Red Sox

Three teams, 7 players, 1 home run: What complicated trade tells us about Red Sox's Chaim Bloom

Three teams, 7 players, 1 home run: What complicated trade tells us about Red Sox's Chaim Bloom

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chaim Bloom impressed Red Sox ownership during his interview by dissecting a handful of deals with the Rays that revealed the kind of creativity John Henry wanted to add to Boston's front office.

One was the pursuit of Charlie Morton, Houston's All-Star right-hander, who received one of the biggest pitching contracts in Tampa history at a modest two years and $30 million. The 35-year-old rewarded Tampa's faith with a third place finish in the Cy Young Award voting.

Another was a complicated three-way trade with the A's and Rangers that sent second baseman Jurickson Profar to Oakland, prospects to Texas, and reliever Emilio Pagan to the Rays. A compensatory pick and international bonus money changed hands, too, for good measure.

It is that second deal and its many moving parts that caught the eye of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

"We studied decisions that they made and we were impressed," Werner said. "The total decision-making was impressive. They went out in the free agent market and got Charlie Morton. They made a great three-way trade for Pagan. You can just go up and down that roster and say they found talent in very creative ways."

So how did it happen? The four executives primarily involved — Texas GM Jon Daniels, Oakland counterpart David Forst, and the Tampa duo of Bloom and GM Erik Neander — weighed in from the GM meetings this week. Their observations and recollections shed light on the kind of decision-maker Bloom will be in Boston — nimble, inventive, and connected.

"Very smart and very creative," Forst said. "I've always respected Chaim. He has always dealt honestly with us and been up front."

Merely reading the summary of the trade illustrates its complexity. The A's sent Pagan and a competitive balance pick to Tampa, and infielder/outfielder Eli White and international bonus money to the Rangers. The Rangers sent minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy to the Rays and received three prospects in return: left-handers Brock Burke and Kyle Bird, and right-hander Yoel Espinal, which helped Tampa relieve a roster crunch.

Got all that? Good. The first thing worth noting is that most three-way deals are born of failure, and this was no exception.

"Typically, they don't happen overnight," Neander said. "I don't think anyone's seeking that. There's a sincere interest in finding common ground between two clubs. You run the well dry, and then it's like, 'All right, do we have any other business going on that we could introduce to this negotiation to find a way to get over the finish line?' And that's effectively what happened."

The trade started with Daniels, who played the role of go-between. The A's wanted Profar to be their everyday second baseman, but they lacked the pieces to complete a deal on their own. Because Daniels had maintained regular contact with the Tampa front office — primarily Neander — he knew the Rays wanted Pagan, a hard-throwing reliever who hadn't quite put it together in his first two seasons. And the Rays knew which prospects Daniels valued, primarily Burke.

"Jon Daniels was in the middle," Forst said. "All we knew was there was a team on the other side. Everything went through Jon. We talked to him about Profar and Pagan and the comp pick, and he said, 'Look, to be up front, some of these pieces are going elsewhere.' Anytime you have a three-team deal, sometimes everybody knows, but a lot of times there's kind of a middle manager working both sides. So Jon deserves a lot of credit for working with us and working with Chaim and Erik on that side."

The deal would not have happened without steady communication, a skill Bloom will bring to Boston.

"They've always done a good job of constant dialogue over the year," Daniels said of Bloom and Neander. "Not just trade deadline. Not just winter meetings. Constant dialogue, understanding what your goals are, being up front about their goals. It's where I think they have a lot of information. The way they've built their club, they have a heavy-transactional process, if that's what you want to call it, and more information allows them to make better decisions. Sometimes you'll deal with a club and you'll feel like it's one-way, that they're just pulling information out. I've always felt good dealing with them that it's two-way. They want to know what you're looking at, but they're also happy to share what their goals are."

Added Bloom: "I think a lot of that fell out of our organization having good communication with both organizations, but especially with Texas, who was trying to broker it."

Striking a deal is only half the battle, though. The Rays had to identify the right target, and in Pagan, they hit a home run. Tampa represented his third team in three years, and he was coming off a so-so 2018 that saw him go 3-1 with a 4.35 ERA while flashing intermittent command.

But he blossomed in Tampa. His max velocity jumped from 96 to 99 mph and he ended up posting a career-low 2.31 ERA while saving 20 games and striking out a career-best 12.3 batters per nine.

"He stood out as someone who had a chance to have a little more success than he'd had to date," Bloom said. "We knew towards the end of the season that that harder breaking ball was coming into play more. I don't think any of us, if we're being honest, could have expected that he'd turn in the season that he did. That just speaks to getting a great result from hopefully a good and rigorous process."

The Rays preach organizational humility — it's why they might be the worst team in the league at stealing signs, because it's simply not part of their culture — and they'd be the first to note that they got a little lucky with Pagan, who actually opened the season in Triple-A. But they saw an opportunity for growth if he could reshape his breaking ball, a hard slider that he throws with more of a cutter grip, and the results were tremendous.

"I'm not at all surprised that the Rays got themselves involved," Forst said. "We always felt like we and the Rays see things similarly in how we evaluate players. We didn't like giving up Pagan — I didn't know he was going to be throwing 99 and closing games — but we liked Pagan and obviously there's value in the comp pick. So not surprised at all that Chaim and Erik had their fingers in our business."

The comp pick presented its own challenges, because it cannot be traded more than once and thus had to move as part of one big deal. Awarded to the smallest-market and lowest-revenue teams, this particular pick landed at No. 40 overall, the area of the draft where Tampa had previously nabbed stalwarts like All-Star Carl Crawford and Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. The Rays used the pick on college right-hander Seth Johnson, allowing them to build for the future even as they hoped Pagan would help in the present.

Speaking of which, when Forst discovered Tampa was the third team in the deal, did he pause to question what he and his own evaluators had missed?

"Absolutely," he admitted. "There's a number of teams we feel that way about, where they pick up a player and you go, 'Huh, should we have been involved?' It's not unique to Tampa, but they're a team that we see similar to us in the way they operate."

The Pagan trade is the kind of move the Red Sox will have to make to remain competitive with ownership intent on slashing payroll. Fortunately, they now employ one of its architects.

"Chaim will do really well, because at the end of the day, he's consistent, he communicates well, it's clear," Neander said. "He's trustworthy. There's no agenda. The purpose of the call is whatever's laid out. These relationships are built on trust, and he's someone that can be trusted."

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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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