It must be weird to be Dave Dombrowski, or anyone who runs a team. Just as ESPN has its famous ‘car wash' treatment for its invited guests -- one that moves the subjects from program to program fast enough to fill maximum in airtime in a single visit to Bristol, Connecticut -- every Dombrowski move is subject to effectively the same scrutiny: a car wash of analysis and reanalysis and meta analysis that usually brings us all back around to the simplest explanation of any given transaction being the right one.
Most recently, the Sox traded 18-year-old hurler Anderson Espinoza for 27-year-old breakout star Drew Pomeranz, once something of a blue-chip prospect himself. There was a lot of wonderful analysis of the trade despite its brutal simplicity: The Sox traded potential valuable returns several years down the line for some concrete value now, full stop. If you know the wonderful TINSTAAPP acronym, you know it means There's No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, and you know that no matter what Espinoza does down the line, there's no real reason to expect him to become the next Pedro Martinez. Or, rather, there's every reason not to.
This is a longer way of saying that if Espinoza is good, so be it. There's no reason for Dombrowski to look more than three years down the road. This is explicitly a win-now job. It's not a win-now-at-all-costs job -- which is why it would be surprising if top prospects Yoan Moncada or Andrew Benintendi was dealt -- but it's a win-at-most-of-them, both circumstantially and by design.
To take the second part first, forget the sentimental value of David Ortiz's last season -- he has, of the moment I'm writing this, the highest OPS in the league among qualified hitters and the second highest OPS of all players with at least 50 PA (a fact I only mention because teammate Sandy Leon is first). The Pomeranz deal is fantastic because he signed through 2018 at extremely reasonable rates -- the news that the A's sought Espinoza for Rich Hill are easy to chuckle at now, and thank god for that. That rental would have been hard to swallow even with a large dose of TINSTAAPP. On the other hand, simply trading years with an organization that can spare them is a luxury that's nice to have.
The most salient fact of the deal from a team-growth perspective, and from the contrarian's point of view, is one Tim Britton wrote about in the ProJo. By trading Espinoza, the Sox have again kicked the can down the road on building a pipeline, so to speak, for minor league pitchers to the show; the implication of this criticism is that it is important for the Sox to establish said pipeline.
I would certainly prefer they did, but I think they can absorb the failure. The trade was consummated the same day the Sox signed top pick Jason Groome, who, at age 17, is a nice, hand-picked replacement for Espinoza in the system. That same signing was a reminder that no matter where the Sox pick in the draft, they have resources that can land them top talent provided they're prepared to spend the money. Prospects are a renewable resource; as the Sox learned with Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and (what seems like long ago but isn't) Justin Masterson, healthy, effective middle-of-the-rotation starters are not.
But the real reason this makes sense has nothing to do with Dombrowski in particular and everything to do with team Deciders in general. Hypothetically, the goals of a team president or general manager and what a team's fans want for the team are the same, but in practice they're fundamentally different. With a few exceptions, team presidents and GMs are less concerned with the future of the team than they are with the future of the team while they are in control of it. It is a political enterprise, and it gets the best of everyone.
Think about it: the only two general managers who led the Red Sox to World Series titles since the sinking of the Titanic both left the team after making terrible, rash, bloated moves in last-ditch efforts to stem the tide of wounds both self-inflicted and from the outside. No one is immune, or almost no one, because we're dealing with human beings, and human beings are going to act in their self-interest. It's in Dombrowski's interest to push this team as hard as he can right now; if not now, when?
We love to talk about the future, and it's okay to be precious about it, but there is a baseball season happening right now. It counts so much that we twist ourselves in knots over basic trades and simple roster moves. For Dombrowski, everything is at stake. He's throwing a nightly dinner party for millions of people, and he's got to feed them somehow. He's less concerned with how the sausage is made than with everyone getting a full stomach, and by any reasonable measure we're eating too well to really complain. We'll do it anyway, because we, like Dombo, are only human.