Tomase: Dodgers East? Red Sox' L.A. bias may not be a coincidence originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
If Chaim Bloom's Red Sox develop according to plan, they'll one day be the Dodgers of the American League.
In the meantime, a little L.A. flavor might be their best hopes of contending in 2023.
There's a strong chance that 25 percent of the Opening Day roster will feature direct Dodgers ties, with most of those players in prominent roles.
Shortstop Kiké Hernández spent six years in L.A. as a super utilityman before landing an everyday role with the Red Sox. Closer Kenley Jansen made three All-Star teams in Dodger Blue and is the franchise's all-time saves leader. DH Justin Turner transformed from journeyman to star there. All three won a World Series together in 2020.
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But there's more. Right-hander Chris Martin left L.A. this winter to become Alex Cora's primary setup man. Left fielder Alex Verdugo is the only major piece remaining from the Mookie Betts trade, which also included potential backup catcher Connor Wong.
That's a lot of ties to the game's model organization. And the way Hernández sees it, it's no coincidence.
"It's huge, obviously," he said. "Not just the winning environment, the winning atmosphere, the culture, but also the big market. Sometimes guys that haven't played in a market like that can get a little bit intimidated by the outside noise, whether it's the media or fans.
"I feel like L.A. maybe is not like New York or Philly, but it's up there as far as expectations. If you're not playing hard, they're going to let you know. Bringing in guys that have been there, done that is going to be huge. We need as many voices as we can to help the younger guys rely on us."
That the Red Sox and Dodgers would value similar players makes sense. Bloom came of age under current Dodgers baseball boss Andrew Friedman in Tampa, and it's not hard to make the Dodgers connection when Bloom discusses his hopes for the Red Sox organization. He wants to build a perennial winner that combines a pipeline of elite homegrown talent with the resources to shop at the top of the market.
The Dodgers got there a long time ago, developing All-Stars like Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Joc Pederson, to name but a few, and augmenting them with big-ticket items like former MVPs Betts and Freddie Freeman. They also made shrewd pickups like All-Stars Justin Turner and Max Muncy, who were both plucked off the scrap heap for nothing.
Bloom's Red Sox aren't there yet, and the farm system lacks the number of can't-miss prospects that fueled L.A.'s rise, though shortstop Marcelo Mayer certainly qualifies.
What that means for this season is that Hernández, Turner, Jansen, and Martin will need to play starring roles while providing guidance and leadership to youngsters like right-hander Brayan Bello and slugging first baseman Triston Casas. It would certainly help if Verdugo takes the long-awaited step to above-average all-around player. Maybe they get a little something from Wong, too.
The Red Sox remain years away from realizing the dream of becoming Dodgers East, so in the meantime, they'll have to settle for the next best thing and hope a bunch of former Dodgers can lead the way in 2023.