Boston Red Sox: Every ace is an option for Dombrowski


The Red Sox are looking for an ace and making no bones about the fact that all options are on the table.

Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski has been candid about many things, but none more so than his need, indeed Boston’s need, to have a leader of the pitching staff, a numero uno. His introductory speech for the position was, for all intents and purposes, essentially just “thanks for the job, now let’s get an ace.” Of course, that’s not all Dombrowski has busied himself with up until this point.

Even so, it’s what everyone wants to hear. Dombrowski clearly knows his audience and, after a year in which Boston collectively groaned under the weight of a rotation as ineffective as a motorbike ashtray, it’s pretty obvious. Since the Red Sox refused to commit to Jon Lester, the gaping chasm left at the front of the order has yawned all the wider. Not to say Lester was necessarily worth a 6-year, $155 million contract, another discussion entirely, but he was still our ace, our stalwart number one. Meanwhile, many wonder if the Red Sox even have the ability, let alone the draw, to pull a starter as consistent on a contract as reasonable as Lester’s.

Worry not Red Sox Nation, Dombrowski, while speaking on MLB Radio, announced that he is still looking at every option and no top pitcher, be it via free agency or trade, will be off the table. As reported by mlbtraderumors:

"“Dombrowski said that “any of” the top starters on both the trade and free agent markets “are under consideration for us” as the Sox are casting a wide net in looking for an ace.”"

So there you go. Dombrowski wants a number one and, perhaps contrary to earlier reports, is willing to go the extra mile to get the best. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, Jose Fernandez, Neo from the Matrix. All the number ones you can think of are still options for the Red Sox.

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Previously, based on Dombrowski’s comments, we had considered that most likely the ace would come from free agency. It’s likely that this limiting talk was toned down, at least a bit, perhaps due to the unique complications of this year’s free agency starters. Price, while he would easily be Dombrowski’s number one choice just as he was when he led the Detroit Tigers, has a preference for an NL club and, coupled with a strained history with Boston, would be difficult (though not impossible) to snap up. Similarly Greinke too has a well-known preference for NL clubs, as he provides value and reaps enjoyment from hitting too. Cueto and perhaps a Jordan Zimmermann carry many question marks, in the latter’s case the loss of the draft pick is perhaps a bridge too far as well.

All said however, finding an ace through trade is equally as difficult if not moreso. The problems faced by clubs in the past are shared by Boston, as Dombrowski was rebuffed by just about every club he made approaches to at the Winter Meetings. Alright, so, I’m sure you could have your pick from just about any club of your choice for Mookie Betts and/or Xander Bogaerts, but it’s clear this simply won’t happen.

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You’ve got difficulties in the free agent market and in trades, so it makes sense that the Red Sox would be looking at getting just about wherever they can. When all is said and done though, perhaps it remains most likely that Dombrowski can reel in a big fish from free agency. Money talks. Boston has the advantage of being one of the most lucrative franchises in sports and a $30 million over 6 or 7 years contract is painful, different from what we are used to, but certainly doable. Indeed, perhaps it is essential. Dombrowski notes further on free agent starters:

"“The [free agent] market is probably, as flush as it is, an area that we would pursue more, but I think you’d need to feel comfortable that any names out there, you could say we have interest in them and hopefully somebody will have interest in us.I don’t think anyone really cherishes giving that long term of a contract to any pitcher in particular, but it’s a situation [where] if you’re going to participate, you’re most likely going to have to do that.”"

Young, cost controlled aces are obviously an ideal and doubtless still very much in Dombrowski’s mind, but ultimately they are nigh impossible to obtain. Look at the last 20 years and see how frequently one has been traded, it almost never happens. Even a club like the Oakland A’s who are still far from contention are unlikely to deal Gray because, not only would they struggle to find a return to replace him, but he’s the face of the franchise and can continue to generate excitement and hope even in a last place team.

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Who knows what rabbit Dombrowski and his front office army will pull out of a hat to land that number one the Red Sox want and need so badly. He’s still as determined to pursue one as ever, indeed perhaps more so, and don’t think for a second the hot stove will burn out until he’s got one.