By Terry Cushman — @cushmanMLB
Here is a compilation of several transactions Dave Dombrowski has made during his 18 month tenure as Red Sox President of Baseball ops. At the end, you decide whether he’s made mistakes, or simply had a series of misfortunes.
Craig Kimbrel: It’s tough for me to fault Dave Dombrowski for this move. Ever since Jonathan Papelbon departed Boston following the 2011 season, we haven’t had one consistent reliever who could serve as a long term closer. Koji Uehara had perhaps the best single season we will ever see of any reliever in a Red Sox uniform, which subsequently might also be the best we will ever witness in our lifetimes. Unfortunately for Koji, his health was an issue, and he never regained that World Series form for an extended period of time following 2013. Kimbrel was a top two closer for several years. The players we gave up to San Diego essentially had no chance of making the Red Sox based on the current players who occupied their respective positions. Hopefully Kimbrel can bounce back to his career averages to make this whole discussion moot.
David Price: As I write this, we are still nearly a full day of waiting for his fate from Dr. Andrews. Regardless of what Price’s immediate future holds, I will always maintain he was a bad signing. Price simply lacks the mental toughness to handle a tough market like Boston. And to be brutally honest, Price also lacks a winning post season pedigree to justify a $217,000,000 contract. Stat geeks might try spin the fact that Price is better in the playoffs than what the number’s show. I prefer simply using COMMON SENSE. An 0-8 record as a starter with an astro-nomical (HAHA Get it?!) 5.54 ERA is all I need in order to reach the conclusion that Price is not fit to wear a Boston Red Sox uniform. Also aside from what Price lacks on the field in big moments, he handles himself just as poorly with the media. I can’t support Dombrowski on this signing.
Carson Smith: When the Red Sox acquired Carson Smith in exchange for Wade Miley, I had mixed feelings about the deal. Miley had a rough start to 2015, but rallied down the stretch to surprisingly rattle off the most wins of any starter in the rotation. We had no idea Rick Porcello would transform himself into a Cy Young winner. Joe Kelly was also a wild card despite an encouraging eight game winning streak toward the end of 2015. Miley seemed like a pitcher who could give the back end of a starting rotation some stability. I felt Kimbrel was enough to go with Barnes, Ross, and Hembree. Not to mention my foolish optimism for Uehara and Tazawa having great bounce back years. Turned out, the 2016 starting rotation was formidable, and a Carson Smith type player in the bullpen was exactly what we needed. However, it never came to fruition due to Smith having season ending Tommy John Surgery. At the time of the trade, baseball executives raved, and kicked themselves for not finding a way to beat Dombrowski to the punch. To everyone who was more enthusiastic than myself, this trade seemed to good to be true. After all, Smith had five years remaining on his contract, and had just come off a strong 2.31 season. Why would Seattle give him up with that many years remaining if he was in fact healthy? It’s almost as if they knew he wasn’t. I don’t have all the facts, but I can’t help but be suspicious. It is also fair to question whether the Red Sox did all of their due diligence in regards to clearing Smith medically. Smith still needs to fully recover and hopefully demonstrate an ability to pitch within the confines of Fenway Park. It wouldn’t be fair to judge the trade considering he could still give us four productive seasons (including this one), but it’s certainly fair to have serious concerns.
Brad Ziegler/Tyler Thornsburg: I was so ecstatic about the Brad Ziegler signing. He had been a very effective closer for a few years. Finished the 2014 season with a 1.85 ERA. There was plenty to like. However, John Farrell’s incompetence in managing bullpens failed to showcase how truly dominant Ziegler would have been. For Ziegler to be most effective, he needed a clean inning to work with. Farrell kept bringing him in with runners already on base, which made no sense due to the fact Ziegler historically had a high WHIP. Ziegler had a knack for effectively pitching around the runners HE allowed on base versus runners he inherited. As for Tyler Thornsburg, he had platelet injects for his partially torn UCL instead of opting for the generally the recommended course of Tommy John Surgery for that particular injury. Having gone down that exact route with Carson Smith, you would think Dombrowski might have excercised an abundance of caution to avoid bringing in yet another reliever who has recent injury concerns. All things considered, the smarter and safer move was to retain Brad Ziegler. Ziegler had a very impressive 1.54 ERA during his entire tenure with Boston. Many fans were dumbfounded that Ziegler was not remotely attempted to be retained, he continues to be one of the most grossly underrated relievers in MLB. But of course Farrell of all people WAS retained, which is immensely frustrating. There is a world of uncertainty in regards to the talent, ability, and durability of virtually every single reliever on the Red Sox roster. Not to mention as challenging as these relievers will be, they’re still in the hands of Farrell, who has no confidence from the vast majority of this Red Sox fan base to effectively manage them from the bullpen. I am not impressed with this area of the Red Sox. Very poor job by Dombrowski.
Mitch Moreland: I can’t be too critical of this deal no matter how it pans out. Moreland is a solid all around lefty ballplayer who could easily turn into the “Mike Lowell” of this current decade. Chris Carter was the other viable option for similar money. Carter hit 40 home runs, but struggles to hit for average. EVERYBODY wanted Encarnacion, but if we can’t have him, we may as well sign Moreland.
My Verdict: I would characterize most of these Dave Dombrowski transactions as a series of missteps due to the fact half of them already have not panned out. Several as outlined above are damaged goods, or have the potential to be, physically or psychologically. Whether or not Smith and/or Thornsburg can hold down the 7th/8th innings will ultimately make or break the Red Sox in 2017. Should both players be a bust, I strongly suspect the team will flounder, and Fenway faithful will unleash a level of wrath of which Dombrowski has never experienced. I certainly won’t be issuing him any more free passes.
So what say you? A series of missteps, or misfortunes?