Constructing the Puzzle
Baseball is back after months and months of negotiation, and America's pastime returns following a debate that was never thought to end. The Boston Red Sox started spring training in the Grapefruit League, and are looking to improve on their surprising playoff push last season.
Big names like Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman, Seiya Suzuki, Matt Chapman, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber have all made their decisions. Chaim Bloom has stayed put, keeping with his strategy of not giving a large contract to any big-name players during his career in the baseball front office system.
Chris Sale is reported out for the next three months, and the Sox strengthened up their bullpen with the likes of Matt Strahm and former Oakland A's left-hander Jake Diekman. People seem to be critical of the Sox letting go of a player like Schwarber, but Chaim seems to know what he is doing. Before the deadline, J.D. Martinez opted into another year with the Red Sox, and now says he wants to finish his baseball career in Beantown, JBJ found his way back to Boston for his second stint via a trade with the Brewers involving Hunter Renfroe, and the Sox signed Rich Hill, James Paxton, and Michael Wacha to serve as bullpen arms.
Last week Boston's Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom stated, "I think it's really important for us not to get distracted by those things and focus on, ‘What are the opportunities that makes sense for us?’ Not to start chasing things. If you chase things, you can turn good opportunities into bad opportunities, and put yourself in a position not to be able to take the next good opportunity."
Chaim is making decisions that are best for the team, and as of now after all the big names have come and gone, the focus shifts to Trevor Story. Schwarber would have been a good player to resign, but Bloom kept his money in his pocket and left the Phillies to pay the 29-year-old $79 million dollars over four years. People will be critical about Bloom and his decisions, but he without a doubt knows what is best for the team. Two solid left-handers in the bullpen in Diekman, and Strahm make a lot of sense and will add some quality to the backend.
Pitchers like Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck could easily be put into the starting rotation without a problem. Getting a quality starting pitcher would be helpful, but adding to a bullpen that lost both Adam Ottavino, and Martín Pérez is essential. Hill and Wacha would also move into the rotation in place of Eduardo Rodriguez who left to play for the Detroit Tigers. Jose Iglesias left the Sox for the second time for a one-year deal with the Rockies.
Some players like Hansel Robles and Daniel Santana are still yet to make a decision on their future. Garrett Richards is reported to be joining Pérez with the Rangers for the 2022 season. Travis Shaw just recently signed a deal to come back to Boston on a minor league deal. Stars like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and stand-out utility player Enrique Hernandez still remain with the team and will play an important role for the team moving forward.
Young stars Jaren Duran, and Triston Casas will play a big role in the lineup for the Sox this season. With Renfroe gone, Hernandez could move to the infield, and leave a spot in the outfield up for grabs. Cristian Arroyo could be a salient player in the middle infield that provides depth combined with a powerful swing. Pitching depth on the starting line could be helpful with the loss of Chris Sale for a while. Cora will have to rely on Eovaldi and Pivetta in the rotation at the start of the season.
Depth on the mound has to be something that Bloom continues to address as well as adding some firepower in the lineup. Story is not the ideal candidate to add to the squad, and Bloom should not rush a deal if he is not a good fit for the team. He would have to move to second base if he does sign with the Sox, which is not his primary position of shortstop which Xander currently holds. There are plenty of other teams out on the market for Story, but if the number isn't right then Bloom should slam on the brakes.
While the Red Sox offseason has not been filled with much excitement and big-money deals like the Dodgers, Rockies, and Rangers. Bloom is playing the long game this offseason even with a lot of long-term flexibility going forward. Bogaerts' deal ends at the end of 2022, and with the potential of his option-out, Boston will have a lot of room to maneuver.
The future of the Sox needs a right-handed bat, and another solid pitcher that can potentially contribute in the bullpen, or the rotation. Nick Castellanos, Jorge Soler, Kenley Jansen, and maybe even former Yankee Michael Pineda could be potential targets moving forward. The Red Sox as a franchise is in good hands with one of the smartest baseball minds out there.
Bloom will not rush a decision and will look at the minor league system as well as the major league roster before a choice is made. The Red Sox and the Patriots have not made fans jubilant this offseason. The team in Foxboro is struggling to sign players, but the Sox look like they are in a good position having not spent a significant amount of money on any free agent target so far. Bullpen arms continue to move to Beantown, and the team that made the ALCS last season could be bound for a repeat appearance if they add just a few more pieces to the puzzle that lost a few pieces.