Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Eric Sogard

With All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal signing a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, it appears that baseball’s offseason is truly about to begin.

Unlike years past under Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox will more than likely not be pursuing these kind of big splashes this winter. Instead, new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is tasked with trying to trim Boston’s payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, all while keeping the club relatively competitive heading into the 2020 season.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo composed a list of 46 free agents, three of whom played for the Sox in 2019, that Bloom and co. could go after to fill some holes in their roster.

One player that stuck out to me on that list was utility infielder Eric Sogard. Why? Because as Cotillo indicates, the 33-year-old veteran can play multiple positions, bats left-handed, and spent the last two months of the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Rays after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in late July.

That trade with Toronto took place while Bloom was still serving under general manager Erik Neander with the Rays, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Numbers wise, Sogard slashed .290/.353/.457 with a career-best 13 home runs and 40 RBI over 110 total games between Toronto and Tampa Bay in 2019. He also missed time in September due to a deep bone bruise on his right foot.

The scenario of the Sox signing Sogard probably only takes place if Brock Holt signs elsewhere as a free agent himself this winter, and since Holt put together an impressive 2019 campaign, he more than likely played himself out of the Sox’ price range.

Even if Sogard is considered a fit, the Red Sox also have other internal options to fill the hole at second base alongside Dustin Pedroia in 2020, including C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Marco Hernandez, and Tzu-Wei Lin to name a few.

Also, I failed to mention this earlier, but “Nerd Power” is a pretty good nickname, too.

Red Sox Formally Introduce Chaim Bloom as Their New Chief Baseball Officer

The Red Sox officially named Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer on Monday afternoon through a press conference that featured Bloom himself, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and team president Sam Kennedy. Brian O’Halloran was also formally promoted to general manager, marking the first time Boston has had a GM since 2016.

“We’ve tried to keep up with the change in nature of the baseball operations landscape,” Kennedy said of Bloom’s new title. “We value the collaboration and brainpower and institutional knowledge that our incredible team of baseball operations folks have.”

In his new role with his new organization, Bloom, who is coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays after 15 seasons working various roles, most recently as senior vice president of baseball operations, will have plenty of tough decisions to make right from the jump.

The futures of two Red Sox All-Stars, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, are among those, with Betts having one year remaining in arbitration before reaching free agency for the first time next winter, and Martinez having five days to decide whether or not to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million on his current contract once the World Series comes to a close later this week.

“Our top priority is sustainability and competitiveness over the long term,” Bloom said when asked about Betts and Martinez. “That can take many forms but that’s really going to be the top priority. There’s a lot I don’t know. I’m just coming in here. So I’m looking forward to building relationships with them.”

The theories surrounding what the Sox plan to do with Betts has been a hot topic since the club’s 2019 season ended last month. So much so that Henry discussed it, as well as Martinez’s situation, when describing what the interview process with Bloom was like.

“We talked about that there are a lot of tough decisions to make during this offseason. That’s not uncommon,” Henry said. “We talked about Mookie, J.D. other issues, but we didn’t focus on what should we do.”

As has already been indicated by Red Sox ownership, it is a goal, not a mandate, to get the team’s 2020 payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold. Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration, and Martinez, who would earn $23.75 million next year if he opts in, would account for approximately 24.7% of that $208 million.

“You’re going to look at a number of factors,” said Henry. “Including where Mookie wants to play in the long-term.”

If the Red Sox were to offer Betts a contract extension and the 27-year-old were to turn it down, a trade would not be out of the question. Bloom did discuss how integral a quality farm system is for a team’s long-term success. Even with one year left of team control, Betts still could garner a hefty return in terms of prospects in a potential trade.

How Bloom makes his mark in his tenure with the Red Sox will be something to pay attention to for the foreseeable future. Someone who came up in a club with limited financial resources now has a great deal more to work with. How he utilizes those will be worth monitoring as Boston heads towards an offseason full of uncertainties.

What the Immediate Future Holds for Red Sox’ New Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom

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.

Red Sox Tab Chaim Bloom as New Head of Baseball Operations

The Red Sox have hired Rays senior vice president Chaim Bloom to be their next head of baseball operations, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

This news comes the day after it was reported that the Sox had interviewed Bloom for the position.

The 36-year-old Yale University product had been with Tampa Bay since 2005, initially serving as an intern for the club before working his way up to GM Erik Neander’s second-in command as vice president of baseball operations in November 2016.

At the time of former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s dismissal from the Red Sox, principal John Henry made it clear that he would prefer to get under the $208 million luxury threshold for the 2020 season.

