It was one line in one long Max Scherzer column, but if you’re a Red Sox fan, it should put a lump in your throat.
“Boston ownership is encouraging chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to make a push for Scherzer, as they’re dreaming of Chris Sale and Scherzer joining the starting rotation of the first-place Red Sox.”
Here we go again?
Time and again, Red Sox ownership entrusts its entire baseball operations to one man, and time and again, it undermines him.
Theo Epstein’s disgust with the need to “Feed the Monster” produced a book of a similar name and ultimately led to his departure. Ben Cherington responded to win-now pressure by signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval while waving goodbye to Jon Lester. Dave Dombrowski was hired to spend down the club’s prospect inventory in pursuit of a championship, which he delivered in 2018, before being fired anyway.
That brings us to Chaim Bloom, who so far has operated under a general mandate to reduce payroll and avoid the luxury tax, but has otherwise been left to his own devices. The result? A Red Sox team no one saw coming, alone in first place and tied with the Astros for the American League’s best record.
That the Red Sox have progressed this far this quickly is a testament to Bloom’s ability to marry short-term success within a long-term framework. So far during his tenure, the Red Sox have accumulated prospects, traded away veterans, and made a series of surgical strikes in free agency (Kiké Hernández), on the waiver wire (Christian Arroyo), and even in the rule 5 draft (Garrett Whitlock). It’s working.
But now here comes Red Sox ownership, “encouraging” Bloom to target Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who just turned 37 and is in the midst of another excellent campaign. He’s 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA for the sliding Nationals, with peripheral numbers (35.1 percent strikeout rate, .193 expected batting average) that suggest he remains the real deal.
There’s little doubt he’d improve the Red Sox or any contender, but at what cost? He’s in the final year of his contract and thus a pure rental, and the Red Sox face stiff competition for his services in the form of the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres, who are battling for NL West supremacy AND reside on Scherzer’s preferred side of the country.
Bloom knows what this Red Sox team needs, because that’s his job. If he decides it’s worth betting the farm on Scherzer, then so be it. But if John Henry, Tom Werner, and Co. have fallen in love with the idea of Scherzer and are now letting that infatuation drive policy … here we go again.
To my mind, there are two ways to interpret that quote, neither of them good. The first is that ownership knows Scherzer won’t OK a trade to the East Coast and therefore wants to give the appearance that it “pushed” to get him. The motivation would be to score an easy PR win that says, “See? We’re all in!”
Or it could be that rather than letting Bloom do his job, the club’s owners are pushing their preferences on him, a fact that will be conveniently forgotten if Scherzer arrives and fails to deliver. Just ask Cherington (letting Lester go) or Dombrowski (extending Chris Sale) what happens when a move encouraged by ownership suddenly doesn’t work out. Someone else takes the fall.
A far better message than “go get Max Scherzer” would be to tell Bloom he’s free to spend beyond the $210 million luxury tax threshold and then let him decide the best course of action. I have a hard time believing he’d choose Scherzer, simply because the cost to the farm system would be prohibitively high.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Bloom thinks it’s worth surrendering, say, top prospect Triston Casas for two months of an ace to pair alongside Sale. If so, no need to announce it to the world. Better to just stay the hell out of his way.