By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
Since Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski chose to fiddle while his defending World Series championship club continued to burn at the MLB trade deadline almost two weeks ago – or worse yet, had his hands tied by John Henry and the rest of ownership leading up to the July 31st date – his squad has chosen to follow suit.
Since Dombrowski essentially chose to fold instead of doubling down and adding the much-needed bullpen help that the soon to be former champs needed to have any hopes of defending their title, his team has taken the lead from their big boss and circled the drain as well. Their 3-9 record since the end of July shows that they know they are cooked, and the rest of the regular season is just a formality.
There may be many reasons why the boys of summer who call Fenway Park home slipped into the abyss of apathy that the Celtics charted as an atypical course for fans of Boston sports late last winter, but rest assured, they won’t be missed. As long as the two GOATs continue to seemingly lock horns/win Super Bowls some 40 minutes south in Foxboro, this will be a Patriots town that is way too used to happy endings (pun intended).
Let’s face it after he was brought on board by the Red Sox in August of 2015 to right the sinking ship that Ben Cherington had led into the shoals, Dombrowski did what he was hired to do and took his scorched earth policy of bleeding the organization dry of young talent to trade for players who could help his team win now.
And while his track record of deals in Boston has its fair share of potholes along the way, it did deliver a team that set a franchise record for regular-season wins in ‘18 and steamrolled the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers on the way to Henry’s fourth championship since they took over the team in 2001.
When contacted this weekend about the pitching prospects that might be able to somewhat offset what already looks like onerous contracts to fading aces David Price (3 years remaining after this season at $31M/yr.) and Chris Sale (5 years, $145 extension that begins in 2020) a source with in-depth knowledge of the Sox arms in the farm system was blunt in their assessment of the borderline pitiful pool of pitching prospects that are on the horizon.
“[The Red Sox] only have one guy that is close to being in the big leagues, Kyle Hart. [He’s] a tall lefty that has the ability to pitch and doesn’t get scared [on the mound],” was the alarming response to what is only likely to become a bigger problem if Price and Sale continue to under-deliver on their nearly $60M combined salary over the next several years.
Given the fact that Hart – the 2016 draft pick out of Indiana is now 26 years old and was not even ranked in the Sox list of top prospects prior to the start of the season – pretty much came out of nowhere to becoming the top arm in the organization when it comes to those who could compete for a spot on the big league club, should be sobering news to the baseball fans in Boston.
Couple that with the fact that Mookie Betts – who is the best bargaining chip that Henry’s club has to not only help build for the future but could possibly yield the talent that his team needs to remain a viable World Series contender next year – and his unwillingness to sign an extension before hitting free agency next fall with dominate what the Red Sox do this offseason.
If, as some have speculated, Henry and the Sox brass didn’t trust Dombrowski to once again dip into an ever-increasingly small prospect pool at the deadline to help his club that was still somewhat considered contenders 10 days ago, why would the owner trust him to make a decision on the biggest asset they currently have going forward?
Unlike in 2014 when then team president Larry Lucchino arrogantly urged Henry to bring the ’13 team that found lightning in a bottle the previous summer with more patchwork than your grandmom’s quilt while at the same time lowballing Jon Lester who publicly said he would take less to pitch in Boston, the ’19 Sox had a legitimate chance to get back to the World Series this October.
Instead, Dombrowski never gave his second-year manager Alex Cora anything close to a playoff-caliber bullpen and spent prematurely (Sale) and foolishly (Nathan Eovaldi, $17M/4 years) and in doing so, essentially tied the anchor to this Sox team that is sinking like a stone due to such missteps.
Headed into what could be one of the most important offseasons since he took over nearly two decades ago, Henry needs to find a general manager who can balance building the farm back up by looking to deal assets like Betts, while keeping what should still be a contending major league roster competitive as well.
Clearly, Dombrowski is not that guy.