By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
The prevailing thought that the Red Sox were beaten to the punch by the New York Yankees in the trade that took place on Wednesday night, involving former White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, is just plain silly. While team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski may have been sniffing around to see what acquiring Frazier would cost with Chicago GM Rick Hahn; he most certainly could not afford to pay the price that Brian Cashman doled out to get the trio.
The fact that most of the focus for the Sox current needs seem to center around the hot-corner, quite frankly, is pretty peculiar. No doubt, the position has been a black hole offensively all season; however, unless you add the likes of a Manny Machado – which is never going to happen, no matter what ESPN’s Buster Olney is smoking – the impact of any third baseman Dombrowski is able to get will only likely be a marginal improvement for the last two months of the season.
What is more pressing – and is being magnified by the ridiculous schedule the team has had to handle since the All-Star break – is help for the back of the bullpen.
Ironically, once Red Sox manager John Farrell felt comfortable enough with announcing that Joe Kelly was his 8th inning guy going forward; it took only 45 minutes to scuttle that plan, as the guy with the easiest to hit 100 mile-an-hour fastball in all of baseball, went on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring injury.
Since Kelly went down on Saturday, manager John has been left with having to patch it together at the end of games, often times featuring Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes to get to closer Craig Kimbrel.
That is a combination that should rob more hours of sleep from Dombrowski, than Deven Marrero hitting his weight while playing a stellar third base, ever should.
Due to the number of prospects that he has sent packing over the last couple of years, Dombrowski no longer has at his disposal one of the best minor-league systems in the game, to pull talent from to make a deal at the deadline. That is why the deal that the Yanks made on Wednesday night, would be close to impossible for him to make, without draining his limited prospect pool dry.
What makes more sense – especially, if he does what he did last year and makes an early deal, rather than waiting for the deadline – his focus should be on an 8th inning guy or a closer, that can serve as the bridge to Kimbrel. Someone like the New York Mets’ – who GM Sandy Alderson admitted at the All-Star game would likely be sellers – Addison Reed, that would cost a mid-level prospect, and not a Rafael Devers, a Jay Groome, or a Michael Chavis.
Dombrowski has a bird-in-hand when it comes his issue at third base. Rafael Devers – who was recently called up to Triple-A Pawtucket from Double-A Portland – continues to impress in his growth and development, at the tender age of 20.
The consensus Sox third baseman of the future, recently talked to WEEI’s John Hand about the opportunity that exists in Boston for him, perhaps sooner rather than later. Hand writes:
“It does (motivate me),” Devers said about the Red Sox third base issues. “It is out of (my) control, so there is nothing (I) can do about it. The fact that there is an opportunity there does inspire and motivate (me) to work harder.
“The Red Sox are pretty forthright with (me) about their thought process and wanting to take time and be patient with (me). (I) did all (I) could every day to make sure this step would happen.”
Unless there are red flags that no one in the Red Sox organization is willing to discuss publicly, it makes no sense for them to spend more assets at the position, if Devers is capable of contributing right away to the big league club. It is a widely accepted assumption that he will start the season at the position with the team next season, so why spend future currency on something you might already have?
The upside for Devers is far greater than anything Dombrowski might be able to get at the deadline; and it is much more likely that an upgrade to the back of the bullpen will be much more important in the playoffs, than a marginal upgrade at third and in the line up.
Dombrowski has spent liberally with the talent he inherited when he took over the team from former general manager Ben Cherington, in August of 2015. The time has come for him to find out whether those he held onto – in this case, Devers – is ready to pay dividends.