With now almost 3 years as President of Baseball Operations of the Boston Red Sox under his belt, it seems a fair time to take a look back at Dave Dombrowski and evaluate the job he has done. Please scroll down all the way to the end and participate in our survey grading Dombrowski and let your voice be heard.
The Beginning – Business as Usual
The beginning of Dave’s tenure was about as ungraceful as it gets, and really due to no fault of his own. After being let go by the Tigers, following a string of disappointing ends to strong seasons in Detroit, the Red Sox were entering a transitional phase in the organization with Ben Cherington preaching youth, advanced metrics, moneyball and patience. Youth is something the Red Sox had acquired a lot of, but patience is not a strength of John Henry (or Red Sox Nation for that matter). Henry appeared to see value in all the work put in by Cherington and his predecessor and mentor Theo Epstein, but he also seemingly wanted someone as hungry as he was to put Boston back on top. Not many had a stronger trade resume than Dave Dombrowski.
The rest is history. In steps Dave Dombrowski as President of Baseball Operations and he is handed the keys to the kingdom. All baseball decisions are to be made by him. Seeing the writing on the wall, out steps General Manager Ben Cherington.
Many Red Sox fans, myself included, were skeptical of the change. After watching Dombrowski dismember Detroit’s farm system piece by piece without a single ring to show for it, was our impatience getting the best of us? Despite the great trade resume, Dombrowski left Detroit with no rings and a long rebuild ahead.
However, Dave immediately put our fears at ease stating that no one is untouchable but there are some guys in the system that he will be very hard-pressed to find a deal that he’d be happy with (aka Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Christian Vazquez, etc). The core that Cherington and Epstein had put together would remain together.
My early grade for Dombrowski was an absolute and clear A+. He came into an awkward situation in one of the toughest markets in baseball and showed his hunger to win while comforting Red Sox Nation that this core of young budding superstars was likely to stay intact. His presence immediately seemed to reinvigorate Red Sox Nation as we all felt a hell of a storm coming.
Dealin’ Dave Lives Up to His Reputation
Dave Dombrowski wasted no time showing us his other side. On November 13, 2015, Dombrowski acquired one of the best closers in baseball in Craig Kimbrel in exchange for 4 prospects (Manuel Margot; Javier Guerra; Carlos Asuaje; Logan Allen). Margot was the marquis piece in the deal and was already a master with the glove. However, numerous scouts questioned if the hit tool would ever come around. (Remember former Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias who was on Dombrowski’s Detroit squad?) In December 2015, he traded for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias in exchange for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. He then turned around and signed star pitcher David Price to a $217 million deal. Within minutes, Dave was a superstar in Red Sox Nation. While many of us were hyped on Margot’s potential, there were only 3 or 4 closers in the league that could compare to Kimbrel, if that. Price was coming off a superb run in Detroit, besides an up and down finish to 2015 in Toronto. But not only had Dave gotten the Red Sox the “ace” they needed (following 2015’s “I’m the Ace” joke), he had taken the ace away from the rival Blue Jays.
Again Dombrowski found himself grading out with a solid A+. However, this grade must be amended to a C, given Price & Smith have both struggled at varying levels with injury and performance since joining the team. While neither was a bad deal, they seem pretty neutral today.
A Sneaky Good Deal
Just before the soon coming Pomeranz trade, Dombrowski tightened up the bullpen by acquiring Brad Ziegler in exchange for Luis Alejandro Basabe & Jose Almote. This remains one of Dombrowski’s best deals as he solidified the bullpen without giving up anything. He also traded Aaron Wilkerson and Wendell Rijo to Milwaukee for Aaron Hill around the same time giving the Sox some needed infield depth.
These were good deals that cost the Sox nothing and gave them necessary pieces they needed. Solid A.
The Questionable Deal
In July of 2016, Dave Dombrowski faced his first major criticisms from Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox acquired Drew Pomeranz from the Padres in exchange for “the future Pedro Martinez,” Anderson Espinoza. But even Pedro Martinez himself, who was very high on Espinoza, spoke out in support of Dombrowski’s move and the need for the Red Sox to acquire a starting pitcher who could help them win now.
Pomeranz, a reliever turned starter, had impressed in San Diego and made his first All-Star team. However, there were still questions about his makeup and more importantly, his long injury history which looked very unfavorable in comparison with an 18-year old fire-baller.
But as he has many times before, Dave came through and the rest is history. Pomeranz has become perhaps the Red Sox most reliable starter when healthy and Espinoza spent 2017 on the shelf with Tommy John surgery, a huge (often career-derailing) road bump in any young pitcher’s career.
A Fan Favorite is Traded Away – The Rare Mistake
Following a so-so finish to 2016, Dombrowski decided it was time for a shake up. He traded away Travis Shaw, Josh Pennington, Mauricio Dubon and Yeison Coca for Tyler Thornburg, handing the 1st base duties to Hanley Ramirez and the 3rd base duties to Pablo Sandoval (both questionable moves at the time).
While its hard to call this a mistake, as the current Red Sox would not have a spot for Shaw in the lineup, Shaw has performed at a high level in Milwaukee while Thornburg has yet to pitch at the major league level since joining the Red Sox. I think its safe to say we could have gotten a much better return on Shaw, but hindsight is 20/20 (remember Anthony Rizzo?).
On top of that, Red Sox fans began to become concerned that though we’d hung onto all but 1 of our top prospects, we had gotten rid of too many future depth pieces. The system was becoming thin.
Chris Sale Buys You All the Forgiveness You Will Ever Need at Any Cost
No statement could ever be more true. On the same day as the Tyler Thornburg trade, Dombrowski turned around and traded #1 MLB prospect Yoan Moncada, highly regarded prospect and fire-baller Michael Kopech (who reaches 105 MPH on the radar gun), Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz for former White Sox ace Chris Sale. Since joining the Red Sox, Sale has been a top 5 pitcher in baseball and even better than he was in Chicago. While he wore down at the end of his first season in Boston, he still recorded over 300 strikeouts for the first time since Kershaw in 2015 (who was the first since Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling both did so in 2001).
Following this trade, I think its been safe to say Dombrowski can do no wrong.
What do you think?
We didn’t cover all of Dombrowski’s deals and signings here today, but how do you grade out Dombrowski’s work since joining the Red Sox? Take our survey and let us know in the comments section below.