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Peter Abraham | On Baseball

Looking ahead to 2021 after a lost Red Sox season, and other thoughts

In his first season in charge of baseball operations with the Sox, Chaim Bloom (left) hit on the acquisition of outfielder Alex Verdugo.
In his first season in charge of baseball operations with the Sox, Chaim Bloom (left) hit on the acquisition of outfielder Alex Verdugo.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Emptying out the notebook after a Red Sox season that was different for so many reasons, almost all of them bad:

▪ Chaim Bloom indicated on Sunday that Alex Cora would not return as manager based on his actions while the bench coach in Houston. But he would not definitively rule Cora out.

“I don’t want to say anything about him that I have not been able to say to him,” Bloom said.

That’s fair. But sometime soon, the Red Sox need to clearly state if Cora will be considered. There is an industry-wide perception that Cora will return and the fan base feels the same way.

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The longer the Red Sox let that question linger, the more difficult this process will be for all concerned.

Any aspiring manager would have to think twice about interviewing with the Red Sox if there’s a possibility ownership will ultimately decide to bring Cora back. Why set yourself up to lose?

Could Alex Cora be back in 2021?
Could Alex Cora be back in 2021?Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

▪ As Ron Roenicke said, every new GM eventually wants his own manager. That’s invariably how it plays out and probably will again.

Bloom, at the moment, is clearly the most important person in baseball operations. If Cora were to come back, that dynamic changes.

Bloom made it clear Sunday that his job is to do what’s best for the organization, not himself. But any executive in his position would want a partner he picks, not one picked for him.

▪ Nate Eovaldi came off the injured list on Sept. 12 and Tanner Houck made his debut two days later. The Sox were 8-6 with a 3.59 ERA after Eovaldi returned and the rotation stopped resembling a clown car.

The Sox finished five games out of a playoff spot. Had Eduardo Rodriguez been able to pitch, the season might have played out much differently. The Sox averaged 4.87 runs, fifth in the American League, but couldn’t overcome their pitching.

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Nathan Eovaldi fires against the Orioles earlier this month.
Nathan Eovaldi fires against the Orioles earlier this month.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

For the season, the Sox were 14-12 when Eovaldi, Houck, Martin Perez, and Nick Pivetta started, 10-24 otherwise.

▪ Bloom said no comprehensive managerial search could be made without considering minority candidates. After playing all season with a large “Black Lives Matter” sign stretched across the bleacher seats in center field, it will be interesting to see if the Sox seriously consider any Black candidates.

Dodgers first base coach George Lombard, Pawtucket manager Billy McMillon, Miami bench coach James Rowson, and Cubs third base coach Will Venable all are deserving of consideration.

▪ The Red Sox used 23 players this season who were new to the organization.

The 10 position players produced 3.6 WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com. The 13 pitchers were worth only 0.8.

Bloom and his staff hit on Alex Verdugo (1.9). Martin Perez (1.1), Kevin Pillar (0.6), Yairo Munoz (0.6), and Nick Pivetta (0.6).

But they missed on Matt Hall (-0,9), Zack Godley (-0.4), Jeffrey Springs (-0,3), and Jose Peraza (-0.2).

▪ Be prepared for an offseason of even more roster movement. There are, conservatively, 13 players on the 40-man roster who could be released without much pause.

There is widespread belief around the industry that dozens of players will be non-tendered and create a deep free agent market. The Sox could flip half their roster by the time the team gathers for spring training.

▪ Tanner Houck was incredibly impressive, going 3-0 in three starts [all against playoff teams] and allowing one earned run on six hits over 17 innings. The nine walks never came back to bite him, thanks in large part to the 21 strikeouts.

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Tanner Houck looked impressive in limited action late in the season.
Tanner Houck looked impressive in limited action late in the season.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“He looked comfortable to me,” a National League scout said. “He wasn’t afraid to challenge hitters. He seemed to go into games with a plan of what he wanted to do and carried it out.”

▪ Some potential gems who were uncovered this season: versatile Yairo Munoz, young infielder Jonathan Arauz, skinny righthander Phillips Valdez, and backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, who was a surprisingly good hitter.

▪ Matt Barnes was named the closer after the trade deadline because there were no other logical choices. Does that mean he should retain the job into 2021?

Did Matt Barnes do enough to be considered for the full-time job of closer in 2021?
Did Matt Barnes do enough to be considered for the full-time job of closer in 2021?John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Barnes has averaged 5.4 walks per nine innings the last two seasons, a high number for somebody in that role. He survives by striking out 14.5 per nine innings. Barnes relishes being a closer but his WHIP has risen three consecutive seasons.

▪ I attended 12 games at Fenway Park this season and was grateful for the opportunity to see baseball in person and continue covering the team. But it never felt right without the fans there along with the ushers, team staffers, and the other familiar faces you see all spring and summer.

Here’s hoping everybody will be back together next season.


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.