Andrew Cashner's awfulness is reminder Dave Dombrowski has made moves this year –– they've just all been bad

Alex Reimer
August 02, 2019 - 10:56 am
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Dave Dombrowski makes sure to stress he didn’t actually stand pat the trade deadline. Several times over the last week, the now-embattled president of baseball operations –– which is funny to say, considering he was the chief architect of last season’s World Series winning juggernaut –– has pointed out the team actually did make a deadline move, picking up starter Andrew Cashner from the Orioles three weeks ago.

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“But, you know, we didn’t make a trade on the trading deadline day last year,” Dombrowski told reporters Wednesday. “We did get Cashner already, so it’s not like we haven’t done something to help our ball club.”

While it is true the Red Sox did acquire Cashner for two 17-year-old kids, he hasn’t exactly helped their fortunes. The veteran righty is 1-3 with a ghastly 7.33 ERA in four starts here, including Thursday’s seven-run shellacking against the Rays. The second inning was Cashner’s worst: he loaded the bases, walking in a run, allowed another run to score after a cross-up with Sandy Leon, and surrendered a scorching RBI double to Tommy Pham. 

As team president Sam Kennedy pointed out Thursday on the Greg Hill Show, the Red Sox’ high-priced starting rotation has been the most disappointing group on this disappointing team. For $88 million, which is less than the Rays are paying their entire roster, Sox starters have posted a 4.88 ERA, good for seventh in the league. The staff has allowed 32 runs over this four-game losing streak and 570 overall –– which amounts to an average of 5.2 per game. 

It’s hard to pin the collective failure of the rotation on Dombrowski. Chris Sale and Rick Porcello are responsible for their lackluster summers, with the latter righty turning in one of the worst seasons in franchise history. He is John Lackey circa 2011, without the surliness and in-game fried chicken.

But Dombrowski is the one who opted to allocate $68 million towards Nathan Eovaldi, who started four games in April before heading to the Injured List. We were told last month Eovaldi was returning early to serve as the club’s savior in the undermanned bullpen, only to see him pitch four times, and give up five runs in 3.2 unimpressive innings. 

Weeks before the deadline, John Henry told WEEI’s Rob Bradford he wasn’t sure how much more money he wanted to sink into the team this season. The Red Sox are right up against the $246 million luxury tax, and would pay 75 percent for every dollar over that figure, in addition to dropping 10 spots in the draft.

It’s fair to quibble at Henry’s apparent apprehension for surpassing the luxury tax, but bemoaning the principle owner for being cheap rings hollow. The Red Sox have sported a top-five payroll in 17 of the last 18 seasons. They have the highest payroll in baseball for the second straight year. 

Dombrowski was given more than enough money to construct a winning team. He just opted to spend roughly $75 million on retaining World Series heroes Eovaldi and Steve Pearce. At least some of that money would’ve been far better spent on Adam Ottavino, who inked a three-year, $27 million deal with the Yankees over the winter. 

And therein lies the toughest part about the Red Sox’ deadline inaction. Dombrowski admitted he probably would’ve been more aggressive if the team was closer to first place. But his utter failure to construct a bullpen is the biggest reason why Boston is in this hole. Dombrowski may not have had the expendable prospects to land a game-changing arm, but if he actually replaced Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly, the issue would be irrelevant.

The nearly $70 million spent on Eovaldi could’ve gone towards bringing in another reliever and more durable starter. Instead, the Red Sox are left counting on Ryan Brasier to return from Triple-A, and Cashner, he with the lifetime record of 56-85, to add some stability to the flailing back end of the rotation.

Dombrowski cannot control the climate of the midseason trade market. Maybe teams were trying to fleece the prospect-starved Red Sox, as MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand suggests. But he is completely responsible for the moves that got the Red Sox here. He chose the wrong guys, from Eovaldi to Cashner. 

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