Grading Chaim Bloom's free-agent signings over last two offseasons

Grading Chaim Bloom's FA signings over last two offseasons originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

This offseason could make or break Chaim Bloom’s tenure in Boston.

After a last-place 2022 season, Red Sox’ chief baseball officer will need to step out of his comfort zone and spend big to satisfy fans ahead of next year’s campaign. Finding a way to keep star shortstop Xander Bogaerts should be priority No. 1, then Bloom will need to find a way to fill the various other holes throughout the rest of the roster.

Predicting where Red Sox free agents will sign this offseason

If Bloom’s past Red Sox signings are any indication of what’s to come, fans should brace for disappointment. Outside of middle infielder Trevor Story’s $140 million contract, Bloom has refused to break the bank on star free agents. Almost all of his contracts have been cheap one or two-year deals.

Before the 2022-23 MLB free-agent market heats up, here’s a look back at Bloom’s signings over the last two offseasons with grades for each (only major-league contracts included). He’ll look to improve on these marks over the next few months.

Trevor Story, 2B: Six years, $140 million

The jury is still out on this one. Story disappointed in his first season with Boston, playing in only 94 games due to injuries and posting a career-low .737 OPS. His glove was a huge plus at second base, but the ex-Colorado Rockies slugger is being paid to be a major offensive contributor. Outside of a red-hot month of May, that hasn’t panned out yet.

There is still time for Story to make himself worth every penny of his $140 million deal. He might even take on a bigger role next season and move over to shortstop if Xander Bogaerts isn’t re-signed.

Grade: B-

Jake Diekman, LHP: Two years, $8 million

Bloom attempted to shore up the back end of the bullpen last offseason by signing Diekman and Matt Strahm. That plan backfired as Boston ranked toward the bottom of the league in bullpen ERA. Diekman didn’t help the cause as he allowed 18 runs and posted a 1.49 WHIP in 38.1 innings with the Red Sox. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Reese McGuire before the deadline.

Grade: F

Matt Strahm, LHP: One year, $3 million

Unlike Diekman, Strahm was a usable reliever for the majority of the 2022 campaign. The southpaw posted a 3.83 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 50 appearances (44.2 innings). Don’t be surprised if he returns to the Red Sox on another short-term contract this offseason.

Grade: B

James Paxton, LHP: One year, $10 million

This is a tricky one as the “one-year, $10 million” is deceiving. Paxton didn’t throw a pitch for the Red Sox in 2022, so he actually only received $6 million. The good news is Paxton had a $4 million player option for 2023 that he exercised last week. That means barring any further setbacks, the deal could end up being a bargain. But until Paxton proves he can stay healthy, the grade has to be low.

Grade: D-

Rich Hill, LHP: One year, $5 million

Hill did exactly what he was asked to do in his age 42 season. The veteran southpaw gave the Red Sox 26 starts (124.1 IP) to shore up the back end of the starting rotation. The numbers weren’t spectacular, but they were good enough to warrant the $5 million contract. Another one-year deal with Boston certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Grade: B

Michael Wacha, RHP: One year, $7 million

Bloom nailed this one. Wacha was Boston’s best starting pitcher in 2022, going 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 23 starts (127.1 IP). Now, we wait to see whether the Red Sox front office rewards the veteran righty with a new contract in free agency.

Grade: A

Marwin Gonzalez, UTIL: One year, $3 million

Gonzalez hit just .202 with two homers and a .567 OPS in 77 games before being released by the Red Sox in August 2021. On the bright side, he gave Boston plenty of defensive versatility during his brief tenure.

Grade: D-

Hirokazu Sawamura, RHP: Two years, $2.4 million

Sawamura wasn’t dominant by any stretch of the imagination, but $2.4 million over two years was a bargain given his production, especially in 2021. In his debut season with Boston, he had a 3.06 ERA in 55 appearances out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, walks were a major issue during his time with the club (5.4 BB/9 in 2021, 4.8 BB/9 in 2022).

Grade: C

Garrett Richards, RHP: One year, $5.5 million

Richards simply could never find his groove during his lone season in Boston. He posted a 4.87 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP in 40 appearances (22 starts) during the 2021 campaign. This was a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing that just did not pay off.

Grade: D-

Kiké Hernandez, OF: Two years, $14 million

The signing of Hernandez was a major contributor to Boston’s shocking 2021 ALCS berth. The super utility man found a home in center field where he provided Gold Glove-caliber defense, and he didn’t disappoint with the bat either. He finished the regular season with 20 homers and a .786 OPS, then went on to produce one of the greatest postseason performances in recent memory.

Injuries plagued Hernandez throughout the 2022 season, but he’ll be back for 2023 as he re-signed with Boston on a one-year, $10 million deal.

Grade: A-

Hunter Renfroe, OF: One year, $3.1 million

Like Hernandez, Renfroe was a big reason the Red Sox snuck into the 2021 postseason. He was one of Boston’s best offensive players, slugging 31 homers with 96 RBI and a .816 OPS. That didn’t carry into the playoffs, however, as he was a brutal 1-for-16 at the plate during the ALCS.

Renfroe was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects after the 2021 campaign. Given the glaring absence of a consistent right fielder last season, that move has been scrutinized. Nonetheless, $3.1 million for that 2021 season was a big-time bargain.

Grade: A