The Red Sox are now unofficially playing for next season, and the American League East won’t be getting any weaker in 2024. Chaim Bloom has one more year before even his staunchest defenders, myself included, finally decide that he is not the best choice to be Chief Baseball Officer for the Boston Red Sox.
Bloom has done an exemplary job turning the worst farm system in Major League Baseball into an organization full of promising future Red Sox and valuable trade assets. He’s avoided trading away those assets for four years now, stockpiling talent to give Boston the flexibility to trade for established MLB players while retaining a crop of potential impact bats and arms that can contribute for the team down the road.
The success of this concept, however, is all still theoretical. Red Sox fans need to see this five-year investment in the minor league system pay off on the big league field. If growing the farm system doesn’t result in the creation of a Boston Red Sox team that will compete for championships for the next several years, Bloom’s organizational overhaul will be an uneqivocal failure.
Back to the Future
Many of us in the Bloominati have daydreamed of a dynastic Red Sox future since early 2020. We’ve reiterated it to every shortsighted Doom-and-Bloomer that will listen for four seasons now. We’ve used the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles as our examples, preaching that you cannot build a perennial winner in this day and age through free agency alone. We’ve begged the doubters who want to run Bloom out on a rail to show us one example of a team in recent history that won a championship without a deep foundation of homegrown, cost-controlled players. They always change the subject at that juncture, usually pointing to the current Red Sox payroll of approximately $181,200,000, 13th highest in the league.
When we point out the logic of refusing to commit to a slew of long-term contracts until you know which positions you will not be able to fill from inside the organization, they just tell us we are drinking the Kool-Aid. They act like the Braves, Dodgers, and Astros were ponying up record-setting contracts long before their homegrown cores were in place, an obvious falsehood.
But we can’t just tell the whiny brigade of entitled Red Sox fans to “let Chaim cook” forever. The time has come to open the checkbook and place the Red Sox back where they belong in the top five of MLB spenders. Bloom needs to use his plethora of tradable assets to put the finishing touches on a championship contender this winter. I was fully on board for a five-year plan to rebuild the Boston Red Sox, but that clock expires in October of 2024.
Questions & Answers
A great deal of questions have been answered about the future of the Red Sox during the last couple years.
We know Rafael Devers will be the offensive centerpiece for a long time. We now Triston Casas and Masataka Yoshida will be alongside him in the middle of the lineup. We know Connor Wong will be gunning down baserunners from behind the plate. We know Brayan Bello will be a quality starting pitcher. We know Kutter Crawford, Tanner Houck, and Josh Winckowski will also be valuable contributors, though we can’t say for sure which of them will be in the starting rotation and which will be in the bullpen.
However, there are also plenty of questions that remain unanswered.
Will Trevor Story be the starting shortstop for the next four years? Will Jarren Duran be the fleetfooted sparkplug at the top of the lineup? Will Garrett Whitlock anchor the bullpen? And most importantly, who will be the ace of the Red Sox rotation?
If most of these questions cannot be answered during the next calendar year, I will agree that another executive should be appointed to boost the Red Sox to the next level.
Several moves need to be made before Opening Day of 2024. Today, I’ve decided to reveal my own personal checklist of transactions that I would urge Chaim Bloom to make if I were appointed as his humble, genuflecting assistant.
Now that the time has come to make it rain, Chaim should dump a torrential downpour into the starting rotation. Garrett Whitlock’s body cannot hold up under a starting pitcher’s workload, which leaves Bello, Crawford, Houck, and Pivetta as the only viable in-house starting pitcher options. Pivetta has been great in the pen, but inconsistent at best in the rotation. Therefore, I would pencil Nick Pivetta into the bullpen and remove him from the starting five conversation altogether. That leaves Boston two starting pitchers short (again) going into the offseason.
I want Bloom to open the vault for Japanese stud Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Japan’s most dominating pitcher just turned 25, and his fastball-forkball-cutter-curveball repertoire should translate very well to MLB. The Red Sox have been one of the most active teams in terms of scouting Yamamoto. Additionally, Masataka Yoshida was Yamamoto’s teammate in the Japanese League and during the World Baseball Classic. As long as they are willing to pay for him, the Red Sox should have a leg up on the competition heading into the bidding war for Yamamoto this winter.
