The other day, we took a look at all of the moves Dave Dombrowski made while he was running the show in Detroit. It was a logical conclusion to draw that he was very good at taking a team that was one of the worst in baseball history and turned it into an American League powerhouse that was competing for the pennant year in and year out. Towards the end, the desire and mandate to win a championship for an owner whose health was declining led to some poor decisions, but there cannot be much fault found in making moves to help win a trophy.
Today, we’ll look at what Dombrowski did while steering the ship in Boston. Ultimately, he landed the top prize, but in doing so, made many more questionable decisions (depending on your perspective of questionable).
The experience in Boston and Detroit were similar in a lot of ways. In both, Dombrowski earned his reputation as moving a lot of parts. He was constantly involved in making moves in order to build his team into a championship team. With Detroit, ultimately, that prize was never achieved. One cannot say though that his rebuild was unsuccessful. Dombrowski built a team and a system that constantly brought them within reach of the trophy only to see them fall short. While he was there, he earned the reputation of a guy who “destroys the farm” for short-term gain only to actually discover that isn’t exactly true. The WAR he brought in far outweighed the WAR he sent out.
Dombrowski trades in Boston
|Team and Date||Players In||Incoming WAR||Players Out||Outgoing WAR|
|Team and Date||Players In||Incoming WAR||Players Out||Outgoing WAR|
|San Diego (11/13/15)||Craig Kimbrel||6.7||Logan Allen, Carlos Asuaje, Javy Guerra, Manuel Margot||5.9|
|Seattle (12/7/15)||Carson Smith, Roenis Elias||0.1||Jonathan Aro, Wade Miley||0.4|
|Milwaukee (7/7/16)||Aaron Hill||-0.4||Wendell Rijo, Aaron Wilkerson||-0.4|
|Arizona (7/9/16)||Brad Ziegler||0.9||Jose Almonte, Luis Alejandro Basabe||0.0|
|San Diego (7/14/16)||Drew Pomeranz||3.8||Anderson Espinoza||0.0|
|Minnesota (8/1/16)||Fernando Abad||0.2||Pat Light||-0.5|
|Chicago (12/6/16)||Chris Sale||15.2||Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, Victor Diaz||8.5|
|Milwaukee (12/6/16)||Tyler Thornburg||-0.3||Josh Pennington, Mauricio Dubon, Travis Shaw||6.4|
|Philadelphia (12/20/16)||Josh Tobias||0.0||Clay Buchholz||-0.4|
|San Francisco (7/26/17)||Eduardo Nunez||-2.1||Shaun Anderson, Gregory Santos||-0.2|
|New York (7/31/17)||Addison Reed||0.6||Gerson Bautista, Jaime Callahan, Stephen Nogosek||-0.5|
|Oakland (8/23/17)||Rajai Davis||-0.1||Rafael Rincones||0.0|
|Arizona (3/24/18)||Josh Taylor||0.0||Deven Marrero||-0.5|
|Seattle (4/23/18)||Eric Filia||0.0||Roenis Elias||1.0|
|Toronto (6/28/18)||Steve Pearce||0.5||Santiago Espinal||0.3|
|Tampa Bay (7/25/18)||Nathan Eovaldi||0.6||Jalen Beeks||0.7|
|Los Angeles (7/30/18)||Ian Kinsler||-0.3||Ty Buttrey, Williams Jerez||0.5|
|Arizona (4/19/19)||Marcus Wilson||0.0||Blake Swihart||-0.9|
|Baltimore (7/19/19)||Andrew Cashner||-0.2||Elio Prado, Noelberth Romero||0.0|
The incoming and outgoing WAR are drastically different than when Dombrowski was in Detroit, but there are some notable differences. When he joined Boston, the core of the team was already in place in the form of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi. There wasn’t much more for him to add other than some pieces around the edges that could put them over the top. So, any view of the trades he made have to be viewed through that lens: they got them to a World Series that they won. So it’s very difficult to call any of these trades a loss for Boston. After all, no matter what you hear otherwise, the goal of any organization is to win.
