Contrary to what some segments of the Boston media would tell you, there’s basically no reason not to like this Red Sox team. They are a big ball of fun on almost a nightly basis and are having (to this point in the year) perhaps the best season in franchise history. They have the best record in baseball, and it’s not particularly close, and are cruising through every section of their schedule. It’s been absurd to watch. It should go without saying that the players deserve most of the adoration here. They are the ones who are, ya know, playing the games and being super good at baseball. That’s a pretty important part of the equation. Alex Cora has also deservedly received a big chunk of credit as the new energy he’s brought to the team has mixed in perfectly. Whatever you thought of John Farrell — I was probably on the higher end of the spectrum on him — Cora has found a way to get the most of some players Farrell couldn’t.
Along with the players and the manager, the man at the helm of the front office deserves a ton of credit as well. I am aware that I am not breaking any news when I say the guy running the front office for the best team in baseball deserves some credit, but there is some split of opinion on Dombrowski. He is not perfect at his job. I’m not sure there is anyone perfect at their job. He also inherited a crazy amount of talent, which undeniably made his job easy. The Red Sox aren’t here without talent acquired in the Ben Cherington and Theo Epstein eras. Dombrowski has taken the talent in the organization and has used it to build a juggernaut of a roster, though, and the amount of focus on some of the perceived negatives is wild to me.
Really, the impetus behind the post was the recent trade deadline and the weeks leading up to it. Since the Red Sox are buyers, their farm system was a big point of focus since that is where they would deal from to improve the current roster. As we know, the Red Sox farm system is not good at the moment, and the narrative around it is that it’s ol’ Trader Dave who is responsible for that. This is partially true, but that narrative A) paints it in an unnecessarily negative light, and B) ignores the other factors that have contributed to the farm reaching this point.
So, we’ll start with the trading part of it. Dombrowski has made a few big trades in his time with the Red Sox, with the biggest being the ones to acquire Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale. It is undeniable that Boston gave up a ton of talent in those deals, but they also got all-time greats in their prime. You don’t get that without giving up huge talent. In the Kimbrel deal, the criticism has been that Dombrowski overpaid to get the deal done sooner. Generally, it’s seen that he didn’t have to give up Logan Allen to get that deal done. Maybe that’s true, but it’s a line of thinking that has just been accepted as fact without much to back it up. Additionally, even if it is true, they would have had to replace him with someone else, and Allen would not have substantially changed people’s opinions of this farm system if he were still around.
The Sale trade is a major point in Dombrowski’s favor, even if he gave up three big-time talents. Yoan Moncada was the top prospect in the system and arguably the top in baseball. Michael Kopech had a huge ceiling and has continued along that path. Luis Alexander Basabe was always underrated and he’s continuing to emerge on the national radar. That’s a huge package, but again they got a Hall of Fame level talent in his prime on a team-friendly deal. Additionally, the reports around that time were that the White Sox were interested in Andrew Benintendi instead of Moncada, but Dombrowski rebuffed on that. Just like with the Allen speculation, I can’t say for sure if it’s true, but if it is he undoubtedly made the right choice.
Really, the reason the Red Sox farm system is so shallow does not only come down to these trades. There are a ton of different factors here. They graduated a lot of top-flight talent in a short span of time, from Xander Bogaerts to Mookie Betts to Andrew Benintendi to Rafael Devers. Their drafts haven’t been great in recent years, but Benintendi flying through the system so quickly makes it look worse. On the international market, they were limited due to spending and punishment penalties for two consecutive years, massively limiting their ability to acquire talent on that market. They were able to rejoin the international market last summer, and they made three big signings. Two, Danny Diaz and Antoni Flores, have had mostly positive reports when on the field. The other, Daniel Flores, was probably a top three talent in the farm coming into the year despite never having played professionally, but he passed away this winter. Obviously, his tragic death was about more than just baseball — the world lost a 17 year old who was by all accounts a wonderful person — but it had an undeniable effect on the system.
So, yeah, that’s my rant on the Red Sox farm system. Dombrowski’s trades didn’t help the farm, but they were worthy endeavors that had massive effects on the current roster. And really, that is the crux of why we should appreciate Dombrowski. His trading record with the Red Sox has been incredible. The Sale and Kimbrel trades weren’t cheap, but, well, ya know. The one bad trade has been Tyler Thornburg, and while there’s no way to argue it hasn’t been a loss for the Red Sox it’s also not a complete grade just yet. Thornburg is finally on the mound and looking good. If he can continue that, the gap will at least close on that.
Where Dombrowski has really shined has been his in-season deals. It’s too early to judge this summer’s deals, but the early returns are phenomenal. Steve Pearce has been exactly what this team needed on the bench. Nate Eovaldi was amazing in his first Red Sox start and should transition into an impact reliever in October. Ian Kinsler is Dustin Pedroia. All of them were acquired without digging deeper into the farm, too. In 2017, Addison Reed wasn’t great but he solidified the back end of that bullpen. Brad Ziegler was an incredible steal from the Diamondbacks in 2016.
Year after year, he’s identified weaknesses and addressed them perfectly and cheaply. It appears he’s done the same this year. A team doesn’t go on a run like the Red Sox have gone on this year without getting contributions from every corner of the organization. Dombrowski hasn’t done this by himself. Not by a long shot. But the focus around him should be much more on what he’s brought to the team rather than what he’s given away, because there are many GMs around the league that would love to trade places with him.