I also want Bloom to re-sign Adam Duvall to another one-year deal to be Boston’s starting right fielder in 2024. After a sensational start to the season, a broken wrist cost Duvall a chance to be the steady righthanded power threat that this lineup has sorely needed this year. As great as Justin Turner has been, the Red Sox have been very lefty-dependent in 2023. A righthanded attack featuring Turner, Story, and Duvall would make the Red Sox a much more balanced offense that would be far less vulnerable against lefthanded power arms.
The Red Sox already have an outstanding bullpen in place for next season, but I’d still like to see Bloom make a huge splash in free agency by signing Josh Hader to be Boston’s shutdown lefty and closer-in-training. As one of the most electric relievers in baseball, adding Hader could give the Red Sox the best bullpen in MLB. This move would also show the Doom-and-Bloomers that the Red Sox are out for blood and willing to spend in 2024.
Alex Verdugo has made it clear to management and the entire city of Boston that he will not be putting in the effort that is necessary for him to evolve into a great ballplayer. His defense has improved quite a bit this year, and he is capable of playing great for half a season at a time. However, he is simply not dedicated enough to his craft to commit to the physical, mental, and emotional workload that it takes to be a cornerstone of a premier MLB team. Verdugo belongs in a low-pressure market where he can put forth a nominal effort and occasionally show up to the park late while still making a nice living.
Therefore, let’s package the final year of Alex Verdugo’s rookie contract, along with Nick Yorke and Wikelman Gonzalez from AA Portland, in a deal for 27-year-old All-Star pitcher Mitch Keller from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Keller has started 57 games in the past two years, accumulating a 3.92 ERA while averaging 163 strikeouts and 56 walks during that time. He’s been victimized by the long ball this season, surrendering 20 homers thus far, but his current K/9 ratio is by far the highest of his career (9.9) and he has already pitched 169.2 innings with a month remaining in the season. He is peaking right at the time when the Red Sox are in dire need of workhorses at the top of the rotation. Trading for Keller and immediately signing him to an extension would be arguably just as impactful as signing Yamamoto.
Yorke and Gonzalez are both 21 years old, and each of them project to be solid MLB players. That’s what makes them such attractive trade pieces for a team like the Pirates, who are in a perpetual state of rebuild and rarely seem willing to pay premium salaries for stars like Keller, who will reach free agency at the end of 2024. Yorke is a second baseman who is unlikely to ever see Fenway Park’s home dugout due to a logjam of quality middle infielders in Boston’s farm system, and Gonzalez is the kind of promising pitcher a team should be willing to part with in exchange for a rising star like Keller. According to BaseballTradeValues.com, a package of Verdugo, Yorke, and Gonzalez should be a sufficient return to net Mitch Keller for the Red Sox.
Adding Yamamoto and Keller to the incumbent trio of Bello, Crawford, and Houck could give the Red Sox the best young starting rotation in the league.
You may have noticed that I did not include Chris Sale in my projections for the Red Sox’ 2024 starting rotation.
Well, why the hell would I?
I think we’ve all had enough of Chris Sale. Being a great guy and a great teammate with a great work ethic is all well and good, but it all amounts to nothing if you can’t stay on the damn field. I’m so sick and tired of hearing that Sale is heading to the Injured List and then watching sob-story press conferences where he goes on and on about how tough it is for him to want to contribute so badly while being unable to do so.
Let’s face it: Chris Sale’s 2019 extension is the worst contract ever signed in Red Sox history. Everyone who hates Chaim Bloom pines for the days of Dave Dombrowski, while dismissing the fact that Mookie Betts would still be in Boston if Dombrowski didn’t specialize in signing half-baked contracts for guys with huge red flags while ignoring minor league development.
Do any of us not recall that Chris Sale flamed out at the end of each of his first two years in Boston???
His incredible 2017 season ended with him stumbling through September and being lit up by Houston in October. And with all due respect to the amazing visual of seeing him whiff public enemy #1, Manny Machado, to end the 2018 World Series, let’s not forget why Sale was even available in the bullpen at that moment. His dead arm had limited him to four innings per start in the ALCS and World Series, and the Red Sox pushed back his starts whenever possible throughout that entire playoff run. He was only serviceable for a few innings at a time. He was vintage Sandy Koufax when they only needed three outs from him, but he was 2021 Martin Perez by his fourth inning of work.
