By Peter Santo
Dave Dombrowski is the most aggressive executive in Major League Baseball that is for certain. When Dombrowski became the Red Sox President of Baseball Operations on August 18, 2015 he inherited a last place team, but one with a budding farm system thanks to 15 years of building by former GMs Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington.
Now here we are on December 8, 2016, and almost all of that farm system has been torn down. 15 years of drafting and building traded away in less than 18 months.
Red Sox fans, myself included, will love the Chris Sale trade, as they should. Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw over the past five seasons. He’s a stud.
But there’s another side to this equation, to get Sale the Red Sox had to part ways with their two best prospects, Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.
In the last 18 months, Dombrowski has traded Moncada, Kopech, Anderson Espinoza, Travis Shaw, Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, Pat Light, Mauricio Dubon, the Basabe brothers, Victor Diaz, Wendell Rijo, and others I’m probably forgetting to acquire Sale, Kimbrel, Brad Ziegler, Aaron Hill, Drew Pomeranz, and Fernando Abad.
I can defend the Sale deal, I have to defend the Sale deal. You got a stud pitcher who’s pitching for about a third of what he’s worth salary wise. Additionally, Moncada looked lost in his brief stint in the Big Leagues in 2016, he was terrible in the field and couldn’t hit a curveball to save his life. No problem moving him.
But trading Anderson Espinoza, a guy the best pitcher in Red Sox history Pedro Martinez compared to himself, for Drew Pomeranz. I can’t defend that one. Even the Padres knew they were stealing Espinoza or they wouldn’t have hid Pomeranz’s medical records and gotten their GM suspended. I don’t know what’s worse, Dombrowski making the trade or Dombrowski not reversing the trade when he had the chance.
You traded one of your best pitching prospects for a guy who had a fluke three months who is now likely on his way to the bullpen or out of town. Dombrowski certainly won’t be getting Espinoza back for Pomeranz now.
I even have a hard time defending the Kimbrel trade. Kimbrel was one of the best closers in the game when he was traded from San Diego to Boston in exchange for four minor leaguers. Given how frequently stud closers emerge from out of nowhere (see Koji Uehara), did you really need to give up four of your best prospects for Kimbrel? Let’s hope that Kimbrel’s poor performance in 2016 was due to that knee injury and that a healthy Kimbrel will mean a dominant Kimbrel in 2017.
It’s okay to trade prospects for proven stars, that’s part of the reason you develop prospects in the first place. One can argue the Cherington regime went too far the other way, refusing to trade Blake Swihart for Cole Hamels for example.
But trading solid prospects for guys like Brad Ziegler, Aaron Hill, and Fernando Abad. Fernando is abad pitcher. That move was ridiculous.
Of course everything I’m saying will be rendered moot if you win a World Series before Dombrowski inevitably leaves in the next five years or so. But if you don’t, guess what, then you’re the Tigers, and you don’t want to be the Tigers.
Dombrowski did the same thing when he arrived in Detroit. He took one of the worst teams baseball had ever seen in 2004, a team that lost 119 (!!!) games, and had them in the World Series two years later.
Just like his Red Sox tenure so far, there were highlights. The lopsided trades for Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer stick out. They went for it every single year, reaching the ALCS three straight years from 2011-13, but never won a championship. But what looked like a team poised to make a run each and every year is a shell of its former self now. Scherzer left as a free agent and Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Victor Martinez are now in their mid 30s and declining.
By the time Dombrowski left the Tigers had one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Dombrowski decimated the farm system in the hope of building a dynasty in Detroit, and he failed miserably. With Verlander and Cabrera aging quickly, and the Tigers trying to get rid of Martinez, things will get worse before they get better in Detroit.
It’s clear Dombrowski didn’t learn anything from his time in the Motor City, as he’s doing the exact same thing in Boston. If Dombrowki had been in charge three years ago, Mookie Betts would’ve had his MVP caliber 2016 season somewhere else. Maybe the Sox would’ve had Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels, but I’ll take the young outfielder.
Cherington and Epstein built a Red Sox team that could win now and combined it with a farm system that would’ve allowed the Sox to compete for the next decade. In just 18 months Dombrowski has turned that 10 year window into a 3-4 year window.
This is why Epstein is the greatest GM of all time and Dombrowski is simply mediocre. Epstein had a five year plan with the Cubs, and in five years he ended a 108 year World Series drought and built a team that can win championships for the next 15 years.
Dombrowski better hope his team delivers quickly, or he better call and ask Epstein if he can borrow his gorilla costume.