FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hallelujah. The Red Sox are behaving like a big-market ballclub again. After two-plus years of boring “payroll flexibility” and fiscal conservatism, your baseball team is back in the free-agent game.
The Sox agreed to terms with free agent shortstop Trevor Story on a reported six-year, $140 million contract. Story will fill a big hole at second base in 2022. If Sox veteran Xander Bogaerts opts out at the end of this season (a sad outcome that feels increasingly likely), Story can go back to short where he belongs.
Story is a 29-year-old two-time All-Star who hit at least 24 homers in five of his six seasons with the Rockies (he hit 11 in 59 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season). His 72 homers in 2018 and 2019 — adjusted for Coors Field inflation — amounts to about 30 per season. He gives the Red Sox a powerhouse infield for 2022; just keep an eye on Story’s throwing elbow.
“It will be awesome,” Bogaerts said when he learned of the signing Sunday morning. “He is an extremely great player.”
It’s the Sox’ biggest free agent signing (by dollars and years) since 2015, when Dollar Dave Dombrowski gave David Price $217 million.
The Price signing proved more bad than good, and some folks claim Pablo Sandoval didn’t work out great, either, but the Sox have hit on more than a few of these over the years. J.D. Martinez worked out, and Manny Ramirez — $160 million, eight years — was one of the greatest free agent signings in baseball history. It’s good to see Boston spending again after 2½ years of Tampa Bay By The Charles.
Bloom has been the definition of methodical since the Sox hired him to replace Dombrowski in 2019. His biggest commitment to any player in his first three Red Sox winters was a $14 million, two-year contract to Kiké Hernández.
Boston’s recent reluctance to spend goes back to the 2019 season, when Dombrowski handed out sugar-daddy deals to Chris Sale ($145 million) and Nate Eovaldi ($68 million) during spring training.
Dombro’s post-championship hangover resulted in an 84-win, third-place finish in 2019, got Dollar Dave fired, and changed the thinking in the executive suites at Fenway Park. Sox chairman Tom Werner whined about teams with half Boston’s payroll making the playoffs, and owner John Henry — who also owns the Globe — said the new goal was to lower team payroll beneath the luxury tax threshold.
Bloom was summoned from frugal Tampa to carry out the mission, and his first order of business was the deal that dumped Mookie Betts, Price, and their whopping salaries to the Dodgers for Alex Verdugo and a couple of prospects who have yet to do much. The 2020 Sox went under the competitive balance tax and finished in last place while Betts and the Dodgers won the World Series.
Bloom spent the ensuing winter acquiring low-budget talent. He succeeded with Hernández, Hunter Renfroe, Garrett Whitlock, Nick Pivetta, Christian Arroyo, and a couple of others, but had a big miss when he dealt Andrew Benintendi and his salary for Franchy Cordero and prospects.
The 2021 Red Sox were up and down all season, but finished strong and came within two games of the World Series before their bats went cold against Houston. This was followed by a freeze-frame offseason, lowlighted when Renfroe and his 31 homers were shipped to Milwaukee for the return of Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects.
Nothing could be done during the 99-day lockout, but while many of Boston’s rivals acquired name players in the first 10 days after the truce, the Sox stayed in do-nothing mode.
They looked and sounded like a team content to fall back in the American League. Henry and Werner didn’t make it to Fort Myers for the annual organization meeting. CEO Sam Kennedy gave a non-answer when asked about the Sox making any kind of “splash,” then Bloom echoed the cheapo chorus, saying, “The important thing is to focus on what you are doing, not to focus on what everybody else is doing, and not to focus on what kind of splash you might be able to make.”
Cora insisted the Sox were still “recruiting” players, but Bloom seemed payroll paralyzed. On the day Carlos Correa signed with the Twins, Bloom re-acquired the immortal Hansel Robles. Trigger the laugh track.
It became almost absurd. As the Jays were loading up and the Yankees traded for one-time MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Sox were universally ridiculed as “king of interest.” Reports were planted that the Sox were “in on” Freddie Freeman, who then signed with the Dodgers. Then the Sox were “in on” Correa, who signed with the Twins. Then the Sox were “in on” World Series MVP Jorge Soler, who signed with the Marlins.
De facto team captain Bogaerts joined the choir Saturday after Correa’s signing was announced.
“You see what everyone’s seeing,” Bogaerts said. “We lost a couple of big guys [Kyle Schwarber, Eduardo Rodríguez, Renfroe] . . . Obviously the names are coming off the board.”
This typist took the Sox to task in this space, wondering why there didn’t seem to be much outcry in Boston where fans pay the highest ticket prices in baseball: “Not overspending seems to be the primary goal . . . get ready for fourth place . . . the Sox have become a do-nothing organization.”
The print was barely dry in the Sunday Globe when word reached JetBlue Park that Bloom finally pounced.
You’re welcome, Red Sox Nation.
Now, play ball.