In his first public words as the Red Sox’ new chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom on Monday said that his mission is to build the organization into one that covets “sustained, long-term success.”
Now comes the hard part. Bloom wasn’t sure yet what his first tasks may involve in his new role. But there’s no escaping that he faces several big decisions this offseason — which could officially begin as soon as Wednesday — that will affect the future of the franchise.
And there is none bigger than the decision looming over Mookie Betts.
The star right-fielder is under team control for one more season before he can become a free agent, and he seems intent on testing those waters, where he’s in line to earn an enormous payday. Betts has declined multiple offers to stay with the Red Sox, and the club could be at risk of losing him for nothing.
But Monday’s press conference didn’t provide any more clarity on Betts’ future. Though Bloom revealed that he and the Red Sox “did discuss him a little” during the interview process, he admitted there’s a lot more information he needs to gather before he and his staff will reach a conclusion on whether Betts will be here next season and beyond.
“Without getting into too much detail, there was a wide variety of things we discussed during the interview process,” Bloom said. “I’m still trying to learn and there’s a lot of things I don’t know about potential directions for the roster, so it’d be premature of me to say anything other than we’re going to look thoroughly at all our actions. ...
“Generally, our priority is going to be sustainability and competitiveness over the long term. And that can take many forms. But really that’s going to be the top priority as we think about moves. With respect to those two guys (Betts and J.D. Martinez), I’m just coming in here and there’s a lot I don’t know. Looking forward to building relationships with them and learning more about them from everyone here.”
The Betts topic didn’t seem to take up much of the interview process, and Bloom wasn’t posed with any kind of question by ownership of what he would do with him. Red Sox principal owner John Henry noted that are other big decisions at play (i.e. Martinez) that will create a domino effect of how the Red Sox attack their offseason — and ultimately, Betts.
“I would say that we talked about how there are a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason, and that’s not uncommon during offseasons, but there are some significant decisions,” Henry said. “The first one (Martinez) is not our decision to make, but it will impact us. ... We talked about Mookie, J.D., other issues, but we didn’t focus on, ‘Oh, what should we do?’ Because you’re going to be looking at a number of factors, including where Mookie wants to play for the long term.”
At least at the top, though, the Red Sox’ desire still seems to be keeping Betts in a Red Sox uniform. That will realistically be difficult given ownership’s stated goal to cut payroll and get under the competitive balance tax threshold that kicks in at $208 million in 2020.
“As we’ve said ... we think he’s one of the great players in baseball and in a perfect world, we’d like to figure out a way for him to continue to be a player for us for his career, but he had the right to test free agency,” said Tom Werner. “We’ve had conversations with him in the past, and Chaim and his group will lead conversations going forward.”
The first domino of the Red Sox’ offseason will likely fall this week as they await a decision on Martinez’ future, but the club doesn’t have any indications on which way the All-Star designated hitter is leaning. Martinez can opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million on his contract to become a free agent, and he has five days following the end of the World Series to inform the Red Sox of his decision.
Tom Werner recently met with Martinez’ agent, Scott Boras, over dinner but there isn’t any new information.
“We really don’t know,” Henry said. “We’ll find out very soon.”
The Red Sox have not offered Martinez a new deal to restructure his contract, according to NBC Sports Boston, though Henry said Monday it’s been discussed. If Martinez does decide to opt out, the Red Sox could extend him a qualifying offer, which would ensure them a compensatory draft pick if he leaves for another team.