Tomase: Dave Dombrowski's acquisitions have by and large delivered

John Tomase
July 12, 2017 - 12:26 am
Dave Dombrowski

Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Nearly two years into Dave Dombrowski's tenure as Red Sox director of baseball operations, he has one playoff team on his resume and another presumably on the way.

The Red Sox enter the second half as one of the best teams in baseball -- despite seemingly not playing anywhere close to their potential -- and Dombrowski deserves credit.

Acquisitions Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel started and won the All-Star Game, respectively, on Tuesday night. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz has emerged as a solid piece of the rotation, $217 million man David Price is pitching well in his return from a season-threatening elbow injury, and free agent signee Mitch Moreland has gotten the job done at first base.

If Dombrowski had just learned his lesson from Detroit and stayed out of the middle relief market, his report card would look even better. Manager John Farrell has bailed him out after injuries to setup men Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg, however, by piecing together the arms in front of Kimbrel.

So how do Dombrowski's deals rate since he arrived? When Price and Pomeranz opened the season on the disabled list, things looked potentially ugly. But the two pitchers have rallied since, leaving Dombrowski, on the whole, ahead of the game.

Let's evaluate his major moves based on where things stand now.

Start with Kimbrel. Dombrowski's first major deal set a template for what was to come. He paid a steep price to San Diego in prospects (4), highlighted by outfielder Manuel Margot, who has cooled after a hot start, but it's hard to argue with Kimbrel's first half.

He hits the break as the most dominant reliever in baseball. Who can argue with that?

The Price deal is much tougher to evaluate. The left-hander arrived with a reputation as a good teammate, but he hasn't looked like one recently, unless you consider picking fights with a beloved Hall of Famer model behavior.

That said, Price's results have steadily improved, with a considerable uptick in velocity over last season. He'll probably opt out in a year, but that could be a win for both sides if he keeps pitching well.

At this time last year, Dombrowski raised eyebrows by trading Anderson Espinoza, widely considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game, for Pomeranz, an overachieving All-Star left-hander with arm issues. Dombrowski may get the last laugh on this one. Pomeranz keeps churning out quality starts, and Espinoza may not throw a pitch this season because of arm soreness.

Then there's Sale. The left-hander would win the Cy Young Award if the season ended today. The cost to acquire him -- top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech -- was high, but the Red Sox won't mind if Sale strikes out 300.

On the position player side, Dombrowski wisely preserved his young core, protecting assets like Jackie Bradley, Andrew Benintendi, and Mookie Betts. As a result, he has only needed to fill in around the margins, with Moreland and reserve outfielder Chris Young solid veteran additions. No complaints there.

Dombrowski has struggled in two problem areas that became intertwined this offseason. First, his middle relief pickups have been disasters. The cost to acquire Smith -- Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro -- was minimal, but the next pitch he throws in a Red Sox uniform will be his 49th. He faced just 11 batters last year before shutting it down and hasn't pitched since.

Even more damaging was the deal this winter that sent third baseman Travis Shaw and prospect Mauricio Dubon to the Brewers for Thornburg. The setup man hurt his shoulder in spring training and underwent season-ending surgery. Just call him Smith 2.0.

That trade has the potential to be Dombrowski's worst. Shaw hit the All-Star break batting .299 with 19 homers and 65 RBIs. He was a strong candidate for the NL All-Star team. Dubon, meanwhile, made the Futures Game and has already stolen 31 bases at Double-A.

The Red Sox have felt Shaw's loss most acutely at third base, where Dombrowski decided to roll the dice on Pablo Sandoval's return to form. The platoon of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin says all you need to know about how that turned out. The Red Sox could really use Shaw's bat right now, and his glove (only 4 errors) would be welcome, too.

So while Dombrowski's record isn't perfect, it has been good enough to lead the Red Sox to 50 wins and first place in the American League East. On the whole, he has delivered.

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