Red Sox

Chaim Bloom's GM meetings to-do list downright exhausting as 2020 Red Sox begin taking shape

Chaim Bloom's GM meetings to-do list downright exhausting as 2020 Red Sox begin taking shape

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The GM meetings are usually pretty sleepy. There's lots of groundwork-laying and tire-kicking and temperature-taking and tea-leaf-reading and trial-ballooning as teams assess what moves might be available at next month's winter meetings.

But the Red Sox and new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom need to hit the ground at a brisk jog, because their offseason projects to be about as sleepy as Al Pacino in "Insomnia." And that makes this week's meetings at the Omni Resort more intriguing for Boston than any team in baseball.

The Red Sox could be in the market for, in no particular order: a right fielder, center fielder, first baseman, second baseman, closer, starter, depth starter, swing starter, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency starter, and however many relievers they can afford with what's left.

That's a hellacious to-do list, especially since item No. 1 will come into play if defending MVP (we can still call him that for a couple of more days) Mookie Betts is traded to ease a payroll crunch that's been exacerbated by the $79 million the Red Sox will pay question-mark starters Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi. Speaking of which, the Red Sox probably wouldn't mind trading one of them.

Bloom couldn't deal Betts this early in the offseason even if he wanted to, because it would require a willing partner, and see paragraph No. 1 for insight into how most teams approach November. But that doesn't mean he can't make some moves around the margins they might nonetheless pay dividends in 2020.

The biggest area of need that can be addressed immediately is the starting rotation. The Red Sox might need to open the season with 10 viable starting options in the organization (including whoever piggybacks with an opener), and that's no exaggeration. Last season, injuries to Sale, Price, and Eovaldi forced a combined 36 starts from Hector Velazquez, Brian Johnson, Andrew Cashner, Jhoulys Chacin, Ryan Weber, Travis Lakins, Josh Smith, Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Bobby Poyner. That group went 3-15 with an ERA that was . . . very bad (6.79, to be exact).

The Red Sox need to fill one actual hole in the rotation with a replacement for free agent Rick Porcello, who could return at a reduced salary, though moving on from a man who has posted a 4.79 ERA since winning the 2016 Cy Young Award probably makes sense. They then will need enough depth to account for any possible injuries to Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, two of whom underwent surgery last season and one of whom (Sale) still might.

That could mean taking a flyer on someone like former Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, a former well-regarded prospect who just became a free agent after refusing to be outrighted to the minors. Injuries have limited him to only 11 starts over the last two years, but he's only three years removed from winning 11 games and throwing nearly 200 innings while posting a 3.65 ERA.

That's the kind of player the Red Sox will be in the market for, thanks to their self-imposed payroll limitations. Bloom helped unearth gems in Tampa over the last three years, and the Red Sox hired him to do the same here.

With free agents Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce gone, a first baseman will be on the agenda, too. While the team could go internal with some combination of Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec, there should be no shortage of first basemen available on the market, including 25-homer Brewers slugger Marcus Thames and National postseason hero Howie Kendrick.

As for bullpen, the Red Sox have already made one move, signing former White Sox left-hander Josh Osich. There will undoubtedly be more like him to follow as the Red Sox look to upgrade beyond top four relievers Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, and Darwinzon Hernandez.

MORE TOMASE: It's time for Mookie to tell the Sox what he really wants>>>

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Travis Shaw says return to Boston Red Sox 'makes sense on paper'

Travis Shaw says return to Boston Red Sox 'makes sense on paper'

After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers, could a return to the Boston Red Sox be in order for Travis Shaw?

With Mitch Moreland hitting free agency, the Red Sox should be in the market for a left-handed-hitting first baseman. That makes Shaw an obvious fit, and the 29-year-old agrees a reunion with Boston would make sense.

Shaw discussed the situation with Rob Bradford on WEEI's Bradfo Sho podcast

"I got non-tendered this week. It was kind of a hard decision. The Brewers did offer me but I decided I kind of wanted a fresh start and was willing to risk to see what was out there free agent-wise," Shaw told Bradford. "Just wanted a fresh start after everything that happened last year. Like you said, [signing with the Red Sox] makes sense on paper now we’ll see with who else call or what other teams call. That’s kind of what we’re sorting through now. We’ve had quite a bit of interest so far over this week which is an encouraging sign for me. We’ll just go from there."

