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."

Boras explains why J.D. Martinez didn't opt out of Sox contract>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

How a Brandon Workman trade makes sense for Red Sox and Cubs

How a Brandon Workman trade makes sense for Red Sox and Cubs

The Chicago Cubs have reached the Last Dance stage with their core roster, and a reckoning awaits.

The Boston Red Sox are entering the Middle School Dance phase of their rebuild, shyly inching towards the center of the gym in the hopes of finding a partner.

Could the two clubs be a match before the Aug. 31 trade deadline? They sure could, and here's the player who should most pique Chicago's interest: Brandon Workman.

Four years after ending a century-long World Series drought, the Cubs are rolling. They're 10-3 and have the most wins in the National League (though not technically the best record, since the Miami Marlins are somehow 6-1).

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

They feature the best starting pitching in the National League (9-3, 2.83), and the Ian Happ-led offense ranks fourth in runs and second in homers.

They are, however, a contender with one glaring weakness: their bullpen. Cubs relievers own a 7.30 ERA, and their problems are particularly acute at the back of the 'pen, where closer Craig Kimbrel is pitching himself right out of a job. In four appearances covering 2.2 innings, Kimbrel has allowed seven runs on six hits and five walks, as well as two home runs. Perhaps most shockingly, he has struck out only two of 20 batters faced. Coming on the heels of an 0-4, 6.53 debut last season, Kimbrel claims he is working through his issues. However, he's starting to look like a lost cause.

The Cubs badly need a bullpen upgrade, and the Red Sox know they're probably going to lose Workman in free agency this winter. A trade to Chicago makes sense on multiple levels.

First, and most obviously, the Cubs need a reliable arm at the back end. Workman saved 16 games while going 10-1 last year, and he's got two saves so far this year. His mix of a dominant curveball and 95 mph fastball gives him the stuff to pitch in the late innings, and his makeup and demeanor lend him an air of unflappability that can play in the most intense glare of October, as he proved during the 2013 World Series.

So from a purely baseball perspective, Workman represents a clear upgrade. But there's a personal connection, too, because Cubs president Theo Epstein drafted Workman out of Texas in the second round of the 2010 MLB Draft before signing him to an $800,000 bonus. Epstein oversaw Workman's first professional season in 2011, when he went 6-7 as a starter at Class-A Greenville, and Epstein took pride from afar in the contributions that his former farmhands made to the 2013 crown.

Furthermore, Cubs manager David Ross caught Workman that year, including his scoreless eighth inning in Game 6 of the World Series clincher vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Ross has seen Workman's mental toughness up close, such as during the 2014 season, when Workman went 1-10 before undergoing Tommy John surgery that ended up sidelining him for two full seasons.

In addition to those personal connections, there's also the big picture. Chicago's championship core of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez, left-hander Jon Lester, and outfielder Kyle Schwarber will hit free agency either this winter or next. Since winning it all, the group has lost an NLCS and a Wild Card game, and last year it missed the playoffs entirely.

The Cubs' window is closing, but the early returns on 2020 suggest they could be poised to make one last run. Their farm system isn't what it used to be, and the Red Sox need to be realistic about what kind of return they can expect for a relief rental in a season that has already been shortened by a pandemic, but perhaps there's a deal to be made for a second-tier prospect like right-hander Keegan Thompson or left-hander Jack Patterson.

MLB Power Rankings: The Red Sox are bad... but how bad?

MLB Power Rankings: The Red Sox are bad... but how bad?

We're now two weeks into the 2020 MLB season and well... the Boston Red Sox are who we thought they were.

The Red Sox have a 4-8 record as of Thursday's off day, putting them in last place in the American League East. They're coming off a surprising 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, which ended a four-game losing streak that spotlighted just how long this 60-game season is going to be. How's that for irony?

Without Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (myocarditis), the starting pitching staff has been anchored by Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. After that, it's a bunch of guys who leave fans hoping the game isn't out of reach by the third inning.

So yeah, the Red Sox are bad, but just how bad are they? Let's see how they stack up with the rest of the league...