Chaim Bloom/Brian O’Halloran front office WAA impact for Boston Red Sox: -4.6 games. Rank in MLB: T-22. Rank in division: 5.
The Boston Red Sox concluded the 2023 season in the unfamiliar and highly uncomfortable position of demonstrably having the least effective front office operation in baseball’s spotlight division, the AL East.
That judgment doesn’t merely reflect the standings, although it could. In 2023, for the third time in four seasons under the co-administration of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran, the Sox finished last in the AL East, this time winning only 78 games.
The last time that string of lack of success occurred in Boston was in 2015, and Sox ownership reacted by firing GM Ben Cherington. This year, Bloom met the same fate.
The standings, of course, often don’t tell the full story, althoughm in the case of he Red Sox, they’re not far from it. Since the conclusion of the 2022 postseason, the Bloom-O’Halloran team made 51 moves impacting the status of a major league roster. Only 15 of those moves worked to the benefit of the Red Sox; 32 were damaging while four were neutral.
As measured by WAA, the net impact of those moves on Red Sox 2023 fortunes amounted to -4.6 games.
WAA is used in this series of front office evaluations because it is a zero-based version of WAR, therefore enabling valid approximations of impact against wins and losses.
In Boston, the roster damage occurred less due to what management imported and more due to what it allowed to be exported. Since the end of the 2022 postseason, Bloom and O’Halloran either released or lost to free agency 13 players who subsequently signed with a different MLB team. Eight of those 13 produced positive impacts for the teams that signed them.
The headline loss, obviously, was the team’s failure to find a way to re-sign shortstop Xavier Bogaerts. He went to San Diego and contributed +2.3 games of value to the Padres’ own fated cause.
But it wasn’t just loss of celebrities. The Sox were hit especially hard at the level of second-tier pitching talent.
In one sweeping gesture last November, pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, Ryan Brasier and Matt Strahm were all released onto the open market. The combined impact of those four arms on the signing teams amounted to +5.7 WAA. In this context, it may be worth noting that the Red Sox ranked 11th in the AL in team ERA.
One might plead financial hardship in the loss of such talent as the five above-named players. Certainly the signings of Bogaerts in particular, but also Wacha and Eovaldi, did not come cheap to the Padres or Rangers.
But fairness compels me to also note that at a time when other teams were jacking up salaries the Red Sox (not exactly running a shoestring operation) reduced payroll by $25 million over the past offseason.
Here’s the short-term and long-term statistical profile on the 2023 performance of Boston’s Bloom/O’Halloran leadership team. All figures reflect Wins Above Average
Acquired by trade, waiver claim or purchase
- Since October 2022: 13 players, -2.5 net impact
- Prior to October 2023: 5 players, +1.3 net impact
Signed as a free agent or extended for multiple seasons
- Since October 2022: 14 players, -0.4 net impact
- Prior to October 2022: 3 players, -1.9 net impact
- Since October 2022: 6 players, +0.6 net impact
- Prior to October 2022: 6 players, +5.2 net impact
Traded away, waived, sold, released or lost to free agency
- Since October 2022: 18 players, +2.3 net impact
- Prior to October 2022: 15 players, -1.2 net impact
A fan of the Red Sox front office doesn’t have much to get excited about coming off 2023. Yes, Chris Martin, a December bullpen free agent pickup, had a 4-1 record and 1.05 ERA in 51 innings. That was good for +2.3 WAA. But if a second-tier bullpen arm is your highlight reel, doesn’t that illustrate the problem right there?
The highlights were supposed to include system product Triston Casas, Japanese signee Masataka Yoshida and free agent Justin Turner. While none were disappointments, neither did they move the victory needle perceptibly. The net impact of the three amounted to just +0.2 WAA.
The Bloom-O’Halloran team had an exceptional 2021 two years ago when their moves played a major role in Boston qualifying for postseason play. As a tandem, however, Bloom and O’Halloran are -4.9 in collective WAA ending this, the fourth year of their conservatorship of the Red Sox legacy.
If Boston fans aren’t happy with that, they have some reason.