The Boston Red Sox may take a few seasons to win a championship.
The Dave Dombroski method was a success as the Boston Red Sox captured a World Series title, but what are the long term implications? That happens to have surfaced with a vengeance as the farm system is as depleted as the finances of a casino visitor. The secondary issue is the contractual situation, especially dead money.
New poobah Chaim Bloom has already undertaken the reconstruction – or is it rebuilding or maybe resuscitation? Just how far will it go? Just what direction? Maybe this is just an exercise in futurism (is there such a term?) but I trudge forward. A look at just what may happen and what is really needed – a few player successes.
The current path is rather clear with attempts to mitigate payroll, look for possible free-agent bargains, institute a degree of payroll flexibility, and reinvigorate the farm system. Mookie Betts is gone with a return that may or may not show dividends. David Price was part of the deal with the Dodgers for Betts and the Red Sox were willing to pay half Price’s remaining salary. Feel the love on that one!
Bloom will certainly have deeper pockets than what he had with Tampa. The days of big-ticket contracts may be limited, but not vanished. Boston will spend as they always have but it may be internal rather than external unless absolute necessity forces it. What looms for the future is Rafael Devers if he continues to develop as expected. The specter of that potential contract may well have necessitated the exit of Betts both to free up cash and to evaluate public opinion.
The Red Sox had a successful run combining both high expenditures and a productive farm system. The crux of the farm system development was pitching and that forced the team into questionable contracts. Price and Nathan Eovaldi certainly surface alone with trades for players who did nothing on the mound – just think Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg. That is past history and Bloom knows it and so does player development. To maintain fiscal sanity the Red Sox need quality from the farmlands.
Bloom is a way off from having a team that blends the qualities of youth and productive veterans with a similar blend of reasonably priced players. The balancing act is making the right choices and if Tampa is the blueprint then Bloom and his crew were successful. No World Series titles, but the wins per dollar? Tampa was number one in the parsimonious department with just $670,000 spent per win and Boston (a shocker) the highest with $2.73 MM per win. As a Rays fan would say “If we only had some more money.”
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Hard decisions such as Betts certainly have public relations fallout, but the team or its management hopefully have a game plan long term. No reason to doubt that. The key is – again and again – pitching and the magic potent is scouting, development, drafting, and good old fashion luck. Sometimes luck is the end result of the three mentioned.
The payroll situation for baseball may finally see a shift thanks – if such a term is appropriate – to COVID-19. The next free-agent class of which Jackie Bradley Jr. is a member will give a bit of an insight into market values. Changes will also filter down to arbitration which appears as quite a salary inflator. Then come the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the possibility of a labor-management war.
What Bloom needs most to satisfy the notoriously fickle and impatient Red Sox Nation is some success. If Alex Verdugo hits as he did in 2019, Connor Wong becomes a top prospect, and Jeter Downs continues to clout the Betts deal may be a bit less painful, but more is needed.
Can a free agent reclamation project show why Bloom’s Rays were so good at making the right choices? I doubt it will be Martin Perez. Can a minor league pitcher somehow make a positive contribution in 2020? A few meaningful positives on the player front can get the Bloom regime off with promise and patience from the fans and media.
Meanwhile, player development is stagnant with no minor league season. If players were to take a significant step forward that is now on pause mode. Pitching can develop quickly and the few arms in the system that show potential are on hold. Maybe the Arizona Fall League will operate? Maybe the winter leagues will offer opportunity now lost?