Red Sox' bottom-10 farm system ranking is indictment of team's entire plan
Tomase: Red Sox' farm system ranking is an indictment of entire plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
One of the sneaky worst moments of the PR disaster known as Red Sox Winter Weekend was chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom -- while trying to make himself heard above restless boos -- telling fans how much better they have it now than when he arrived in late 2019.
"You follow this organization," he said. "You know there wasn't a whole lot coming."
Here's what Bloom was effectively saying: "Trust us. Help is on the way. We're in a much better place now."
The Red Sox had to let Mookie Betts walk because they lacked the young talent to support such a massive contract. But now? Huzzah! The prospect pipeline should start spewing cheap big leaguers any day, which made it safe to open the floodgates for Rafael Devers. The Dodgers win this way, and soon the Red Sox will, too.
Tomase: MLB prospects expert rates four Red Sox in his new top 100 ranking
So imagine our surprise when The Athletic's Keith Law released his organizational talent rankings on Thursday and we started scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling.
We scrolled right on by the Orioles (3rd) and the Rays (5th) and the Yankees (14th) and the Blue Jays (17th), who have graduated most of their best prospects to the big leagues. We even scrolled past Dave Dombrowski's Philadelphia Phillies (22nd), which must be a typo, because Dombo had to go less than a year after winning the World Series for leaving the Red Sox system in tatters.
Finally, we alit upon the Red Sox: 23rd, one spot in front of the Padres, who have traded pretty much every prospect who wasn't nailed down over the last two years. Law credits the Red Sox with solid hitting prospects, "but their group of pitching prospects is one of the weakest." He adds that there might not be a future big-league starting pitcher at any level of the minor leagues.
It would be one thing if the middling system resulted from a focus on the big-league product. Phillies fans aren't complaining about last year's run to the World Series, for instance.
It's another entirely when almost every decision over the last three years has prioritized the future over the present and now that future looks ... meh. The Red Sox traded Betts because they couldn't surround him with young talent. Outside of Trevor Story, they have sat out every high-priced free agent since Bloom arrived. With the exception of Kyle Schwarber in 2021, they've only used the trade deadline to acquire young players.
And for what? The No. 23 farm system in baseball. That's only two spots higher than the 25th-ranked organization Bloom inherited, which calls into question the team's entire plan moving forward. There's no way we're pinning our hopes on a bottom-10 farm system. There just can't be.
And yet, what's the alternative? The current big-league roster is what happens when you dump an old box of green army men in search of the ones that aren't missing limbs or bazookas. You can technically build a platoon, but it's just kinda sad.
Maybe there's more. Maybe the Red Sox are gearing up a $500 million offer for Shohei Ohtani next winter. Maybe the farm system is better than we think, since Baseball America hasn't released its rankings yet and has generally been more bullish than Law. Marcelo Mayer is still considered a future All-Star. It only takes one other Ceddanne Rafaela or Bryan Mata to hit their ceilings and render the rankings irrelevant.
Or maybe that's grasping at optimism, because otherwise there's nothing.
Later in his comments at Winter Weekend, Bloom noted that failing to build the farm system could lead to a five-year rebuild. "That's not acceptable to you guys," he said. "That can't happen in Boston."
The system he inherited from Dombrowski included many of today's top young players: Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, Rafaela, Mata, Tanner Houck.
In the three-plus years since, the Red Sox have climbed exactly two spots in Law's rankings. So here's a terrifying thought: What if that five-year rebuild actually starts now?