Red Sox: Chaim Bloom tasked with rebuilding while still competing
By Sean Penney
Chaim Bloom will be tasked with rebuilding the Boston Red Sox farm system and reducing payroll while keeping the team competitive.
The Boston Red Sox are reportedly hiring Chaim Bloom for the position of Chief Baseball Officer, replacing former president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski at the top of the front office hierarchy.
A slight tweak to the job title isn’t the only difference we’ll see with Bloom in charge. Under the reign of Dombrowski, the Red Sox emptied the farm system and spent with reckless abandon. It was a win-now approach that paid off with a World Series title in 2018 but the plan wasn’t sustainable. Bloom will need to take a different approach to improving the team without the benefit of a minor league system filled with trade chips while simultaneously reducing payroll in an effort to dip below the luxury tax.
It’s a steep challenge but Bloom is the perfect choice to face it. As the senior vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, Bloom guided a team with MLB’s lowest payroll to the postseason. The Rays don’t need to outspend anyone in order to remain competitive because they have a strong core of young players with a pipeline of prospects from a farm system that MLB.com ranked as the second best in baseball.
The 36-year old Yale graduate values the new wave of analytics that has been embraced by many of the top teams in baseball but Bloom also comes from an organization that recognizes the importance of scouting. While the Red Sox have a long history of failing to develop pitching prospects, few organizations do so better than the Rays.
Boston has the luxury of throwing money at their problems to plug roster holes but that philosophy is how they ended up in luxury tax hell. The Rays could never afford to make the massive contract mistakes the Red Sox have made and that restraint will benefit this organization.
Bloom will have more financial resources at his disposal than he ever dreamed imaginable during his days in Tampa Bay but he’ll spend more cautiously than his predecessor. He should take a page out of the book of his former boss, Andrew Friedman. Bloom worked under him with the Rays until Friedman left to become president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers had MLB’s highest payroll when Friedman took over, topping out with a staggering total that eclipsed the $300 million mark in 2015. Friedman realized that even a team in one of the largest markets can’t spend that much every year due to the punitive financial and draft pick penalties so he worked to tighten the budget. Los Angeles still had MLB’s fourth highest payroll in 2019 but the more reasonable $200 million total puts them under the tax threshold.
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Slashing payroll hasn’t prevented the Dodgers from being competitive. They have won the NL West division in every season since Friedman arrived and they made two World Series appearances.
Friedman has also rebuilt the Dodgers farm system using the tactics he mastered with the Rays. MLB.com ranks Los Angeles third on their list of the top farm systems with four of the top 100 prospects in baseball, highlighted by infielder Gavin Lux (No. 10) and right-handed pitcher Dustin May (No. 35).
What Friedman has done for the Dodgers is exactly what the Red Sox need. Cut costs to duck under the tax line and build up the farm system while remaining competitive. This is the key to sustainable success. It’s no wonder why Friedman was rumored to be a target of the Red Sox before he signed an extension to remain with the Dodgers.
Boston can’t have Friedman but Bloom may be the next best thing. He’s not Friedman but he did learn from him and it shows in his success over the last few years since taking over at the helm of the Rays front office.
Now we’ll see if Bloom can emulate what his former teacher has done. He’s been given the resources of a large market team but must still carry the traits of a small market organization. It’s not always about spending big, it’s about spending wisely while always keeping one eye on the future.