Add Chaim Bloom to the list of the key offseason acquisitions by the Cardinals since the merciful end to their 71-91 freefall in 2023.
Bloom doesn’t pitch, or hit, play defense or run the bases. But this respected baseball executive is already providing value as a new contributor to the St. Louis front office.
The Cardinals hired Bloom as an advisor to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. That’s a welcome addition. And from the looks of it, Bloom already has dispensed advice to aid STL’s pursuit of pitching.
As Blake Newberry helpfully noted at Viva El Birdos:
“What do Nick Robertson, Ryan Fernandez, Victor Santos, Andrew Kittredge, and Riley O’Brien all have in common? They now pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and have some sort of association with Chaim Bloom.”
Yes. That is correct. And this isn’t can’t be a coincidence. If Bloom offered some unofficial, off the books, pre-hiring assessments of available pitching candidates, Mozeliak and general manager Michael Girsch evidently were listening.
– Hard-throwing reliever Nick Robertson was acquired by the Red Sox last summer. As Boston’s chief baseball officer Bloom got the high-upside Robertson from the Dodgers in exchange for utility man Kiké Hernandez.
– Boston later traded Robertson and Santos to the Cardinals for outfielder Tyler O’Neill. Bloom didn’t make that deal; he was abruptly fired by Red Sox ownership late in the 2023 season. But both Robertson and Santos were brought to Boston in earlier moves made by Bloom.
– The Cardinals selected Ryan Fernandez in the Rule 5 draft and were enthusiastic about getting him. Fernandez was chosen off the Boston roster. Bloom wasn’t responsible for bringing Fernandez to Boston, but he certainly knows a lot about the right-hander who has a 28 percent strikeout rate in the minors. Fernandez was promoted to Triple A by the Red Sox last season.
— Righty relievers Andrew Kittredge and Riley O’Brien were acquired by the Tampa Bay organization during Bloom’s extensive 14-year term in the Rays’ front office – serving as the senior vice president of baseball operations during his final three seasons there.
– The Rays drafted O’Brien, traded him to Cincinnati after Bloom made the move to Boston. The Reds traded O’Brien to Seattle. Last season O’Brien had 15 saves for the Mariners’ Triple A affiliate and struck out an average of 14.1 batters per nine innings. The Cards purchased O’Brien from Seattle on Nov. 5.
– Seattle signed Kittredge as an amateur free agent and later traded him to the Rays before the 2017 season. Kittredge developed into an All-Star reliever for Tampa Bay in 2021. The Cardinals jumped at the chance to acquire Kittredge in a trade for outfielder Richie Palacios.
The Cardinals formally announced Bloom’s hiring Monday. But Bloom clearly got an early-bird start by providing information on the five pitchers gathered by the Cardinals as part of their bullpen restructuring.
At Tampa Bay, Bloom moved up in the baseball-ops hierarchy through hard work and became an integral part of the Rays’ tremendous player-development machine. More than anything, Bloom was heralded for his performance in identifying, drafting and developing young pitching.
That’s why Bloom is such a terrific fit for the Cardinals. They need help in this area.
I’m sure many Cardinals fans are wondering why Bloom lost his job in Boston. Here’s my somewhat flippant answer: I don’t know but you could ask Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington and Dave Dombrowski. All were either run off (Epstein) or fired (Cherington and Dombrowski) by Boston’s tempestuous and fickle ownership group led by John Henry.
That’s quite remarkable considering that the Red Sox won multiple World Series with Epstein, Cherington and Dombrowski in charge of baseball ops. Bloom was hired to lead the baseball department in October of 2019 and lasted until his firing on Sept. 14 of the 2023 season.
Henry wanted to create the New England version of the Tampa Bay Rays – a model of superb player development, a lower payroll, and highly efficient roster construction. Bloom was the ideal choice. He had built a low-payroll hellion at Tampa Bay.
