An Unexpected Bloom in the Offseason

The Red Sox have found their replacement for Dave Dombrowski in the form of wunderkind Rays Senior VP of Baseball Ops, Chaim Bloom. He will be named Chief Baseball Officer. Veteran Red Sox Assistant GM Brian O’Halloran, who has been in the front office since 2002, is being promoted to General Manager.

Bloom has been with the Rays for fifteen years, rising from internship to his current position of Senior VP at just 36 years old. He worked under now-Dodgers President of Baseball Ops, Andrew Friedman, who would have been a great hire for the Boston gig had he not re-upped with Los Angeles. But Bloom is even younger, highly-regarded in the industry, and seen as the perfect hire for a team looking to rebuild.

To say his hiring feels like the best-case scenario is an understatement. As recently as 24 hours ago, it seemed like no one was interested in taking the reigns at Fenway. Baffling when you consider the dazzling talent on the team, and the shiny trophies in the cabinet. But there’s also no denying that Dave Dombrowski left quite the catastrophe in his wake. That’s his M.O: spend big, win big, leave a big mess. In this case, a 3rd-place team that failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2015, a depleted farm system, a pitching staff in ruins, and a lot of free-agent decisions quickly approaching. And that’s a tall order to fill for anyone.

Bloom is the polar opposite side of the executive coin, the anti-Dombrowski in almost every way, which is what should make him a great replacement. For one thing, he’s about half his predecessor’s age. Largely thanks to Bloom, the Rays have a thriving farm system, while the Sox system is in shambles. Tampa’s payroll is so small that they can’t afford a full starting rotation; manager Kevin Cash is known for his skillful use of openers and bullpen games, finding a way to win with what he’s got.

Bloom was at the helm of a team that won 96 games, finished 2nd in the division, destroyed the reigning champ Red Sox, and gave the Astros a serious fight in the ALDS. Since he’s a fellow member of the Tribe (read: we’re both Jewish) and it’s Friday evening, I’ll use a fitting analogy: Bloom’s Rays were the David to much richer Goliath teams. And unlike Dombrowski, he’s leaving his former team better than they were when he arrived; they are poised for future success, and will hopefully continue to abide by his practices.

Bloom will have a lot more money to spend in Boston, but unlike Dombrowski, he’ll spend wisely, not wildly. According to Spotrac, the Red Sox had the highest payroll in MLB in 2019, totaling over $229 million. The league average was $137.4 million. The Rays topped out at just over $64 million, the smallest payroll in baseball; no other team spent less than $72.7 million. Even the slashed below-the-Competitive-Balance-Threshold payroll of $208 million to which Sox ownership aspires this coming season will be an embarrassment of riches compared to what Bloom had to work with in Florida. Imagine what he will be capable of building for Boston with the assets available to him here.

It goes without saying that Bloom’s departure is a big loss for the Rays, who are once again a poor small-market team having their few gems plundered by a rich big-city team. It’s an unfair fact of life in baseball, as showcased in Moneyball, when Billy Beane acknowledges that he has no way of keeping his best players, like Jason Giambi, wooed away by teams who can offer millions he cannot. But that’s how baseball works: the little teams need to get creative in order to be competitive and successful, but once their hard work pays off, the teams with resources take notice, copycat, and continue to succeed, using their new information and strategies to overtake the small teams once again. Can’t you just hear Les Misérables‘ Gavroche singing “Little People” now?

I don’t think this guarantees the Sox will be postseason contenders in 2020. That is largely dependent on the health of the starting rotation, all still under contract, save for Rick Porcello. But the minute I heard it was going to be Chaim Bloom, I felt a sense of both comfort and excitement. He’s young, economical, and has succeeded with much less.

The Bloom is on the Red (Sox) rose now. It’s going to be an exciting time.


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