In hiring Bloom to run their baseball operations department, the Philadelphia native will surely be tasked with doing just that, as he is coming over from an organization that put up impressive results the last two years (90 wins in 2018, 96 wins in 2019) despite operating on a minuscule payroll.

The specific details of Bloom’s appointment are not yet known, as the Red Sox themselves have yet to make anything official. But, this appears to be a move that is well regarded across the baseball world, so that is certainly positive to see.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan quotes one of Bloom’s former co-workers, who said, “For a guy as smart and accomplished as [Bloom] is, I think he gives everyone a feeling that he’s approachable and wants to engage.”

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox could name Bloom as the club’s new “chief baseball officer.”

Once the Sox do make things official with an announcement or press release, make sure to stay tuned right here for more on that.

Red Sox Have Reportedly Interviewed Rays Vice President Chaim Bloom About GM Opening

The Red Sox’ search for a new head of baseball operations appears to be nearly complete, as the club reportedly interviewed current Tampa Bay Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom for the opening, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings and Ken Rosenthal.

Bloom, 36, has been with Tampa Bay since 2005 and has been at his current position of senior VP of baseball operations since November 2016.

In that time, the Rays posted an 80-82 record in 2015, a 68-94 record in 2016, an 80-82 record once again in 2017, a 90-72 record in 2018, and a 96-66 record in 2019, good for the second-most wins in franchise history and the second American League wild card spot.

A native of Philadelphia and a graduate of Yale University, Bloom “‘works with (general manager) Erik Neander to oversee all functions within baseball operations,” per the Rays’ official website.

The Sox parted ways with former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in early September, less than a full year after winning a franchise-record 119 games en route to a World Series title last October, and have since rolled with the quartet of  Eddie Romero, Zack Scott, Brian O’Halloran, and Raquel Ferriera to lead their baseball operations department in the interim. According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, all four are expected to remain within the organization even if an outside hire is made.

It’s pretty funny. As early as Thursday morning, it seemed as though there was no news to report regarding Boston’s search for a new general manager or head of baseball operations.

Now, an announcement could be made as soon as Friday if Bloom is the man for the job. We’ll have to wait and see on that, so make sure to stay tuned right here if something official goes down.

Mookie Betts Makes Spectacular Throw to Nab Avisail Garcia at Third in Red Sox’ Loss to Rays

The Red Sox may have dropped their final contest against the Tampa Bay Rays of 2019 by a final score of 7-4 on Monday night, but that did not stop Mookie Betts from making one of the plays of the season in right field.

It came in the top half of the sixth inning, when with no outs and Ji-Man Choi on at second following a leadoff double, Sox right-hander Hector Velazquez yielded another two-bagger to Avisail Garcia, this one coming off the bat at 100.1 MPH on the ground to Betts in right field.

Garcia was able to drive in Choi to make it a three-run game at 7-4, but the mistake he made come on his own decision to try and extend that double into a triple.

Betts was having none of that, as he wound up and made one of the better throws you will see directly to Rafael Devers to nab Garcia at third base for the first out of the frame. No cut-offs, no bounces. Just perfection.

According to MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, Betts’ long toss spanned 305 feet from the right field corner to third on the fly and it is the fourth-longest on-the-fly outfield assist in the Statcast era (since 2015).

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Betts appears well on track to add another Gold Glove to that collection in November.

Red Sox Activate Heath Hembree From Injured List

Before taking on the Tampa Bay Rays for the final time this season, the Red Sox announced that right-hander Heath Hembree has been activated from the 10-day injured list. The club made the move official earlier Monday.

Hembree had been sidelined since August 2nd, missing nearly eight weeks of action due to right elbow lateral inflammation and even receiving a plasma-rich-platelet injection for that inflammation last month.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had been discussing over the past few days about how Hembree wanted to pitch again before seasons end, and after throwing a simulated game at Tropicana Field last week, the 30-year-old hurler is good to go for one more appearance, which could come as Boston’s opener in their series finale against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, per MassLive.com‘s Chris Cotillo.

Through 43 relief appearances this season, Hembree has posted a 4.06 ERA and .233 batting average over 37 2/3 total innings pitched. Those numbers inflated a bit when the South Carolina native returned from his first stint on the IL due to an extensor strain in his right elbow on July 4th, as he surrendered nine runs over 12 appearances and nine innings of work before hitting the injured list once again in early August.

Hembree has two more years of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent for the first time at the conclusion of the 2021 season. He figures to be in the Sox’ bullpen plans for next year.