A glimpse into the Red Sox’ future could be found Monday afternoon at Fenway Park.
The Sox’ fell short of a playoff berth just a year after winning a World Series. It was the first time the team missed the playoffs since 2015, resulting in the firing of former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in September.
The Sox wanted a new voice in the room who could keep the team competitive without having to spend as much. After an eight-week search, the team zeroed in on Chaim Bloom, the Tampa Bay Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations, who had worked in the organization for 15 years.
On Monday afternoon with team president Sam Kennedy, chairman Tom Werner, owner and John Henry at the State Street Pavilion Club, the Sox officially introduced Bloom as their chief baseball officer.
“It’s a great day for the Red Sox,” Kennedy said. “Chaim’s demonstrated the ability to take a comprehensive approach to building a successful team at the major league level. And he understands what Red Sox fans want and what Red Sox fans deserve. That’s a sustainable baseball operation throughout the entire organization, which we hope will deliver more and more October baseball at Fenway.”
Bloom is just 36 years old, and — in addition to his baseball acumen — what stood out most to Kennedy was Bloom’s ability to connect with people. Furthermore, he has a track record of being able to find wins within the margins with a Rays squad that’s known for having a low payroll. The Sox had 20 candidates of potential hires, but Bloom was the only one they interviewed.
“[We’re trying] to build as strong of an organization as possible in all aspects so that we can have sustained long-term success and compete for championships year in and year out,” Bloom said.
Sustainability was thrown around a ton during the presser. While Dombrowski delivered on a World Series and was praised by Sox brass for it, Bloom has shown a knack for keeping his teams competitive with prudent trades and a strong farm system. His 2018 acquisitions of starter Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Chris Archer is an example of that. Furthermore, according to Baseball America, the Rays had the best minor-league system and the highest organization winning percentage among domestic affiliates.
“This is well deserved and long overdue,” said Rays general manager Erik Neander.
Bloom had interviewed for a number of front office jobs, including spots with the Mets, Giants, and Phillies to name a few. But each of those teams went in a different direction.
“The overriding emotion is feeling happiness for him. It really is,” said Neander. “The destination provides the benefit of seeing him a lot more often.”
This, of course, will be Bloom’s toughest task in a market and he comes into a situation with a lot on his plate. The Sox said it’s a goal to shed salary, which might come at the expense of J.D. Martinez and/or Mookie Betts. Kennedy said at the end of the season that it would be tough to keep both players.
Werner has had a discussion with Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, regarding Martinez’s opt-out clause. That answer will come within five days after the conclusion of the World Series.
If Martinez does opt-in to his $23.75 million deal, the Sox could try to trade him in order to keep Betts, who’s declined an extension in the past and could hit free agency at the end of 2020. Or, the Sox might have to make an even tougher decision and, perhaps, trade a generational talent in Betts, before he leaves via free agency.
Bloom said there have been conversations surrounding Betts, but that was one of many topics discussed before he took the job. As it relates to payroll in its entirety, Henry doesn’t see that as an excuse for the club not to win.
“I think that teams, in general, spending over $200 million, as we will again this year, should be, ought to be, competitive,” he said.
Bloom’s title, chief baseball officer, is a new one, too. Brian O’Halloran was promoted to general manager.
“We tried to keep up with the change of nature of the structure of the baseball operations department,” Kennedy said on Bloom’s title. “That was part of our examination of the landscape. At the end of the day, we value the collaboration and brain power.”
Bloom admitted that there is still a lot that he doesn’t know, but he found it an opportunity that excites him despite all the moving parts in the organization and the question marks on the roster.
“Obviously, there’s a lot coming in here about the landscape within and what our options are going to be this coming offseason,” Bloom said. “I think a lot of our responsibility as a group is to be creative and to figure out how many different potential paths we can construct to accomplish our goal. The more options you have, the better choices you can make.”
The Rays were ahead of the curve on analytics and collaborative efforts, which included meetings with the coaching staff and manager, although didn’t necessarily see it as authoritative rule over day-to-day lineups.
He also offered praise for the team’s analytical department already in place.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to add some new thought and ideas that can help,” Bloom said. “But the respect that I’ve had for this group’s analytical efforts over the years is considerable.”
Bloom’s wife, Aliza, is a Lexington native. The two met while both were students at Yale