The Red Sox have dropped seven of their past ten contests, knocking them four games under .500. At 62-66, they’re in last place in the American League East and seven games out of the AL’s final Wild Card spot. The Sox are very likely to miss the playoffs, and their -48 run differential betters only those of the Royals, Tigers and A’s in the American League.
That’s certainly not what the Sox anticipated heading into the season, and the struggles have predictably led to some speculation among the fanbase about the future of the organization’s leadership. Those questions apparently aren’t simmering within the Fenway Park offices, however. Boston’s CEO/president Sam Kennedy tells Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic the club has no plans to dismiss either chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom or manager Alex Cora this offseason.
“I am very comfortable saying Chaim and Alex will be back. And I am very comfortable saying there is a strong belief in the direction of the franchise from our ownership group,” Kennedy said. “That direction is continuing to build for the future, but also continuing to invest at the major-league level.”
Both Cora and Bloom remain under contract for at least another season. The Sox preemptively exercised their 2023-24 options on Cora’s services last November, keeping him in the fold for two years beyond this one. Bloom was hired to lead the front office over the 2019-20 offseason, making this his third season at the helm. Rosenthal now reports that contract was of no less than four years in length, so even barring an extension, the Red Sox can keep him around at least through the end of next season.
There wasn’t a whole lot of doubt that Boston would keep Cora atop the dugout steps. Originally hired in advance of the 2018 season, Cora led the Red Sox to a World Series title his first year at the helm. The club missed the playoffs in 2019, and Cora was dismissed that offseason when his role in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal was made public. MLB suspended him for the entire 2020 campaign, but Boston promptly re-hired Cora once that ban was up. During the first season of his second stint, the club won 92 games and advanced to the ALCS. Even with this year’s losing record, the Sox have gone 346-268 under Cora’s stewardship.
The team’s results under Bloom have been more mixed. Boston went 24-36 and finished last in the AL East during the abbreviated 2020 schedule. As mentioned, they bounced back with a very successful season last year, but they’re now facing another possible last place finish. That’d be a second in Bloom’s three years leading the organization, and he wasn’t a part of the 2018 championship squad as Cora was.
As is the case with every baseball ops group, one can point to various hits and misses for Bloom’s front office. The club made some strong under-the-radar moves in the 2020-21 offseason that contributed to last year’s turnaround. The Sox signed Enrique Hernández to a two-year, $14MM deal and were rewarded with perhaps the best season of his career in 2021 before his production cratered this year. They plucked Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft and immediately watched him develop into one of the game’s top late-inning weapons. At the preceding trade deadline, Boston landed Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. Pivetta’s performance has been up-and-down, but getting a roughly league average controllable starter for a pair of middle relievers is a strong outcome for the Boston front office.
Bloom and his group have placed an emphasis on building the minor league pipeline. They’ve seemed to take some steps forward in that regard. Shortly before Bloom was hired in 2019, Baseball America placed the Red Sox 22nd in their organizational talent rankings. Earlier this month, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel slotted them 13th, with last year’s first-round pick Marcelo Mayer now regarded as one of the best prospects in the sport.
At the same time, there are plenty of recent moves that have drawn criticism. The decision to not re-sign Mookie Betts in 2020 likely falls at ownership’s feet more so than the front office’s, but none of the players involved in the return (Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong) have performed as well as the club would’ve hoped this season. Boston’s biggest free agent signee of the past three years, Trevor Story, has performed below his previous career level in the first year of a $140MM deal.
Dealing Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects David Hamilton and Alex Binelas over the winter added some talent to the middle tier of the farm system, but it marked a notable step down in a right field position that has gone on to give the team problems. The club’s faith in Bobby Dalbec at first base looks to have been misguided, and their handling of the trade deadline (acquiring Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer while dealing away Christian Vázquez) reportedly sparked some confusion from the clubhouse and others within the organization.
Regardless of how one feels about the moves the Red Sox have made of late, the more relevant question is how Bloom and his group plan to move forward. Aside from the Story deal, the team has been quite cautious from a long-term spending perspective. Assuming Xander Bogaerts opts out of his contract, Boston will only have around $60MM in guaranteed money on the books for next year. Rafael Devers headlines an arbitration class that is likely to push the in-house spending to the $85MM – $90MM range, but there’ll still be plenty of space for a club that exceeded the $230MM luxury tax threshold this season.
The front office has consistently maintained they’d like to work out a long-term deal to retain Boagerts and to hammer out an extension with Devers. There’s no indication they’ve made progress to date in either case. Whether or not Bogaerts is brought back, the club will face plenty of turnover in the starting rotation, bullpen and the outfield. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t seem there’s any thought of deliberately taking a step back in 2023, so there’ll need to be a fairly significant roster overhaul.
“Next year will be the 22nd season of the John Henry-Tom Werner-Mike Gordon Fenway Sports Group stewardship of this franchise,” Kennedy told Rosenthal of the ownership group. “Since we’ve been here, each and every year we have a goal of playing baseball in October. I do not see that changing. I see us continuing to invest across the entire organization, at the major-league level, throughout our baseball operations. This group is hungry for another World Series championship. … I know we’re in a tough spot right now. But we have a lot of flexibility going into this offseason. I’m really excited to see what we’re going to do with that flexibility and the resources we have.“
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