“He possesses the essential qualities to establish a sustainable baseball operation throughout the organization with an emphasis on long-term success at the major league level,” Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said at the time of Bloom’s appointment.
Bloom soon discovered that he was working for an owner who changed his mind depending on the way the wind was blowing at Fenway Park. That includes the hot air directed at him by yapping fans and media.
Bloom inherited a barren Boston farm system that ranked near the bottom of the MLB rankings and improved it to 15th by the time of his dismissal.
Ownership wanted to reduce payroll to avoid higher financial penalties in luxury-tax prison. When Bloom took over, he had to deal with a payroll clogged by some $550 million in long-term commitments to pitchers David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale plus designated hitter J.D. Martinez.
Bloom attempted to keep outfielder Mookie Betts in Boston with a generous contract extension, but Mookie declined. This did not go over well with the owners. Bloom traded Betts to the Dodgers in a deal that turned into an embarrassment for the Red Sox. Bloom got the blame, but it isn’t that simple.
Betts signed a 12-year, $365-million contract to stay with the Dodgers. Do we really think Boston’s owners wanted to spend that much? Bloom was hardly an independent lone wolf who made the decision all by himself.
I could argue that Bloom’s worst decision was handing a six-year, $140 million free-agent deal to broken-down shortstop Trevor Story. (Thankfully the Cardinals avoided that trap, despite their fans’ pleading for Story.) And Bloom’s five-year, $90 million investment in Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida doesn’t look so good, either. But Yoshida may have needed a season to adjust.
But Bloom constantly received mixed messages from the owner. Spend. Cut payroll. Spend. Cut payroll. Spend. No. Wait. Cut Payroll. Go spend. Make trades and go all-in. No. Hold on. Don’t do that. Don’t spend.
Esteemed baseball analyst Joe Sheehan wrote about Boston’s toxic ownership style in a recent newsletter filing.
“Boston’s four titles in 15 years have served to mask considerable instability and even chaos in how the Sox have been run under John Henry,” Sheehan wrote. “Theo Epstein was more or less run out of town by ownership after 2011, and manager Terry Francona was let go with him, despite two World Series in eight years together. Ben Cherington inherited the GM job and lost a season to ownership’s foisting Bobby Valentine on him. In Cherington’s second year, with John Farrell managing, the Sox won the World Series. Not two years after that, though, Cherington was let go, and then Farrell followed after the 2017 season.
“Now, not a year after winning a World Series title, Dombrowski (was) gone. I understand the argument that it’s worked, given the 2013 and 2018 championships, but we don’t talk about John Henry like he’s a lost Steinbrenner cousin, and maybe we should.
“Henry moved quickly to replace Dombrowski with Bloom … in the way that swapping out Cherington for Dombrowski was a statement about what Henry wanted the Red Sox to be, swapping out Dombrowski for Bloom — after two years of $240 million competitive balance tax payrolls — was much the same.
“There are many who deem Bloom’s time in Boston to be a failure. Not only am I not one of them, I think Henry should be embarrassed by not having the courage of his convictions.”
Sheehan added: “Bloom inherited a team that had the highest payroll in the sport and an owner that didn’t want that to be the case any more. The Red Sox had been unable to sign Mookie Betts to an extension, leaving Bloom with an impossible task while he was still figuring out where the bathrooms were.”
R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports noted the difficulty of Bloom’s assignment at Fenway. “League sources who have spoke to CBS Sports noted that (Bloom) had to deal with some rough circumstances, including inheriting outdated infrastructure and a cabal of tenured assistant general managers.”
(Translation: back stabbers.)
Back to the Cardinals …
It isn’t necessary to make predictions now, but Bloom’s hiring puts him in position to succeed Mozeliak when Mo’s contract expires after the 2025 season. But Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. will make that decision. And Bloom – at least for 2024 – wants to continue living in New England with his wife (Aliza) and sons. In turning down an offer from the Marlins after the 2023 season, Bloom said he didn’t want to disrupt his family’s routine – especially the education of his sons. But by the end of 2025 season, the timing could be less of a concern.