The first trade he made that reflected this goal was getting Chris Sale. Saying that getting Sale was a bad move because it cost them Moncada isn’t true at all. Sale in the 2018 season was dominant, even though he missed some starts, pitching to a 208 ERA+ in 158 1⁄3 innings. That is ace-level stuff, something you don’t mind giving up one of the best prospects in the game for. While the trade may look a little imbalanced when all is said and done, there cannot be a doubt that the Red Sox won that trade.
The same can be said for the Kimbrel trade in 2015. While he may not have been his (to that point) incredible self in 2016, the following two seasons, Kimbrel was everything that the team could have wanted in a closer. The prospects that the team had to give up were, at the time, some of the top prospects in the game, but as time went on, they lost a lot of their luster. It’s almost as if there is a theme with Dombrowski’s trades both here and in Detroit: when forced to give up younger players, he’s rarely missed on his evaluation of how that prospect would turn out.
He also showed some shrewdness by adding around the margins, adding a player like Steve Pearce and Nate Eovaldi to bolster the team in 2018 that needed reinforcements for what proved to be a lengthy postseason run. It’s those kinds of moves that Matt Klentak talked so much about, adding value around the margins, that he performed so poorly at.
If there was one thing that Dombrowski may have to endure some criticisms for during his time in Boston, it might be his free agent signings. Here are the major ones that led to the title in 2018.
2015 - David Price
2016 - Mitch Moreland,
2018 - Eduardo Nunez, J.D. Martinez, Ryan Brasier
2019 - Steve Pearce, Nate Eovaldi
The problem again is that when considered through the idea that Price, Moreland, Martinez, and Brasier played major roles in the team winning the World Series, they have to be considered major successes.
Where Dombrowski could be chastised is his post-championship re-signings of Pearce and Eovaldi. It was clearly a case of “Hey you won us a title, here’s your reward!” rather than a cold-hearted look at whether those players were the best allocation of resources. Seeing as how Pearce promptly turned back into a pumpkin in 2019 and Eovaldi was awful as well, perhaps Dombrowski should’ve thanked those guys for their service and sent them on their merry way. He had the money; he just chose poorly.
It was money, though, that brought about the end of Dombrowski’s time in Boston. The ownership’s desire to win on a more economical budget, even though the team is one of the richest franchises in sports, led to his eventual exit and the current status of the team, one of not having the second best player in the game for strictly financial reasons.
Drafting for Boston while Dombrowski was in charge was sketchy at best. Some of his notable prospects drafted are:
2016 - Jay Groome, Bobby Dalbec
2017 - Tanner Houck
2018 - Triston Casas, Nick Decker
2019 - no 1st rounder
The difficult part of evaluating Dombrowski’s drafting bounty during his time in Boston is that it is so recent, many if not most of the players have yet to make their major league debuts, let alone make an impact. However, looking at how the national media judges their system, there isn’t much there. From the lists that have been put out so far for 2021, Boston’s system seems shallow.
According to Baseball America, Casas looks like one of the only prospects drafted by Dombrowski that could be an above average starter. Many of the other names would make fine starters, but there isn’t that impact guy that teams love to brag about. Baseball Prospectus said about the system, “The Red Sox system continues to improve, but it’s more depth than top-end talent at present.” Is that something that the team needs, more depth? It’s possible since they can buy just about anyone they actually want to at the major league level, but it’s clear they want to be a draft-and-develop first organization and not have to spend on talent at the major league level. That’s why Dombrowski left.
So while it’s fair to say that he didn’t get them that one blue chip guy, he also didn’t leave the cupboard bare either.
The reigns in Boston and Detroit were very different for Dave Dombrowski. One was a total rebuild, the other was a push over the top job. Looking back on both, it’s easy to see that he did both jobs exceptionally well. There were hiccups along the way for both, but especially in Boston, he did what he was brought in to do: win the World Series.
The hope is that in Philadelphia, he is able to combine both treks he took and leave the team well stocked and in position to win year in, year out as he did in Detroit, but also provide that extra push he gave in Boston. Based on his track record, he should be able to accomplish both quite well.