Even with starting pitching issues to address this offseason, the Red Sox were likely never close to trading for former Rays left-hander Blake Snell.
The Rays dealt Snell to the Padres earlier this week in exchange for right-handed pitchers Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox as well as catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.
Besides Mejia, who at 25 years old has already graduated from his prospect status, the other three players acquired by Tampa Bay were regarded by MLB Pipeline as some of the best prospects in San Diego’s farm system, with the 21-year-old Patino even ranking as baseball’s No. 23 overall prospect.
Having said that, the Padres were able to acquire a player of Snell’s caliber because of the strength of their minor-league pipeline.
Dealing for a 28-year-old who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018 and is under team control for three more seasons is no simple task, but the Pads, led by aggressive general manager A.J. Preller, were able to accomplish this.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, do not have the luxury of having one of the top farm systems in baseball, an honor they had enjoyed for a healthy portion of the 2010s.
Due to the recent decimation of their farm system and the urgency to build it back up to its once elite status, Boston felt as though it could not part with the pieces they would need in order to acquire a frontline starter such as Snell via trade. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when appearing on WEEI earlier Wednesday afternoon.
“That’s not something I would ever want to get into in detail, but I would just say, generally, that we try to be involved in everything,” Bloom told Rob Bradford and Jon Meterparel. “With a deal like that, what that deal amounted to was taking an enormous amount of long-term value and pushing it into the here and now. And pushing it into the short-term. When you look at the amount of talent that came back for Blake and the length of time over which that talent can impact the Rays, that’s exactly the sort of deal, given the cost and given the price tag, that would not make sense for where we’re positioned right now.
“I think it would put us further behind in our goal to win as many championships as we can over the course of the long-term,” he continued. “It’s our job to be involved in everything and we’re remiss if we don’t check in every player who might be available. When it comes to taking an enormous amount of value and consolidating it into a smaller amount that impacts us right now, I think that’s the opposite of what we need to do at the moment.”
While the Rays, led by general manager Erik Neander, received plenty of flak for parting ways with a homegrown star like Snell as they have become accustomed to doing in recent years — think David Price, Evan Longoria — Bloom, who served as one of Neander’s right-hands for a few years before taking charge of the Sox’ baseball operations department last fall, defended the club’s and his former boss’ decision.
“The reason that the Rays are as good as they are right now is because they have the guts to do these things even though they were painful,” he said. “Regardless of what your budget is — it’s certainly more critical to do it on a smaller budget — planning for the future and seeing around corners is important. The Rays have figured out how to win over time because they’ve placed an emphasis on that.
“As difficult as it is emotionally, I think it’s easy to look at that and say ‘Hey, look at the Rays. Look how they win despite the fact that they do these things,'” added Bloom. “I would argue that they win because they do these things. Because they recognize that in order to have a consistently bright future, they have to consistently place great emphasis on it. And when you do that relentlessly over time, you end up with a really good, really sustainable team despite the limited budget they have.”
Though it’s safe to assume that the Red Sox will be operating on a larger budget than the Rays this offseason and for the foreseeable future, there are certain measures that need to be taken in order to achieve sustained success over an extended period of time, as Bloom alluded to.
One way to do that is to ensure the right kind of players are added through a variety of methods such as trade, free agency, or even waiver claim. While it’s not exactly known what the Red Sox specifically look for in the players they target, Bloom did provide some insight into what his ‘offseason check list’ looks like at the moment.
“Right now, there’s a lot of players on it,” he stated. “Part of that is a function of where we are, where there’s a lot of different ways we can improve, and part of it is how we are looking to improve. In the short-term, we have touched base with so many different players who we think could help us, who could fit us. There’s pitching, obviously, but also on the position player side. I think there’s different ways we can improve and different profiles of players we can bring in to help us.
“We also don’t want to take our eye off the ball that at the end of the day, we’re not just looking to put a little plaster in here and patch some holes,” said Bloom. “We’re looking to take this organization back to where we can compete for championships consistently, year in and year out. And that means we got to be open to different moves, different acquisitions that might not just be about 2021. But, it just speaks to [the fact] that there’s a lot of different ways that we can improve. The No. 1 question we ask ourselves on anybody is: Is this pushing us towards that goal of sustaining a championship contender here? If the answer is yes, then we can explore it further, we can figure out how it impacts us in the near-term, what it might mean for other players, and hopefully we check as many of those boxes as possible.”
So far this winter, the Red Sox have only added two major-league players via free agency in the forms of outfielder Hunter Renfroe and right-hander Matt Andriese, both of whom agreed to one-year contracts with the club earlier this month.
24-year-old righty Garrett Whitlock was also added to the major-league roster via the Rule 5 Draft, but Bloom and Co. are still hoping to add more pieces as the offseason ensues and the calendar flips to January.
“I would hope that by the end of this offseason, there’s a number of different guys we’ve brought in here,” Bloom said. “There’s certain possibilities on the trade market, creative things that could come together. They may not, because those things are harder to do — they take at least two to tango. But, different things that hopefully can impact us beyond just this year as well.”
For what it’s worth, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently at full capacity following the Andriese signing, so that should give you a good idea of where things stand right now in terms of potential, upcoming movement.