The Red Sox and Dave Dombrowski Have Parted Ways. Now What?

The Red Sox parting ways with Dave Dombrowski — last night’s announcement came at the bewitching hour — is somewhat surprising. Then again, it really isn’t. Questions about his future have been circulating for a few months, and while a death knell has yet to sound on Boston’s season, any hopes of a postseason berth are now on life support. Last October is but a memory, and as the saying goes, “What have you done for me lately?”

To say it’s been a disappointing season for the defending World Series champions would be an understatement. But that’s only part of the reason Dombrowski, the team’s president of baseball operations since August 2015, was let go. What matters is the future, and much as when Ben Cherington was jettisoned four years ago, the time had come for new leadership. For now, assistant GMs Brian O’Halloran, Eddie Romero Jr., and Zack Scott, along with Senior Vice President Raquel Ferreira, are expected to fill that role on an interim basis.

The extent to which Dombrowski and Red Sox ownership were no longer on the same page is unknown as of this moment. More may be learned when the involved parties address the media (though the team has elected not to hold a press conference regarding the decision), but even then questions will remain unanswered. In all likelihood, we’ll be left to speculate as to whether loggerheads had been reached with the important near-term personnel decisions that will shape the team’s future. Based on his track record, Dombrowski would presumably be averse to anything resembling a rebuild, while his two predecessors — Cherington and Theo Epstein — placed a high premium on player development and building from within. That divergence is reflected in Boston’s farm system rankings; the Red Sox system is currently dead last.

Since coming to Boston, Dombrowski has signed free agents such as J.D. Martinez and David Price, and traded well-regarded prospects for the likes of Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, Ian Kinsler, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Nunez, and Tyler Thornburg. Harkening back to his Detroit days — acquiring Miguel Cabrera in exchange for multiple top-rated prospects is especially notable — Dombrowski has rarely shied away from bold, win-now moves.

Contrast this with Cherington having unloaded Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez — all of whom had monster contracts — in August of 2012. Equally bold, albeit for completely different reasons, Epstein protégé Cherington’s build-for-the-future gambit helped spur several highly-successful Red Sox seasons.

That type of scenario is unlikely to be repeated, regardless of who ultimately replaces Dombrowski on a permanent basis. Given Boston’s young core and deep pockets, a complete rebuild isn’t in the cards. Even so, expect to see more than a modicum of tinkering with the roster in the months to come. Heavily-influencing potential moves are the contract situations of J.D. Martinez (an opt-out clause following this season), Rick Porcello (a free agent), and Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. (free agents a year from now). How to balance the contracts and futures of Martinez and Betts looms especially large; retaining both seems extremely unlikely, given the team’s other payroll commitments, many of which were penned by Dombrowski.

Dombrowski won’t be the one making these calls. Who that responsibility will fall on remains to be seen. It could be one of the interims — Romero is definitely a possibility — or it could be an outsider with a vision that ownership opts to embrace. Regardless, Dombrowski had a good run with the Red Sox. But while flags fly forever, a change was needed and step-one came last night. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

We hoped you liked reading The Red Sox and Dave Dombrowski Have Parted Ways. Now What? by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Königsblauer S04
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Königsblauer S04

Losing a homegrown MVP and fan favourite like Mookie would be organisational failure of the highest order. I mean, if he hated Boston and was dead set on playing somewhere else, there’s not much the Sox could do. Due to “other payroll commitments” though? That’s taking the piss.

Pepper Martin
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Pepper Martin

“Why would we want Mookie Betts when we can have David Price and Nathan Eovaldi and what used to be Chris Sale for three times as much money per year?”

WriterNeilR
Member

Sale‘s peripherals are fine.

Reflect
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Reflect

But his shoulder isn’t.

WriterNeilR
Member

Not really, overpaying someone who might have peaked us far worse. He’s not Mike Trout or Acuna. Outside of 2018, he was never an elite player.

Sertorius
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Sertorius

He’s by far the 2nd best player since he came into the league. It’s Trout, Betts, and then over 7 WAR to Yelich (which is the same difference between 3rd and 22nd). His worst full season is 4.8 WAR, that’s not elite?? Even by bWAR he hasn’t had a season not in the top 10 in WAR. Even this year he’s been great. If the Red Sox don’t pay him, someone will.

murphyluke
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Member
murphyluke

You’re right. He’s substantially better than Acuna.

IsBrittonInYet
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Member
IsBrittonInYet

Since he entered the league, he’s second in position player fWAR to this generation’s Mickey Mantle. He’s a 6 win player this year. He’s elite.

mupzoidolphy
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mupzoidolphy

how did you end up on fangraphs?

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

St. Louis fans seem to be mostly fine with how things turned out with Albert Pujols, likewise a homegrown MVP and fan favorite, who has certainly never hated St. Louis but was allowed to walk in free agency. The Cardinals could’ve matched the Angels’ offer and kept Pujols if they really wanted to do so, but then they wouldn’t have made the playoffs the next 4 years, won another NL Pennant, and currently be on the verge of clinching their 8th consecutive winning season since Pujols left.

murphyluke
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Member
murphyluke

Pujols had 11 seasons under his belt and was 31, and FWIW was coming off a major down year. Your point that it can be worth it to let the expensive homegrown favorite walk is a good one, but Mookie is far more likely to be worth whatever contract he gets than Pujols was.

Nats Fan
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Member
Nats Fan

Pujols was the best player in the game when he left StLouis. He was Trout. No one could have expected his fall off that fat. No one!

Tanned Tom
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Tanned Tom

Actually, many did. It’s why he didn’t have many offers to sift through.

fuster
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fuster

no one is trying to push Betts out the door, but Betts seems to be adverse to negotiating a contract with Boston..and while losing Betts would be damaging and an embarrassment, losing Betts without receiving a heavy haul of prospects would be disastrous

Joe Joe
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Member
Joe Joe

This team still has a lot of the same pieces as the World Series Championship team. Losing Betts while trying to win another World Series to jumpstart a rebuild would be more disastrous.

stever20
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Member
stever20

but the problem is some of those pieces aren’t what they were last year. Sale a prime example.