Red Sox post All-Star outlook filled with tough decisions
The All-Star break gives Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski time to consider the decisions that will make-or-break the club in the second half.
After Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Dave Dombrowski returned home to Boston with roughly a week to mull over the flurry of challenging decisions he will be presented with before July 31. The most pressing of which will be over what to do with the Red Sox’ current platoon at third base.
On July 16, Pablo Sandoval‘s rehab stint must come to an end; four days later so must Brock Holt‘s. While the pair of injuries have allowed some time for the Red Sox to discover a solid platoon in Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin, a decision is coming sooner than later. DL placements have fixed timelines, with little to no wiggle room. Dombrowski could buy a few days to consider his options once Sandoval is back by sending Sam Travis back to Triple-A Pawtucket, but once Holt is reinstated the team won’t have space for all four.
Times like this are when the true vision of a team’s head executive is tested.
On the one hand, it seems to be a no-brainer that Sandoval has no place on the major league club. Dombrowski could just designate him for assignment on the 16th and give Travis’ spot on the roster to Holt, but it’s hard to envision ownership eating the $50 million left on Sandoval’s contract comfortably. But if the past three months have proven anything, it’s that ownership continuously falls into the sunk cost fallacy with the Panda.
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The $50 million is gone, whether he takes it after designation or earns it hitting .212 for the rest of the season. There’s no escaping his contract at this point, so why not just escape the black cloud that Sandoval carries with him and ride with what has actually proven successful? That won’t be Dombrowski’s decision to make, but he can certainly try his best to point ownership in that direction.
What should happen with Sandoval is evident, what the Red Sox should do before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is not as clear.
When talking to the media, Dombrowski has made sure to avoid divulging as little as he can over the past week – except that the team isn’t interested in adding to their starting rotation. He cites the resurgence of David Price and Drew Pomeranz, as well as the return of Eduardo Rodriguez after the break as reason enough to stick with the five men they have. A rotation that also includes Chris Sale and Rick Porcello at the top is already deep, and the Red Sox need to focus on getting deeper at other positions while they still can.
Per Dombrowski himself, Lin and Marrero have “stabilized the position and provided some help for us, but you’re always cognizant of trying to help your club any way you can.” Lin and Marrero have exceeded expectations over the past couple weeks, but if they fall back down to Earth in August or September, then what? If the opportunity to upgrade third arises, Dombrowski would be remiss to not jump at it.
All things considered, the Red Sox – and Dombrowski especially – should be pleased with how things have played out in the first half. The team has the second-best batting average in baseball, and while the runs weren’t showing up earlier, they’ve been coming in bunches lately. The depth of the rotation has been matched by the stellar play of Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, and Matt Barnes in the bullpen, leading to fourth best team ERA and pitching WAR in the league. With 73 games remaining on the schedule, the club carries a 3.5-game lead in the division and control of their own playoff destiny.
As for Dombrowski’s individual record, the Tyler Thornburg trade still looms large, but the rest of his pitching moves have paid off in dividends. Chris Sale has been tapped as Tuesday’s All-Star Game starter, Craig Kimbrel is having one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history, and Drew Pomeranz is just beginning to look like the pitcher he acquired last July. All three have played massive roles in the team’s ascendance to first in the division and will be equally as critical to their second-half success.
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Sometimes, it’s best to just leave the makeup of a team alone. Over Dombrowski’s more than 20-year career, he’s rarely followed that mantra. He may say that the team is comfortable with who they have, but his extensive trade record is all the proof we need to know that he’s unlikely to keep his phone on silent between now and the 31st.