I’ve gotten this question a bunch of times since it was announced this past Tuesday that Dave Dombrowski was named the new President of Baseball Operations for the Boston Red Sox, and the answer could not be more obvious.
Here’s the thing; I’m a Ben Cherington guy. I even have the t-shirt to prove it. I think that Cherington is a great baseball mind, he comes from an excellent scouting background, and he was part of this organization from as far back as the Dan Duquette era. On one hand, we can certainly say that the Cherington era as general manager of the Boston Red Sox was not a success. Yes, there was a World Series title mixed in, and he was responsible for many key pieces of that 2013 team, but an organization with the financial resources that the Red Sox have, and being annually ranked as having one of the best farm systems in baseball, there are no excuses for finishing last place even once, never mind three times in four years.
That being said, a majority of Cherington’s moves actually made a ton of sense at the time that they were made. However, as we have come to realize, a majority of them also didn’t pan out, and that might be an understatement. For example, I didn’t hear a ton of complaints, but rather much praise was given when Cherington hauled in Joe Kelly and Allen Craig for John Lackey (who I reported that he wanted to be traded, but no one ever cites that or recognizes that). That trade looks really bad now, but is that on Cherington or the players who didn’t perform to their full capabilities once they got here? I lean towards the latter.
I’ve used this term many times, and I’ll say it again here. The Red Sox, at least before this major change, have been notorious prospect hoarders. And that’s fine when you hang on to the right guys — like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, for example — but sometimes it pays to flip a couple of maybes for one guarantee. The Red Sox have historically been reluctant to do that, but Dombrowski isn’t that guy. When Jackie Bradley Jr. made that spectacular catch in centerfield on Wednesday night, you could very clearly read Dombrowski’s lips, saying “wow” from the executive box. Some probably thought that he was marveling at one of his future stars, while I wonder if his eyes lit up, realizing that he was looking at a major trade piece for something even more valuable.
Under Dombrowski’s watch, nobody is safe. He isn’t afraid to part with top prospects and the young, talented players that we all fawn over as fans. Sometimes general managers hit, and sometimes they miss. But this guy very rarely misses, and I’d imagine that he’s salivating over some of the names that he now has at his disposal. And while it’s exciting to see blockbuster trades, which the Red Sox could certainly use one to become a contender again, I look at the model that Theo Epstein has built with the Cubs, sucking for a few years, all while developing incredible young talent that will eventually help out in a big way at the major league level. That’s what he wanted to do here, but Larry Lucchino had to “feed the monster” so to speak, and add high-priced free agents all over the diamond, instead of letting Epstein build the team from within.
But there’s a healthy balance here. The Red Sox can have their cake and eat it, too, by mixing in some of these young players, while selling high on others. Not all prospects pan out, that much we know, and it’s Dombrowski’s job to find out which ones aren’t going to become as great as we think they are, which is much easier said than done, as we’ve seen firsthand. The most glaring issue for the Red Sox in recent years has been their poor player evaluation. They’ve put stock in complete busts that could’ve been swapped much earlier for more valuable pieces. If there’s one notable knock on Dombrowski when it comes to player evaluation, it’s his drafting ability. However, he’ll have resources here in Boston that he didn’t have in Detroit to strengthen that weakness.
So that will be the challenge that Dombrowski and his staff will take head on almost immediately. Sure, they can make significant upgrades via free agency, and I’m sure we can expect that to some degree, but this roster needs tweaks well beyond just throwing some money around, and Dombrowski was the best option available to come in here and do exactly that. In the years that the Red Sox have performed so poorly, the players have changed, the coaches have changed, and the manager has changed, but the front office has stayed the same. That is, until now.