BOSTON -- Given the title the Red Sox created for Chaim Bloom -- chief baseball officer -- there is no question who will sign off on the key decisions the club faces in the present and future.
But what became equally clear during Bloom’s press conference unveiling at Fenway Park on Monday is how much collaboration will take place in the lead-up to those decisions.
The dawn of a new day has arrived for the Sox, and it is one in which the lead baseball executive will foster a unified approach in baseball operations. This was the reputation Bloom had with the Rays, a franchise that has been one of the most forward-thinking in the game for several years. It is also one that Theo Epstein had during his successful run in Boston from 2003-11.
“The best part about this opportunity is the chance to lift up your whole staff and to put them in position to succeed,” said Bloom. “I had a lot of good experiences with that with my former club, and that was the most satisfying part of the job to me. By empowering people and also challenging them productively, asking good questions, you might be able to make them a little bit better. They’re going to make you better. That is a big part of what appeals to this type of leadership to me.”
The 36-year-old Bloom was introduced to Red Sox Nation on the one-year anniversary of the team’s fourth World Series since 2004. It is unusual to see a team make a shake-up at the top of baseball operations just a year after winning it all.
It has become clear in recent days and weeks that there are clear reasons that the club moved on from veteran baseball executive Dave Dombrowski, who Red Sox owner John Henry continues to say will wind up in the Hall of Fame.
The first is that the Sox simply didn’t agree with Dombrowski’s vision going forward. They wanted an executive who would be more open to embracing new ideas and also rebuilding a farm system that has taken a hit in recent years. The club also wanted somebody who would also embrace a more efficient payroll.
The second is that they felt Dombrowski under-utilized many of the other bright minds in the front office, particularly the four (Brian O’Halloran, Eddie Romero, Zack Scott and Raquel Ferreira) who ran the front office on an interim basis until Bloom was hired at the end of last week.
“I would just say that we were extremely desirous of bringing in someone who would augment and add, as opposed to just bringing in someone who might have been an autocrat, for instance, or a one-man show,” said Henry. “One of the things we were so impressed with Chaim was, and I know we keep using the word ‘collaborative,’ but that’s what it takes to run a successful organization, the size of this organization.”
Along those lines, one of the first things Bloom did upon getting his new job was promote O’Halloran to the position of general manager. Romero, Scott and Ferreira are also likely to have a bigger voice, though not a change in titles at this point.
“It was exciting to hear from Chaim and to have the opportunity to work with him as he leads the organization,” said O’Halloran. “I’m thrilled. It was a very exciting moment for me.”
In Bloom’s world, there is strength in numbers when it comes to running a baseball operations department. For example, Bloom has never taken credit for the Rays’ vision to utilize openers on the pitching staff, a decision that helped keep the club competitive the last two seasons. Instead, he helped build that consensus.
That doesn’t mean the Red Sox will go crazy with openers in Boston now that Bloom has arrived. He mentioned that the job is to maximize the Red Sox based on their resources and roster.
“He’s someone that is really thoughtful and likes to really get to know people and understand how they can help an organization and he likes to think about how he can empower them to impact the organization and I really appreciate that about him,” O’Halloran said.
“Obviously the buzzword of the day is collaborative. It’s clear that he’s very collaborative. And that’s the model that they had there. He’s very intelligent, very hard working. I’m just really excited to work with him. I think he’ll be a great leader for the organization.”
It took the Red Sox seven weeks to find Dombrowski’s successor mainly because they pored through the a list of 20 candidates in search of what they were looking for. In the end, Bloom was the only external candidate they spoke to. And within a week of first reaching out to Bloom, the Red Sox hired him.
“Chaim’s experience with the Rays allowed him to touch, understand and lead every aspect of a Major League team’s baseball operations, from setting a vision and structure for player development to the seamless integration of analytics into game management,” said Red Sox president/CEO Sam Kennedy.
“At the age of 36, Chaim has developed a well respected reputation across the league, and is known by his colleagues as someone who is creative, thorough and collaborative.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora is looking forward to that collaboration with his new boss.
“He’s a great asset,” Cora said. “Everything I heard about him, he’s been outstanding. When you’re 36 and you’ve been in the big leagues for 15 years, you have to be good. And he’s really good at what he does. I’m very eager to learn from him and obviously, it’s a little bit different because we haven’t had a president of baseball operations for a month and a half, but the people here, they’re going to make it easy. And they’ve made it easier. I’m looking forward to working with him on a daily basis and continuing to get better.”
There will be critical moments for the front office in the coming weeks. Slugger J.D. Martinez has an opt-out in his contract that he has to exercise within five days of the conclusion of the World Series. Mookie Betts is going into his walk year, and Bloom and his crew will determine if the star outfielder should be dangled in trade talks or if the club should hold out hope he will stick around beyond 2020.
There also needs to be an evaluation of the pitching staff. As presently constituted, the Red Sox have $79 million invested in three starting pitchers for next season in Chris Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi. All three are coming off injuries. Henry has stated he prefers that the team get the payroll below the first luxury tax threshold of $208 million for next season. It was roughly $240 during the underwhelming ’19 season.
Bloom and his think tank of executives will navigate all of these issues together. The process will start immediately.
“The backbone of our department will always be our people,” said Bloom. “Our staff and players. How we collaborate, how openly and honestly we communicate will determine how much we can accomplish.”