball officer. Brian O’Halloran, who had been serving as an assistant GM alongside Eddie Romero and Zack Scott, will also be promoted to general manager.
With these moves coming days before the Major League Baseball season comes to a close, it appears that the Red Sox are headed towards what could be a transformative kind of offseason.
The 36-year-old Bloom hasn’t even been on the job for a day to this point, yet he’ll have plenty of decisions to make and ponder once he officially begins on Monday. Here are five things that the former Rays vice president will have to decide on almost immediately.
1. The future of Mookie Betts
As we all know by now, Mookie Betts has one year remaining on his contract headed into the 2020 season. Per MLB Trade Rumors, the reigning American League MVP is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration.
Since the time spring training began in Fort Myers, Fla in February, the notion has been that principal owner John Henry and the rest of the Sox brass would prefer to keep Betts in Boston for the rest of his career. Granted, that came about seven months before Henry also said he would like to see his team get below the $208 million luxury tax threshold for 2020.
Betts himself seems gun ho on reaching free agency and testing the open market rather than agreeing to an extension with Boston.
There are multiple directions Bloom and the Red Sox could go with this. For starters, they could deal the 27-year-old outfielder for a plethora of prospects to improve what’s viewed as a weak, yet improving farm system. They could hold on to him to begin the 2020 season and then decide to deal him at the July 31st trade deadline if they are not in a competitive spot. And among other things, they could somehow convince Betts to agree to a long-term contract extension.
2. The future of Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr., like Betts, is entering the final year of his contract with Boston before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter. The 29-year-old is projected to earn $11 million in arbitration the coming season, per MLB Trade Rumors.
With the Red Sox wanting to slash their 2020 payroll, Bradley Jr. emerges as a potential non-tender candidate or trade candidate if the former does not happen. At that aforementioned price tag of $11 million, Bloom and co. could decide that Bradley Jr.’s inconsistent play at the place is not worth it despite the fact that he is one of the better defensive center fielders in all of baseball.
3. The state of the starting rotation in 2020
Rick Porcello’s $21 million may be coming off the books, but all of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale dealt with injury issues in 2019 and are going to be another year older in 2020.
Per @RedSoxPayroll, the trio of Eovaldi, Price, and Sale will earn approximately $72.5 million all together next season, which is a larger amount than the Tampa Bay Rays’ payroll from this year.
Both Price and Sale were shut down at different points during the 2019 campaign, while Eovaldi, who turns 30 in February, missed more than two months of action from late April until late July while recovering from surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow.
Depending on the statuses of these three heading into the spring, it may be in Bloom’s best interest to scour the free agency or trade market for affordable starting pitching.
4. The state of the starting pitching pipeline going forward
Speaking of starting pitching, one thing that has bothered me about the Red Sox over the last few years has been their inability to develop any sort of reliable starting pitching options in the minor leagues.
Now more than ever, that needs to change. Whether it be through the amateur draft or international signings has yet to be determined.
5. Exploring contract extensions
Outside of Mookie Betts, there a few other Red Sox worthy of contract extensions. Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brandon Workman all come to mind immediately.
Devers, who just turned 23 last week, broke out in a big way in 2019, slashing .311/.361/.555 to go along with a career-high 31 home runs and 115 runs driven in while providing solid defense at third base for most of the year.
The Dominican Republic native is due to earn somewhere around $650,000 in his final year under team control in 2020, meaning the Sox could factor that into any sort of long-term extension to stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, if that is what ends up happening.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, also enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, posting a career-best 19 wins in 34 starts to go along with an ERA of 3.81 and FIP of 3.86 over a career-best 203 1/3 innings of work.
The 26-year-old out of Venezuela is projected to earn $9.5 million in his third and second-to-last year of arbitration in 2020.
Workman, finally, is the oldest of the group, as he turned 31 this past August and is entering his final season of arbitration next year. MLB Trade Rumors has him earning $3.4 million.
In a career-high 73 appearances in 2019, Workman emerged as Boston’s best option to close out games, posting a 1.88 ERA and minuscule .123 batting average against over 71 2/3 innings pitched.
It’s too early to say whether or not Workman will remain the Sox’ closer entering the 2020 season, but he certainly has established himself as a legitimate late-inning reliever out of Alex Cora’s bullpen.
We really haven’t even scratched the surface with this, but it is a start. Looking forward to Monday’s press conference.