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Dombrowski explains why Red Sox stood pat at deadline

Rob Bradford
September 01, 2018 - 7:12 pm

CHICAGO -- Dave Dombrowski warned us. He was right.

The waiver trade deadline came and went without the Red Sox making a deal. It was a reality that most saw coming, in large part due to the rules surrounding the deal-making process in August.

In order to trade a player after the July 31 deadline, they have to clear through waivers. If a player is claimed then the team that possesses the player can either pull him back or work out a deal with the claiming club. The order of priority for teams actually getting the claim depends on the records, with it going worst to first in both leagues. If an American League player is passed through waivers than it goes through all the A.L. teams before getting to the National League clubs. Vice versa for N.L. players.

So, with the Red Sox possessing the best record in the A.L. then they had last shot at any N.L. player put out there, and sat at No. 14 for any American League trade option.

In a nutshell, Dombrowski was not dealing from a position of strength when attempting to secure a late-inning reliever.

"There had been a lot of guys getting claimed in recent years and you never know who is actually doing the actual claiming at the time unless it’s your player, so you never know that. It is different too when you’re last in order and a lot of times you would even expect to claim some players for the simple fact that you would be blocking is yourself if that happened. This was the most that I’ve ever experienced so far," he said. "We claimed numerous guys and we got one, and it was not a guy we wanted to trade for but just blocked. It was a little bit surprising."

That's right, one player. Of all the players put through waivers and claimed at least once, there was just one of them who the Red Sox could have actually traded for.

"No, and we’ve been saying that for an extended period," said Dombrowski when asked if he was close on any deals. "We did not think we would make any trades. Of all the players we claimed in the month of August, which were numerous, we got one player. That was it. That was more of a block type of thing at that time. There wasn’t one player that we had interest in that we would have liked to pursue if they got back to us. Some guys got through waivers but we really didn’t significantly pursue any of those players."

That leaves Dombrowski in the same spot he was heading into August, banking on an uptick from some of his key relievers. Perhaps the biggest difference between now and the July 31 press conference was that leading into August there was more optimism about the way both Tyler Thornburg and Matt Barnes -- two late-inning options -- were pitching.

It's still a position the Red Sox president of baseball operations says he doesn't mind being in.

"I think really the difference there is when you look at them and you look at their stuff for velocity, that means that their arm is still there," Dombrowski said. "Barnes has scuffled a little bit and there are a couple of things behind it, but his velocity is still there. (Craig) Kimbrel, his breaking ball hasn’t been quite as good, but actually, his velocity has been better than it has been. Hembree. Sometimes they have little nicks that are affecting them in how they are performing that I know about that you don’t know about and they aren’t going to tell you because it is not perse and an injury, but I’m aware of those things. A lot of times guys are fighting through that. August is a tough month because you don’t have the people in September who are extra guys here. Now we have some extra people we can give some of those guys a little bit more rest. We still have to win our division. We still have to qualify for the postseason. A lot of guys are going on behind the scenes that make it more difficult. I think August, the up and down nature of the game, a lot of times that happens.

"(Joe) Kelly has done better recently, too. He has quite a few better outings, at least with better velocity. His velocity has always been pretty good but he’s been throwing much better. Thornburg has sort of hit a plateau and hasn’t elevated his game. Yesterday the velocity was a little bit better but he didn’t have a great day. Now we have another month before we have to make a decision on a lot of those guys or some of those guys. But when you start talking about some of the guys you mentioned, you have Kimbrel, you have Barnes, you put (Steven) Wright into the bullpen, somebody from our starting rotation will go into the bullpen at some point if we go into the postseason. We feel good."

As for the internal reinforcements the Red Sox have added, and may be adding, Dombrowski noted that players wouldn't necessarily need to be currently on the 40-man roster or playing in Triple-A. He did say that 2018 third-round pick Durbin Feltman -- who many believed might have a chance at making the jump, is not being considered.