In his advisory role, Bloom will have a chance to learn more about the Cardinals and what needs to be done. He’ll also have to grow comfortable and confident about a potential working relationship with DeWitt Jr. and Bill DeWitt III. I commend Bloom for taking his time instead of rushing back into the fray. The Cardinals are indirectly giving Bloom a chance to audition – but let’s also understand this: he’ll be auditioning the Cardinals.
The Cardinals need Bloom’s expertise in player development. That includes getting the franchise up to speed in putting in an advanced pitching program that will give their pitchers – young dudes and veterans – the tools they need to improve and maximize their talent.
The Cardinals must fix this. Since 2015 the organization has misspent too many draft choices on pitchers that didn’t pass the test, and that has created an acute shortage of homegrown talent.
1. Only one of their five starting pitchers, Lance Lynn, was drafted and developed by St. Louis. But Lynn also pitched elsewhere from 2018 through 2023 until signing a one-year deal with the Cardinals earlier this offseason.
2. The pool of 11 current bullpen candidates for the 2024 roster includes only three pitchers drafted and developed by Mozeliak’s baseball operation: Ryan Helsley, Zack Thompson and Andre Pallante.
3. From 2015 through 2018, the Cardinals used first-pound draft choices on starting pitchers Jake Woodford, Dakota Hudson, and Griffin Roberts. They used a second-rounder on Connor Jones. To this point only Woodford and Hudson made it to the big club, and both are gone. Roberts and Jones were busts, released by the organization.
4. Other young pitchers have been used as trade pieces. In some cases, that worked out fine. Austin Gomber went to Colorado in the Nolan Arenado trade. Luke Weaver was dealt to Arizona as part of the Paul Goldschmidt trade. But other maneuvers turned out poorly – most notably the deal that sent future NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and future All-Star Zac Gallen to Miami for outfielder Marcell Ozuna. After getting traded from the Marlins to the Diamondbacks, Gallen has received Cy Young votes in three different seasons. Flipping lefty starter Marco Gonzalez to Seattle for future Injured List All-Star Tyler O’Neill wasn’t what Mozeliak hoped for.
5. From 2015 through 2019, five seasons, the Cardinals got 61.6 total WAR from pitchers they drafted, or signed as amateurs, and developed.
5a. But over the past five seasons (2019-2023) the Cards have gotten only 12.3 WAR from their organization-developed pitchers. My goodness.
The Cardinals have some young starters in training, working their way through the system: Tink Hence, Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy and Cooper Hjerpe and Ian Bedell. All are talented, but what is their ceiling? Can they stay healthy? Can they become something more than a depth piece or part of a trade package?
Mozeliak did a fine job of replenishing the precariously lean pitching depth by trading contract-year veterans for pitching prospects that include Tekoah Roby, Drew Rom, Sem Robberse and Adam Kloffensteing. We’ll see how they come along.
With the exorbitant cost of buying pitching – and the scary risk of trading elite prospects for pitching – the Cardinals have to end the cycle of frustration and desperation. They can’t go on like this. They have to restore their internal pipeline and have it pumping as a rich source of pitching.
Bloom can make a difference – and not just with his acumen in pitching development. The St. Louis baseball operation has an urgent need for a new voice, sharpened vision and a fresh outlook that can put an end to the constant echo chamber that exists at Busch Stadium. DeWitt’s baseball ops headquarters must become more enlightened and willing to change from the old and the comfortable and the stale. The front-office setup must be reordered with a driven force of forward-thinking, cutting-edge, and technologically advanced thinkers.
If nothing else, Chaim Bloom can get this renewal project started. He can help the Cardinals modernize, and that’s overdue. Bloom may not succeed Mozeliak after 2025, but as an advisor he can start to push the baseball operation in the right direction.
Thanks for reading …
A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
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All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible. Baseball Prospectus, Bill James Online or Sports Info Solutions unless otherwise noted.
For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.