The Red Sox wanted long-term sustainability. It’s what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom outlined after he took over from Dave Dombrowski following the 2019 season.
But with three years under his belt as the man in charge, the Sox have fallen far short of Bloom’s goal.
Wednesday marked the end of the Red Sox season. Their 78-84 record resulted in their fifth last-place finish in 11 seasons.
“Bottom line, in 2022, we didn’t get it done. Period,” said Bloom Thursday morning, when he was joined by manager Alex Cora, general manager Brian O’Halloran, and president Sam Kennedy for the team’s end-of-year press conference.
“It’s obviously important for us, especially internally, to look at why that is. But it is the case. We expected to be in the postseason and we’re not.”
There are a lot of reasons for that, including bullpen woes, lack of production from the offense, and starting pitching. Here is what Bloom and the Sox outlined going forward.
The Sox have some flexibility, with big names coming off the books, specifically David Price (whom they were still paying $16 million) and J.D. Martinez. The team’s projected payroll, according to Spotrac, is around $139 million for next year, giving them just under $100 million before the competitive-balance tax kicks in at $233 million.
▪ Starting pitching
The Red Sox lacked front-end starters in 2022. Chris Sale’s injuries certainly did not help, but it would have been a leap to depend on Sale as a top-flight starter given that he hadn’t really pitched in two years.
The group that included Nate Eovaldi, Rich Hill, Nick Pivetta, and Michael Wacha was not encouraging. In a good rotation, all of them categorize as No. 3 starters. Even though Pivetta eats innings, his stuff a lot of the time teeters on the reliever side.
The Sox tried to make a starter out of Garrett Whitlock to replace Tanner Houck, who moved to the bullpen. But moving Whitlock left a huge vacancy in the bullpen, and the Sox ultimately decided to move him back.
It is uncertain whether Whitlock will be a starter next year. He recently underwent hip surgery, and Bloom said they will have to see how the righthander responds.
Wacha and Eovaldi are both free agents who could receive qualifying offers and could return.
Bloom believes the Red Sox can be in the running for both. They still would need more starting help.
“I do think we’re in a different position [financially] . . . you always want depth, but we can also look at guys who can spot in and provide some impact, whether that’s the beginning of the game or at the end of the game,” said Bloom. “So that’s definitely going to be a focus of ours.”
▪ Chris Sale update
Sale should enter spring training with a clean slate, after suffering a broken pinkie on a comebacker during a Yankees game this summer, then breaking his right wrist in a bicycle accident that ended his season. All of that came after a broken rib before the season even started. The Red Sox hope he will be a part of the mix, but time will tell.
“There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to be a part of this next year,” Bloom said. “But obviously, you could probably go back and find instances of me saying exactly that in a lot of different ways over the last few years.”
Sale has made just 11 starts since 2019. The Sox certainly would want him in the rotation, but their approach might be geared toward making sure he simply can stay healthy.
“He can lift up people around him,” Bloom said. “Obviously when he’s on the field that all works better, but he is an elite talent and we expect that to be the case next year.”
▪ Brayan Bello
Bloom wouldn’t commit to Bello being in next year’s rotation, or even to Bello making the team out of spring training. However, one could presume based on how Bello pitched that he will be in the mix.
“You guys saw what he could do,” Bloom said. “He has as much upside as any young pitcher in the big leagues this year. He showed it to us, and more consistently as the season went on.”
The Sox currently have Connor Wong and Reese McGuire as their catchers. You can expect that to be an area of emphasis in which the Sox want to improve.
“This is the area I fully expect to explore additions,” Bloom said. “It’s nice to know that we have two guys that are familiar with how we do things, that showed a lot of good things. But we owe it to ourselves and everybody who cares about this team to get better.”
One thought: Perhaps the Sox could re-sign Christian Vázquez to a short-term deal. After being traded to Houston, he spent much of his time as a backup to Martín Maldonado. A reunion isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
▪ Lack of power
The Red Sox ranked 20th in MLB in homers. That was due in part to getting just 44 home runs from their outfielders, the third-lowest mark in the majors.
For some context, Yankees outfielders hit 145 home runs. The Astros were second with 113.
“Obviously we did some things in the offseason, you know, particularly to improve our defense,” said Bloom, who traded Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. before the season. “There were some tradeoffs there and some of those will be made, but you know, with the park we play in, the division we’re in, that’s definitely something we want to focus on.”
▪ First base
When the Red Sox traded for Eric Hosmer, Bloom said it was a move for the present. Now the Sox have another lefthanded-hitting first baseman in Triston Casas. Heading into next season, it will be interesting to see how the team navigates that.
Could they keep Hosmer as a bit of a buffer? They’re paying him just the minimum. Or could they trade him and go with Casas?
That’s a huge question, and one of the few good problems they have.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.