By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
The Red Sox start the unofficial second half of the season on Friday night against last October’s World Series opponent the Los Angeles Dodgers at Fenway Park in a challenging position. The nine games they trail the division-leading New York Yankees entering the dog days of summer might as well be 90, as second-year manager Alex Cora’s club Cadillaced it through spring training and paid the price for that approach with their performance through much of the first three months of the current campaign.
With the trading deadline only a couple of weeks away and with a pitching staff that has been mediocre at best, Sox fans are looking to vice president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski for an arm – or two – that can turn their favorite team back into contenders. For those Fenway Faithful who are banking on Dealin’ Dave pulling the trigger on a big deal before the end of July, I have one thing to say.
Don’t hold your breath.
Red Sox vice president and special assistant to Dombrowski, Tony LaRussa, appeared on the Dale and Keefe show on WEEI with fill-in hosts Marc James – who is as difficult to listen to as fingernails down a chalkboard – and Andy Hart Thursday afternoon. What he had to say regarding where the Sox stand as the trade deadline looms, should give Boston baseball fans more than a little case of agita.
When asked why the defending World Series Champions decided to enter the season without a closer, the man that is credited/blamed for the specialization of relievers that exist in today’s game went into full spin mode.
Calling it a “smart decision “, the former manager – who has three rings of his own as a big league skipper – sounded more like an accountant than a guy who has spent his adult life around baseball.
“You put a lot of resources behind around our starting rotation, not just for this year, but for several years forward,” said the seasoned Sox exec. He went on to rationalize that the currently overpriced rotation – minus David Price, for the most part – has been the reason that the no-name back of the bullpen his boss “assembled” has the same number of saves as blown saves entering Friday night’s tilt at Fenway.
Translation – We’re so broke, we can’t pay attention.
Or a run of the mill closer, for that matter.
John Henry and the rest of the Red Sox ownership has been a lot of things since they took over the team in January of 2002 – shortsighted, arrogant, stubborn and improvident are a few that come to mind – but they have never been cheap.
However, after getting stuck with more dead money on his books for his club than most third-world country’s gross national profit in 2019 – nearly $50 million for guys like Rusney Castillo ($11.7M), Dustin Pedroia ($15.1M) and Pablo Sandoval ($18.5M), to name a few – the famous low-talker has decided to lower his losses over the last couple of years.
In other words, Dombrowski will cross the MLB luxury tax level over his exceedingly slender dead body.
According to Spotrac.com, the Red Sox are already $10M-plus over the $206M line in which the league levies a 30% tax rate to teams that exceed that number. Altogether, including current taxes, Henry is going to write out around $219M in checks for the 2019 season, which is the most in all of baseball.
So, Red Sox fans who think the thin man will greenlight any deal at the deadline that will further the amount of taxes the team will pay this year, I’ve got a bridge in Chappaquiddick for sale that you might want to check out.
Other than a Jeff Suppan type of move for a body to fill the role of the fifth starter until September, this is likely the team that will scuffle to get a Wild Card spot in the playoffs this season.
The truth hurts. And the truth is, Henry has told Dombrowski he is tapped out at the trade deadline in this title defense season.