What Dave Dombrowski can learn from Yankees' trade

Rob Bradford
June 17, 2019 - 7:12 am

In the week leading up to last year's non-waiver trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski was confident that he had found the pieces.

The Red Sox already reeled in Nathan Eovaldi but there were still questions about the bullpen. Yet as July turned to August nothing more was done, with the Sox boss pointing to the presence of Ryan Brasier and Tyler Thornburg as solutions. (The Red Sox did take a run at Kelvim Herrera but Washington wasn't ready to sell off.)

Dombrowski was right on Brasier. But when it came to Thornburg, it proved to be an ill-timed evaluation.

The righty reliever who had dominated in his five appearances leading into the deadline (4 1/3 innings, hit, no runs, 5 strikeouts, no walks) took a turn for the worse almost immediately after the conclusion of July, going on to give up 20 hits and nine walks over his last 15 1/3 innings.

The moral of the story? You better make sure you know what you have heading into the stretch drive. Particularly this time around.

The challenge to identify the reality of each roster is going to be put to the test like never before thanks to the Major League Baseball limiting teams to just one trade deadline. If you don't make a move by July 31, good luck in significantly improving your roster. Gone will be the chance to scoop up high-priced players who pass through waivers, such as Justin Verlander did when being dealt to Houston in 2017.

It's why the Yankees' trade for Edwin Encarnacion was so interesting.

Obviously adding a player who is leading the American League in home runs while giving up a decent 19-year-old pitcher is going to be tempting for any contending club. But Encarnacion's fit with the Yankees isn't a natural one, with the slugger's presence likely necessitating Giancarlo Stanton to play more in the outfield while forcing outfielder Brett Gardner and third baseman Gio Urshela to the bench. (DJ LeMahieu will likely move over to play more third base.)

What it does, however, is cover the Yanks if something goes awry when it comes to Stanton, Luke Voit or even Aaron Judge.

It is a reminder that Dombrowski's most pressing task is to decipher his team's lot in life sooner rather than later.

If all the pieces of the Red Sox find good health then the Sox' chief decision-maker's job becomes increasingly easier. Steven Wright can help in the bullpen. A healthy Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and Marcus Walden are proving to be legitimate late-game relievers. Mike Shawaryn is showing some promise as a big league relief pitcher. Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland can prove themselves to be the first base combination this team was banking on. And, perhaps most importantly, Nathan Eovaldi can finally present the full starting rotation the Red Sox' envisioned heading into this season.

But if there is any doubt at all, Dombrowski better err on the side of getting too much instead of just enough.

Eovaldi's health is perhaps the tipping point for any approach this time around.

While so many are focusing on the bullpen heading into the trade deadline the acquisition of a starter could be a wiser approach. Maybe Brian Johnson and/or Hector Velazquez are the Red Sox' Plan B, but the notion of getting a proven starter to be at the ready if there are any lingering questions around Eovaldi is a reasonable one. It protects the anchor of the Sox' roster -- the starting rotation -- if anything happens to anyone. And if Eovaldi does come back in fine form than his presence as game-ending reliever can be revisited.

It's basically the same approach the Red Sox chose when zeroing in on Eovaldi a year ago.

Dombrowski clearly isn't afraid to be proactive in making these sort of roster judgments, as was evident last year when he traded for Pearce on June 28. But as we're already finding out, such deals may be becoming the rule rather than the exception. If you don't have logical internal solutions on the horizon -- which the Red Sox don't seem to possess in their minor leagues -- you better have a pretty good grip of what you're dealing with.

Welcome to the reality that is the new MLB trade season.