It struck me recently that there hasn’t been much middle ground with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s offseason acquisitions. It feels like the players he brought in, mostly over the winter, have been either excellent additions or colossal flops.
So, I figured, let’s do the math, and get out a report card.
We’re not going to rehash every last move or litigate the acquisition and loss of Joel Payamps. Instead, let’s take a look — and slap a grade on — Bloom’s 10 most notable moves of the offseason.
Dec. 10: Selected RHP Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft.
With half-hearted apologies to John Trautwein, Mike Trujillo, and mostly obscure other players, Whitlock has been the most impressive Rule 5 pick in Red Sox history — and the fact that they stole him from the unsuspecting Yankees makes it that much sweeter.
Whitlock has been excellent all season, and a one-man rescue team for the recently flammable bullpen, putting up a 1.60 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 62 innings. The only complaint is that he hasn’t figured out how to clone himself, because the Sox need two more of him right now. Grade: A-plus.
Dec. 14: Signed OF Hunter Renfroe as a free agent.
There have been few better free agent bargains this season than the 29-year-old outfielder, who came to the Sox on a one-year, $3.1 million contract after hitting .158 for the Rays last year. Renfroe is prone to slumps, but he still has more home runs (25 to 23), two fewer RBIs (77 to 79), and 20 fewer strikeouts (100 to 120 ) than alleged cornerstone J.D. Martinez.
While his GPS is sometimes faulty in the outfield, he does play right field well and has an arm worth . . . well, if not quite the price of admission, then at least worth the price of a hot dog and beer. Grade: A-minus.
Dec. 23: Signed RHP Matt Andriese as a free agent
Call this one a good idea that just didn’t pan out. Andriese’s repertoire abandoned him with the Sox, and the pitcher who was supposed to be a key long man in the bullpen gave up a staggering 55 hits in 37⅓ innings before his release earlier this month.
But he did contribute in one compelling way: He helped teach Whitlock his time-altering changeup. Grade: D.
Jan. 25: Acquired RHP Adam Ottavino, RHP Frank German, and cash from the Yankees for cash or a player to be named later.
The Red Sox and Yankees don’t deal often, but when they do, it seems like there’s always some abstract or curious angle. The Red Sox took Ottavino and the prospect German essentially as gifts from the Yankees so New York could clear some room beneath the salary-cap threshold.
Ottavino warrants a semi-sincere thank-you note; he has been an important part of the late-inning mix, but walks way too many batters (5.2 per 9). It almost feels preordained that he’ll be on the mound facing the Yankees in a crucial spot in the wild-card game, doesn’t it? Grade: B-minus.
Feb. 2: Signed CF/2B Kiké Hernández as a free agent.
Hernández’s signing to a two-year, $14 million deal became official the day after Dustin Pedroia announced his retirement. There’s a smidgen of symmetry there; Hernández isn’t the same player as Pedroia, because few are, but he plays with a similar spark.
Hernández, who has an . 811 OPS and 17 homers, actually leads the Red Sox in baseball-reference’s version of WAR (4.4), in large part because of his excellent defense in center field and adept baserunning.
Perhaps Bloom should have prioritized Marcus Semien instead, but there should be no complaints about what Hernández has brought to the team. Grade: A-minus.
Feb. 3: Signed RHP Garrett Richards as a free agent.
In 2002, the Red Sox won 93 games. Pedro Martinez delivered his usual brilliance, going 20-4 with a 2.26 ERA. Derek Lowe went 21-8, 2.58, and threw a no-hitter. Tim Wakefield was 11-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 45 games and 15 starts.
Yet that team fell short of the playoffs. One big reason: a void in the rotation. Frank Castillo pitched in 36 games (23 starts), going a dismal 6-15 with a 5.07 ERA in 163⅓ innings.
When this Red Sox season is over, especially if they miss the playoffs, we’re going to look back and wonder how the heck Richards and Martín Pérez were allowed to make (at least) 44 starts. There is some hope, however, that Richards is salvageable in the bullpen. Grade: D-plus.
Feb. 10: As part of a three-team deal, traded OF Andrew Benintendi to the Royals for OF Franchy Cordero and four prospects.
The winner of this deal is going to be determined by the names involved that are the least familiar at the moment. Cordero, who has one homer and a .189 batting average, has at least two holes in his swing. Benintendi has fallen into a pattern of mediocrity in between injuries, with a .709 OPS and 12 homers for the Royals.
So remember the names Josh Winckowski, Luis De La Rosa, Grant Gambrell, and Freddy Valdez. These prospects of varying degrees of promise will determine how the Red Sox fared in this deal. Grade: Cordero, F; the rest, TBD.
Feb. 16: Signed RHP Hirokazu Sawamura as a free agent.
The 10-year veteran of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League came stateside on a two-year deal and has been exactly what the Red Sox hoped — a dependable middle- and late-inning option, with a 3.15 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 45⅔ innings. Grade: B-plus
Feb. 24: Signed INF/OF Marwin Gonzalez as a free agent.
I suspect Alex Cora saw a lot of his old ballplaying self in the versatile, smart, offensively challenged utilityman, which is probably why he got more swings than he deserved. Gonzalez was released after putting up a .567 OPS in 242 at-bats.
Just a hunch, but history may eventually remember him as the Astro who benefited most from their cheatin’ ways. Grade: F
March 7: Signed OF/INF Danny Santana as a free agent.
He homered in each of his first two games, but has hit .165 in 104 plate appearances since and then got hurt. Carlos Santana would have been more productive. No, not the Royals first baseman. The guitarist. Grade: F.