At the end, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said he was not shocked to see Xander Bogaerts leaving in free agency. In the 24 hours leading up to the conclusion of the Winter Meetings last Wednesday, Bloom said it had become clear someone else was going to outbid the Sox — by a sizable degree — for the shortstop.
Still, when news of Bogaerts’ 11-year, $280 million deal with the Padres broke, the emotional impact of losing a franchise pillar — for Bloom himself, for the members of the organization who’d known Bogaerts since he was signed in 2009, and for the fans who’d watched his career unfold over 10 seasons — was raw and real, particularly given that it came less than three years after Bloom had traded Mookie Betts.
“That’s one of the things that’s just not pleasant right now, knowing that and still feeling like we should not have gone to that territory [of the Padres’ offer] but understanding that emotionally it was going to hit just as hard and maybe even harder given that there are scars from Mookie,” said Bloom. “I understand that responsibility [to the fans] and the weight of that. That’s really sacred to me. And I try to do right by that every day.”
So how can Bloom do right by that “sacred” obligation now? The future of Rafael Devers will certainly represent a critical part of that. With Devers now one year from free agency, is there any reason to believe his future will unfold differently from that of Betts (traded one year from free agency) or Bogaerts (who the team failed to extend last spring, resulting in his egress)?
“I don’t think it’s really worthwhile to try to convince anybody of anything. If I were a Red Sox fan, I would not really want to hear about that right now. I’d want to see a deal,” said Bloom. “What I can say is that we have been doing this and we’ll continue to do it, that if there is a path to a deal that is in any way reasonable, or even a bit unreasonable, with Raffy, we are going to try really hard to find it.”
Of course, there is time for the Sox to talk to Devers. The Sox face more immediate questions about how to improve their last-place 2022 campaign in the absence of Bogaerts, who leaves a hole both as an All-Star shortstop and a righthanded bat in the middle of the lineup.
Bloom said the team views both second baseman Trevor Story and centerfielder Kiké Hernández as capable of assuming everyday shortstop duties. That said, moving either of them to short would plug one hole while opening another.
If Story heads to short and Hernández remains in center, the Sox would need a second baseman. If Hernández heads to short or if he moves to second with Story shifting to short, the Sox would need a center fielder. While the exact up-the-middle position where the Sox will add to their team remains unclear, it is clear that the team must add a contributor at one of those three positions.
“Obviously, this wasn’t where we were hoping to be,” said Bloom. “But we have a couple guys on this roster who are really capable at shortstop. And so we’re able to cast a little bit of a wider net [in terms of positions] but still want to make sure that we add to our mix up the middle. That’s a priority.”
Two standout shortstops remain on the free agent board: Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson. Given that the Red Sox weren’t anywhere close to the Padres’ bid on Bogaerts (the team, according to major league sources, had made an offer of six years and roughly $160 million, while showing a willingness to move north of that but nowhere near San Diego’s level), is it possible that the Sox would turn to Correa, a player who is expected to command an even larger contract than Bogaerts?
“It is a different landscape now and we shouldn’t rule anything out,” Bloom said, speaking generally of top-of-the-market contracts. “But we didn’t go into this with the aim of thinking the grass was greener on the other side [in the shortstop market]. I think I was pretty clear about that.
“Obviously players are in different situations, different ages, different market conditions, obviously. So I don’t think we should rule anything out. But [a top-of-the-market shortstop other than Bogaerts] wasn’t how we approached this market coming into it.”
The Sox continue their search for a starter. According to major league sources, the Red Sox weren’t heavily involved in the pursuit of Japanese righthander Kodai Senga before he reached a five-year, $75 million agreement with the Mets over the weekend and had virtually no engagement with free-agent righthander Chris Bassitt, who joined the Blue Jays on a three-year, $63 million deal on Monday. Free agent lefthander Sean Manaea is also off the board after reportedly agreeing to a two-year, $25 million contract with the Giants. But the Red Sox have remained involved in talks with mid-rotation targets, a group that includes righty Nate Eovaldi.
The Sox also want to add a righthanded hitter. Asked if that meant a middle-of-the-order power hitter, Bloom would not narrow the profile of his quest.
“We just want to make sure that the player fits us and that positionally we can deploy him where it makes sense and that he’s good hitter,” said Bloom. “That can come in a lot of different shapes.”
As much as last week’s free-agent frenzy made it seem like the pool of available players has nearly been drained, Bloom said options remain. He noted that the trade market was just starting to take shape — the swap meet kicked off with A’s catcher Sean Murphy getting dealt to Atlanta in a three-team deal Monday —and suggested the Sox would be heavily involved in it.
There are moves, he believes, to help the Sox be a team that honors the trust of the fans.
“We experienced it in ‘21, when you see the fruits of having a good process and gritting your teeth and doing the right thing for the organization, it’s all worth it. And then when that happens, you get to experience all sorts of amazing emotions that come from that,” said Bloom. “I haven’t had the luxury of making that many of them but sometimes that comes from making good baseball decisions that also make everybody happy.
“Ultimately, there’s going to be a lot of joy that comes from doing things the right way and putting together a really good team and then experiencing winning. In times like this, when I’m not feeling that, that’s what keeps me going, is that endpoint.”
Is that endpoint attainable in 2023? Bloom faces a monumental challenge to prove it is.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.