The writing was on the wall long before Dombrowski inked Sale to this abortion of an extension, and the loss of Mookie Betts was just one abhorrent byproduct of the disgraceful end to the Davey Dollabills era in Boston. So it’s time for Red Sox fans to be rid of the empty promises and faux potential of Chris Sale, who has been nothing more than an albatross since 2019.
He has one year and $27.5 million left on his contract. The Red Sox can and will get nothing in exchange for it, but at this point nothing can be done besides writing it off as an abject lesson in the evils that can befall a lazy organization that blindly takes the path of least resistance. Turn over the endless headache that is Chris Sale to some other team for a return of fractions of pennies on the dollar. Quit wasting time, resources, and a roster spot on a guy that should have been relegated to the bullpen three years ago.
Cedanne Rafaela is the best defensive outfielder the Red Sox organization has seen since Jackie Bradley Jr, and he tore the cover off the ball in Worcester this season (.312/.370/.618/.988, 14 HRs, 42 RBI). The Red Sox desperately need an elite defender (he can also play a pretty good shortstop), and it’s time to see if Rafaela’s somewhat undisciplined approach at the plate translates to The Show. Even if his offense drops off at the big league level, his defense more than justifies a spot in the starting lineup.
Enmanuel Valdez’ profile is quite different. He has a very promising bat, but plays a poor second base. A hot start at the plate this season tapered off as he accumulated more at bats, but if Triston Casas (along with a hundred other players) has taught us anything, it’s that a young player needs his fair share of at-bats before we assume he’s in over his head. And with Verdugo moving on in my hypothetical trade for Mitch Keller, there is ample room in this lineup for another lefty. I’d start Valdez against righthanded pitchers in a second base platoon with Pablo Reyes, who could also come in for Valdez as a late-inning defensive replacement in close games. Reyes has more than earned his roster spot next season, and he can always slide back into the everyday role if Valdez goes bust.
Look below to see the roster I would try to pester Chaim Bloom into putting together if I was on his staff.
The big assumption here is that Justin Turner picks up his $13.4 million player option to remain in Boston for 2024. The heel injury that he has battled for the last month raises the risk for any team that may have previously considered offering him a multi-year deal, so the idea of him picking up the option now looks all the more probable.
You’ll notice that a lot hinges on Trevor Story returning to his Colorado form offensively. I’m not talking about the bombs that people falsely think are so easy to hit in Coors Field either. I’m talking about squaring up pitches and driving them to left center field. He is a dynamic player that can beat you with his bat, glove, arm, and legs when healthy, and Chaim Bloom’s job may very well come down to how well Story justifies Boston’s investment in him.
You’ll also notice that Jarren Duran begins the season on the bench. The starting lineup would vary day-to-day, and I would cycle Yoshida into the DH spot quite often to keep him fresh for the long haul. This would give Duran ample opportunities throughout the year, even in the absence of injuries, to show that he can persevere through his offensive valleys and mental health challenges to be a consistent producer on the field. Duran has the potential to be the most productive player on this roster besides Devers. If he can perform at his best, the Red Sox become infinitely more dangerous.
Opening Day Lineup
Justin Turner DH
Triston Casas 1B
Rafael Devers 3B
Adam Duvall RF
Masataka Yoshida LF
Trevor Story SS
Enmanuel Valdez 2B
Cedanne Rafaela CF
Connor Wong C
Rob Refsnyder OF, Jarren Duran OF, Pablo Reyes IF, Reese McGuire C
Brayan Bello, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Mitch Keller, Kutter Crawford, Tanner Houck
RP: Kenley Jansen, Josh Hader, Chris Martin, Garrett Whitlock, John Schreiber, Brennan Bernardino, Nick Pivetta, Chris Murphy
Chaim Bloom’s job is on the line in 2024. It’s up to him to finally put up or shut up and show that he can construct a team that can truly be a force in Major League Baseball for the next several years.
Can he do what is necessary to put his team over the top?