He hasn’t traded Mookie Betts or made any free agent signings yet, but new Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is starting — little by little — to put his stamp on Boston’s roster.
Though the first five weeks of Bloom’s tenure have been mostly quiet on the transactions front, the new boss is beginning to make it clear that he’ll leave no stone unturned when it comes to improving every aspect of his roster. And that process, which has finally begun in earnest over the last two weeks, is starting at the bottom of the roster and slowly moving toward the top.
Since Bloom was introduced in late October, he has made a series of moves to shake up the back end of Boston’s roster. Catchers Sandy Leon (traded to Cleveland) and Juan Centeno (cut), infielder Marco Hernandez (non-tendered) and pitchers Brian Johnson (outrighted to Pawtucket), Trevor Kelley (claimed by Philadelphia) and Josh Osich (non-tendered) are no longer in the mix, having been replaced by a handful of prospects who may or may not make an impact in 2020. Among those moves are a couple no-brainers (Leon and Centeno) mixed with a couple surprises (Johnson and Hernandez) that show how Bloom’s fresh take on the organization’s assets might soon lead to widespread change.
That fresh take might be a good one for an organization that has been, at times, guilty of clutching its familiar pearls a little too tightly in recent years. For a team that held on too long to countless prospects (Henry Owens, Blake Swihart and Deven Marrero come to mind), it’s refreshing to see Bloom remove emotion from the equation and make some tough calls in his first month on the job.
Johnson, a first-round pick in 2012 who battled through a variety of personal struggles to be a key contributor to the 2018 championship team, was probably overdue to be sent off the roster before Bloom snuck him through waivers early last week. Leon — a favorite of veteran starters Chris Sale and Rick Porcello for his pitch-calling capabilities — didn’t end up being the staff savior the Sox thought they had when they switched him out for Blake Swihart two weeks into the season and was never coming back. And Hernandez, who battled his way back from three shoulder surgeries to carve out a role on last year’s team, was cut despite the Sox having a clear opening at second base.
With Bloom, it’s clear that emotion — no matter the organization’s history with a certain player — will not get in the way of good business. Keeping Johnson in the system while off the 40-man roster was a savvy move, as was getting a player in return for a clear non-tender candidate in Leon. While the rationale on the Hernandez move isn’t yet known, it would not come as a surprise if the Sox re-signed him to a minor-league deal in the coming weeks.
Entering his first Winter Meetings running the Red Sox, Bloom has six roster spots to work with and an endless list of possibilities to pore through. Trades of key players like Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., David Price and Nathan Eovaldi will be on the table along with a wide variety of buy-low options via free agency or trade.
As Bloom assesses those options, he’ll have to be fearless and unemotional. It’s clear so far that he’s more than capable of being both.