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Looking Back at Dave Dombrowski with the Red Sox

Four years and one month after it began, the Dave Dombrowski era is over in Boston. Assistant GM Eddie Romero will take over in the interim, while the organization begins searching for its next captain. The news was broken by Jeff Passan of ESPN just after midnight on Monday: The impact of the decision has yet to be fully realized. While it’s likely that a partial rebuild is in order for the foreseeable future, it’s unclear what direction the organization will take. Franchise star Mookie Betts will reach free agency next year. He is dead-set on doing so. Slugger JD Martinez may choose to opt out of his contract as early as this offseason. The team also has to take control of a perilous payroll situation. The need to avoid going over the final tier of the luxury tax – triggering severe financial penalties in the process – will be at the center of every decision made by the team in the next few years. Whoever replaces Dombrowski will face several challenges. Replenishing Boston’s depleted farm system, navigating the bloated payroll away from the cliff, and making tough decisions on several key players. All of this, while also trying to remain competitive in a tough division. In other words, the next few seasons probably won’t be fun. Mistakes will be made along the way.

The Dombrowski Era in Memoriam

How will Boston remember Dave Dombrowski? The jury is still out. It will likely depend on the recovery of the farm system. He was no Theo Epstein, breathing life into a lifeless, hopeless corpse. Many of the largest contributors to the success of 2018, like Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, were already in place. However, Dombrowski still deserves credit for turning a potentially good team into a playoff contender, even before 2018. The Chris Sale trade was smart and effective. Although Yoan Moncada is a talented young player, Rafael Devers is simply having a better year. Trading for Craig Kimbrel was extremely helpful during the 2018 regular season, securing the best record in baseball for Boston. Bringing in David Price was a shrewd move, although the question of an overpay is ongoing.

A Transformation Under Dombrowski

Dombrowski also made several moves in 2018, which transformed the Red Sox from a playoff contender into a juggernaut. Hiring Alex Cora as manager paid off in spades, as every decision Cora made during the season proved fruitful. Signing JD Martinez was the best move by any team in the offseason, unlocking a world of possibility for the monstrous Red Sox offense. The Steve Pearce trade was one of the most underrated moves at the deadline. Pearce, an aging journeyman of little renown, went on to hit .279 with a .901 OPS in the second half, culminating in a World Series MVP crowning. Finally, Nathan Eovaldi went on to post a 3.33 ERA and a 2.88 FIP with Boston, and found success in several key roles during the postseason. Who can forget his incredible 6 inning epic to hold the Dodgers at bay in game 3 of the World Series? The decisions Dombrowski made in 2018 sent the team into the stratosphere, and were enough to win him Executive of the Year.

The Good With the Bad

For all the good, there’s always some bad. The biggest issue was the sacrifice of the future in order to win now. Within two years, Boston’s farm went from being one of the best to dead last. That’s simply the way Dombrowski operates. There’s no doubt the ownership knew that when they hired him in 2015. Of more immediate concern was the moves he made in the offseason – or lack thereof. Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel left for free agency, and Dombrowski failed to adequately replace them. Instead, Dombrowski spent money in areas that weren’t necessarily of huge concern for the 2019 team.

Questionable Spending by Dave Dombrowski

He gave extensions to Chris Sale this past offseason, and his year was not the best. He also extended Eduardo Nunez in 2018, which gave him a player option that Nunez, which was an easy decision given his down performance in 2018. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better this year and by July, he was released. This was done after hitting .228 with a .548 OPS. Sale has had the worst year of his career, posting his highest ERA and second-highest FIP in a single season. A bounceback year is more than possible next year, so the wisdom of the extension is yet to be determined. Dombrowski also signed Steve Pearce to a 1 year, $6 million deal. Pearce has fallen especially hard. Just months after hitting .500 with a 1.667 OPS in the World Series, he hit only .180 with a .503 OPS before going on the 60 day IL. Pearce was an over pay, and unfortunately that money could have been used elsewhere and may have prevented the Red Sox from adding at the trade deadline. Finally, Nathan Eovaldi got a 4 year, $68 million deal. The first year has largely been a bust. He’s only started 9 games and has a 5.81 ERA with a 5.68 FIP. In addition to all this, he signed various relievers of little repute, in the hopes of finding some diamonds in the rough. Instead of finding reliable bullpen help, including a closer, Dombrowski made some moves which, thanks to hindsight, now seem ill-advised. Those moves, and the lackluster season the Red Sox have had, led to his firing.

The Good for Dombrowski

Overall, Dombrowski’s time in Boston should be remembered fondly. He did exactly what the Red Sox hired him to do. He brought the franchise it’s 4th championship in 14 years. The Red Sox now have more World Series wins in the 21st century than any other team in baseball. That’s not even adding the fact that 2018 was, in terms of pure dominance, the greatest season in franchise history. The 2004 Red Sox made history by digging themselves out of an impossible hole. The 2018 squad was never in a hole to begin with. Dombrowski put the Red Sox over the top. That, in addition to three straight AL East division titles, speaks to the success of his tenure. He didn’t build the team up from scratch, he took what was in place, and enhanced it. That deserves credit. Dombrowski’s chapter of the Red Sox franchise has ended. A new era is being ushered in Boston. Though he’ll no longer steer the Red Sox ship, Dave Dombrowski isn’t finished with baseball yet. Some team, somewhere will offer him a job. Good luck, Dealin’ Dave. Thanks for everything.
Red Sox Tom
Tom is a fan of the Sox and the Patriots. He loves watching Xander Bogaerts, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, and Tom Brady. You can find him on Twitter @PrimeJD.
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