When looking at what major league executives and managers say, don’t look for transparency. It’s most likely that they aren’t going to tell you what is really going on with a player or coach’s status. Last offseason when the logjam that was coming in the outfield became more apparent, the Red Sox continued to tout Yoenis Cespedes as an elite talent and someone they wanted to work with in the offseason, knowing full well that he had little chance to be in the Opening Day lineup. Of course, he was traded to the Tigers in an offseason deal which showed us how much smoke the front office is blowing at any particular time.
President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski certainly understands the value of blowing smoke in that sense but other things he says gives a good idea of what he is trying to do to make the 2016 Boston Red Sox a postseason contender rather than the last place doormat of three of the last four seasons that they have been.
When asked about trades in August, Dombrowski talked about how the Red Sox have a surplus at some positions and might be looking to deal from that surplus which many saw as middle infielder and outfielder. This week, Dombrowski said how any deal he makes could be a “painful one”. What he was describing was parting with top prospects that appear to be headed to major league stardom or sustained success at the very least.
Both of these philosophies played into the monster Craig Kimbrel deal that sent four prospects, two of them elite, to the San Diego Padres in exchange for the Red Sox new closer. Both of the prongs of this plan were set in motion during the tenure of former general manager Ben Cherington, who left when he realized he would no longer have the final say in trades.
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The fate of any front office person can be tied to a particular player or action. Theo Epstein’s fate in Boston was sealed by the ill-advised signings of Carl Crawford (who never played well here and likely never will be a great player again) and Adrian Gonzalez (seeing Anthony Rizzo, who was traded by Boston for AGon, mash baseballs out of Wrigley Field is the definition of painful for Red Sox fans) who left Boston disgruntled, leaving Cherington to pick up the pieces after the September 2011 collapse hastened Epstein’s flight to Chicago. Cherington was able to do so with the help of the magnanimous and obscenely wealthy Los Angeles Dodgers who were so desperate to acquire AGon that they were willing to take on 80 percent of Crawford’s ill-advised deal in order to get him.
The magical 2013 season happened and Red Sox fans are thrilled that it happened despite the other three of years ending in last place finishes. But for that to happen again, changes had to be made again. While Cherington was able to throw money at free agents to assemble the 2013 team, that isn’t always the road to take, though it will be in the Red Sox case when it comes to a free agent ace starting pitcher.
Cherington left Dombrowski a loaded farm system to bolster the 2016 squad. The #2 ranked farm system in all of baseball, Boston is deep enough to take the hit of trading away four prospects, especially from the positions mentioned above. You have 23 year olds Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts manning the shortstop and center field positions for the next decade. The Red Sox are well-situated to trade high quality talent in the minors at those positions who are going to be blocked for years to come anyway.
Whether or not Dombrowski will be able to follow his plan of filling his ace starting pitcher role with a free agent remains to be seen, but he may have locked himself in to that course of action by dealing the top echelon of his minor league system. There are excellent players remaining, but the Red Sox have the resources to throw that money at an elite free agent. Now that one need has been filled, they will be in on all the elite starting pitchers for the rest of the offseason.
Stay tuned to BoSoxInjection.com to get in-depth analysis of every Red Sox move during this exciting and tumultuous offseason.