There’s a logic to it, sure. A new front office takes over, the team takes a step forward in the standings, and credit and praise accrue to that new front office. In that sense, it’s understandable that Dave Dombrowski, the decorated operator and potential future Hall of Famer who’s in his first season as the Boston Red Sox ‘s president of baseball operations, will be duly recognized should Boston hold on and win the AL East in 2016.
While that’s an understandable inclination — when something gets worse or better, it’s natural to focus on what’s different in an effort to explain — it’s a bit out of place with Boston. Really, this team has vanishingly little to do with Dombrowski’s and GM Mike Hazen’s player-personnel decision and much more to do with predecessors Ben Cherington and even Theo Epstein.
Again, none of this is terribly surprising. A team in contending mode naturally isn’t going to experience a lot of roster churn in the span of less than a year. However, we too often like to draw bright lines between front offices and forget how much of the foundation was the work of the ousted (or marginalized, in Cherington’s case) decision-maker.
In the 2016 Red Sox’s case, here’s a rundown of the major league-relevant players acquired since Dombrowski took charge: David Price , Drew Pomeranz , Craig Kimbrel , Brad Ziegler , Chris Young , Aaron Hill , Ryan Hanigan , Bryan Holaday , Fernando Abad . This season, those additions have added up to 5.1 WAR out of a team total of 48.5 WAR — or just 10.5 percent of the team’s total WAR. As well, Price, Kimbrel, and Young alone cost more than $45 million this season out of a total payroll of around $215 million. So Dombrowski’s additions are adding very little in terms of overall value, and they’re even worse off in terms of value on the dollar. Also, in addition to committing more than $200 million to Price, Dombrowski also paid dearly in prospects to acquire Kimbrel and Pomeranz.
On the other side, you’ve got all the talent that Dombrowski inherited. Dustin Pedroia , David Ortiz , and Clay Buchholz of course trace back to the Epstein years. The rest hit the majors on Cherington’s watch. It was Cherington who traded for Rick Porcello and then, to much hand-wringing at the time, signed him to a contract extension. Had Cherington not done that, Porcello, who may wind up hoisting the AL Cy Young award this year, would’ve been a free agent last offseason.
Furthermore — and as Joe Sheehan not long ago pointed out in his very excellent subscription newsletter — it was Cherington who resisted calls from some fans and media to trade the young promising likes of Mookie Betts , Jackie Bradley , and Xander Bogaerts . Suffice it to say, without that profoundly auspicious troika (they’ve combined for 16.1 WAR while each making around the league minimum), the Sox aren’t headed to the postseason. That, obviously, hasn’t been Dombrowski’s way of doing things over the years, as he’s long been one of the execs most eager to flip prospects for veteran fixes.
Elsewhere, notable contributors like Steven Wright , Sandy Leon , Hanley Ramirez , and Travis Shaw were acquired by pre-Dombrowki front offices. This isn’t to say that all of Cherington’s decisions worked out — somewhere, Pablo Sandoval gives us a knowing glance — but it’s his work that’s led to the success of the 2016 model (also recall that he negotiated the extensions that kept Pedroia and Ortiz in Boston).
There’s time for Dombrowski’s acquisitions to make a greater impact, of course. Price and Pomeranz will likely constitute half of the playoff rotation, and it’s worth noting that Price is back to pitching like the ace he’s been for so long. Also, credit Dombrowski for recognizing the worthy roster holdovers and not undertaking any kind of scorched-earth remake. It bears repeating that he’s one of the all-time great execs.
At present, the SportsLine Projection System gives the Red Sox a 97.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. Barring a miraculous collapse, then, they’ll make it back to the postseason for the first time since that championship campaign of 2013. Before we consider this another laurel for Dombrowski, though, recall how much Cherington in particular has his fingerprints on this team. Really, it’s more his team than Dombrowski’s.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / The credit for turning around the Red Sox goes far beyond Dave Dombrowski