Before the 2017 season, the Red Sox traded Shaw to the Brewers in the deal that brought reliever Tyler Thornburg to Boston. In his first two years with Milwaukee, Shaw was an integral part of the offense with 30+ home runs and an OPS well above .800. Last season, however, Shaw missed some time with a wrist injury and saw his production dip significantly.

Assuming Shaw can return to the type of player we saw in '17 and '18, he makes for an intriguing option for Boston in free agency. Along with his potential at the plate, Shaw brings versatility to the table as he can adequately play multiple positions.

Right-handed sluggers Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec currently are the Red Sox' options at first base. Chavis was solid in his 2019 rookie campaign, and Dalbec enters 2020 as one of the organization's top prospects.

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MLB rumors: Winter meetings preview - Five Red Sox moves to watch as offseason begins in earnest

MLB rumors: Winter meetings preview - Five Red Sox moves to watch as offseason begins in earnest

The start of baseball's offseason has included some thank-the-lord movement, with a second-tier starter (Zack Wheeler) landing a $118 million deal from the Phillies and the hyperactive Rays dealing away a stalwart outfielder (Tommy Pham), much to the chagrin of ace Blake Snell.

With baseball's annual winter meetings beginning on Sunday at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, all eyes will be on Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox, who have yet to make a major move, but will soon be on the clock.

So, what can we expect? Here are five areas of focus.

1. IS THERE A MOOKIE BETTS TRADE?

The Red Sox would be crazy not to consider deals for Betts if they believe he intends on reaching free agency, which he has made clear both publicly and privately over the last two years. They'd be crazier to give him away for nothing, however, and thus begins the dance of the offseason. The question they must answer is, "How much is too little?" and then draw a line in the warning-track sand. Potential trade partners like the White Sox and Braves have already spent aggressively, which means a Betts deal likely needs to happen sooner than later, since whomever acquires him must fit $28 million into their 2019 payroll and pretty soon that money will start disappearing. One team to watch: the Dodgers, who have money to spend, prospects to trade, and a World Series hill to climb after three straight near-misses.

2. DEALING DAVID PRICE

Chris Sale just started throwing, per WEEI.com, and his five-year, $145 million extension kicks in on Opening Day. Selling low on the potentially dominant left-hander is a recipe for regret, especially since his contract could end up being pretty reasonable if he returns to health. The better trade candidate is Price, who turns 35 in August and has three years and $96 million remaining on a contract that's more likely to provide diminishing returns, but paradoxically includes fewer short-term questions. We laid out the case for Price being an actual trade asset on Thursday; as free agent pitchers leave the market, someone will be left short, and maybe Price becomes a target.

3. FINDING A STARTER (OR TWO)

Trading Price may ease the financial crunch on a team hoping to drop below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, but it will blow another hole in a rotation that's already down one starter with the presumed departure of free agent Rick Porcello. The Red Sox obviously won't be in on Astros ace Gerrit Cole or Nationals World Series hero Stephen Strasburg. They also can't afford Madison Bumgarner or maybe even old friend Wade Miley. Will they go the opener route? Take a flier on a reclamation project like Felix Hernandez or Michael Wacha? Try to turn center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. into a starter? Here's where Bloom's creativity will be put to the test.

4. SURPRISE US

Until he starts dealing, Bloom remains an enigma. He's beholden to no one on the roster, a position which allowed predecessor Dave Dombrowski to cut ties with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez while they were still owed money. Could Bloom decide a roster overhaul is in order and use a supposed foundational piece like All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts or outfielder Andrew Benintendi to swing a larger deal? We may start to get some clarity on his thoughts next week.

5. RIGHT SIDE OF THE INFIELD

At this time last year, the Red Sox were foolishly counting on 125 games out of second baseman Dustin Pedroia (he played six) and 162 out of a first base platoon of Mitch Moreland (91) and Steve Pearce (29). While some portion of either job could go to second-year slugger Michael Chavis, the Red Sox will be in the market for help at first and second, and this is a spot where Bloom helped unearth some legit finds in Tampa, from Carlos Pena to Logan Morrison to Ji-Man Choi. There should be no shortage of affordable options at first, in particular, from Justin Smoak to Travis Shaw to C.J. Cron.

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