Tomase: Why Edwin Diaz is ideal Dave Dombrowski trade target

John Tomase
November 28, 2018 - 11:57 am
Edwin Jackson

Joe Nicholson/USA Today Sports


News that the Red Sox are interested in Mariners closer Edwin Diaz makes perfect sense, because he’s the ideal Dave Dombrowski acquisition.

The Red Sox president of baseball operations didn’t build a World Series winner around the margins. He chose the full frontal assault.

That meant spending $217 million on David Price, dealing four prospects for Craig Kimbrel, sending two of the game’s most highly regarded minor leagues to Chicago for ace Chris Sale, and spending over $100 million on J.D. Martinez.

Dombrowski isn’t interested in the Dan Duquette model of exploiting bargains with question marks – remember the parade of Bret Saberhagens, Ramon Martinezes, and Bernard Gilkeys in the late 90s/early 2000s? – and he’s not here to build a Theo Epstein/Ben Cherington youth movement, though he wisely kept the youngsters who formed the core of Boston’s latest champion.

Dombrowski is about acquiring proven talent, and Diaz fits the bill.

After two under-the-radar seasons as a dominant setup man in Seattle, Diaz exploded as closer, saving 57 games to tie Bobby Thigpen for second-most all-time. Saves may be a right-place, right-time stat, but there’s no questioning Diaz’s peripherals.

While pairing a 98 mph fastball with a borderline unhittable 90 mph slider, Diaz struck out 124 in 73.1 innings (15.2/9 IP). He held batters to a .160 average and posted a 1.96 ERA while walking only 17.

It’s tough to label any third-year player a sure thing, but Diaz’s numbers have only improved since he finished fifth in the 2016 Rookie of the Year voting after striking out 88 batters in only 49 appearances. He has struck out over 14 batters per nine innings lifetime, and at age 24 will presumably only improve as he gains experience and perhaps bulk – he’s listed at 6-3, 165 pounds.

Dombrowski’s alternatives (assuming Kimbrel walks in free agency) don’t really fit his M.O. Does he want to entrust a position he clearly values to someone unproven like Ryan Brasier or Matt Barnes? Probably not his first choice.

Likewise, there are a number of second-tier candidates on the free agent market that he’ll consider, including 33-year-old David Robertson, old friend Andrew Miller, who’s coming off an injury-plagued season, or fellow lefty Zach Britton, who battled injury issues of his own.

They’re each older and potentially not even upgrades on Barnes, who quietly posted numbers on par with Kimbrel’s last year.

None of them would qualify as thinking big. But Diaz would. And because he’s only 24, he’d fit right into a core that includes 20-somethings Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers.

Dombrowski isn’t into stopgaps, especially at closer. There’s a reason he made Kimbrel his first major acquisition after assuming control of baseball operations. When he addresses a problem in the offseason, he tends to do so long-term. He gave Price seven years, acquired Kimbrel and Sale with three years remaining for each, and inked Martinez for five years (albeit with opt-outs that start following next season).

Diaz isn’t even eligible for arbitration until next year and remains under team control through 2022. Acquiring him would conceivably allow Dombrowski to lock down the ninth inning with an All-Star talent for the remainder of his Red Sox tenure.

If we’ve learned anything about the baseball boss, it’s that those are exactly the kind of players he targets.

Whether the Red Sox have the prospects to make a deal or are willing to assume a chunk of the $120 remaining on Robinson Cano’s contract is another story, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they pursue Diaz aggressively.

It’s the Dombrowski way.