Red Sox

Drellich: Dombrowski's messaging on lack of Red Sox moves misses mark

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Drellich: Dombrowski's messaging on lack of Red Sox moves misses mark

In the end, I believe the Red Sox will sign J.D. Martinez. It’s the overwhelmingly obvious move. It’s painfully obvious.

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports that the Sox offer is roughly $125 million over five years.

Until that signing — or until that prediction proves wrong — 93 wins is not the hill to die on. 

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We’re not exactly in Dan Duquette more-days-in-first-place territory, but Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is trying to sell something that I’d be surprised to hear anyone is really buying.

“We won 93 games here with basically the team we have coming back, and some guys coming back healthy,” Dombrowski said Thursday. “I think some guys will have stronger years. I’ve learned the predictive nature of the game is not something I partake in very much.

“I’ve been with clubs who’ve been the favorites by far and haven’t done quite as well, and [with clubs that are] not the favorites and have done quite well. So, you let those things take care of themselves. But for our situation, we’ll keep working at it. But I do think we have a good club no matter what.”

Sure. A good club. Everyone knows about the faults of prediction in baseball, how random the game is.

But let’s cut to the chase. Do the Sox have a championship-caliber club? A team built as well as the Astros and Yankees? One that’s kept up with those teams this offseason?

The Sox have brought back Mitch Moreland. Addison Reed is gone. The Astros, meanwhile, added Gerrit Cole, and the Yankees traded for Giancarlo Stanton.

Ah, now one may understand why Dombrowski prefers not to partake in the predictive nature of the game. 

Dombrowski mentioned 93 wins earlier this week on MLB Network Radio as well, noting he thinks that figure may have slipped a few minds.

“I think people forget that because of course we got eliminated in the postseason, the first round,” Dombrowski said. “But we did win 93 games.” 

That’s nice, Dan — err, Dave.

The protocols of posturing have long been in place in baseball, the code of what executives and agents and any of the rest of them can and cannot say long understood.

Dombrowski is stretching them. 

He’s digging in now on the idea that the Red Sox are good to go if the season starts tomorrow.

“If you told me right now that our starting rotation and our bullpen was going to stay healthy during the season, I’d take our chances right now with our club,” Dombrowski said. “I think that we can stay with anybody.”

Because staying with other teams has always been the goal — not being outright better than them?

Dombrowski said that he hasn’t really looked at the Astros' and Yankees' rosters because the winter isn't over and that internal rebounds can make up the 40 home run dropoff from 2016 to 2017: “I think quite a bit can be made up.”

Who really believes this? Who really believes the Red Sox could proceed into the season comfortably without some external improvement? You’re in a market competing with the Patriots, a division with the Yankees, and a league with the Astros, and this is what you’re bringing to the table?

And no, Dombrowski's stance isn’t necessary to keep down the cost of adding Martinez.

We can suppose that if Dombrowski were to look into the camera, tear up and plead with Martinez to join the Red Sox, an abnormal amount of leverage might shift to Martinez and agent Scott Boras. 

Even then, reality wouldn’t change. No one is confused by reality here. Dombrowski prefers not to publicly acknowledge it — at least, not anymore.

“You know, it's easy to say, we need to score more runs,” Dombrowski said on Oct. 11, the day of John Farrell’s dismissal. “I didn't supply the players that would give us enough runs. I think we do need that. That's part of our offseason goal.”

We assume negotiations to be ongoing. Dombrowski declined to characterize the frequency of conversation he is having with any players/agents (a bizarre thing to decline to discuss, considering how general a subject it is) although he said there are standing offers out there.

The Red Sox' position has long been clear, long been obvious. Dombrowski pretending everything is good to go because the team won 93 games last season misses the mark, even within the accepted constraints of posturing and hooey.

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: How J.D. Martinez signing impacts Red Sox

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: How J.D. Martinez signing impacts Red Sox

0:41 - The Red Sox have made their splash in free agency as they sign slugger J.D. Martinez to a 5-year, $110 million. Evan Drellich and Lou Merloni discuss the addition and how it makes the Red Sox offense much deeper.

5:44 - Devin McCourty told NJ.com recently that the team knew Malcolm Butler wasn’t going to start in the Super Bowl. Albert Breer joins BST to discuss McCourty’s comments on Butler.

11:38 - Tom Giles, DJ Bean, and Joe Haggerty discuss the Bruins 2-1 win in overtime against the Flames and how they were able to bounce back after a 6-1 loss over the weekend. 

16:21 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Hurley talk about why more people aren’t taking it seriously that Rob Gronkowski might retire.

J.D. Martinez's deal makes Dave Dombrowski, John Henry look good

J.D. Martinez's deal makes Dave Dombrowski, John Henry look good

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The marriage felt arranged. The engagement was definitely too long. At the altar, they proved a perfect match.

J.D. Martinez’s five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox, which isn’t yet official but has been confirmed to NBC Sports Boston, created a night that was uncommon for the Red Sox in the last year: nothing but love.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in October took responsibility for providing a subpar offense in 2017. At last, he addressed an admitted shortcoming with the best available option, at a reasonable price to boot.

In front of the microphones Monday morning, Red Sox ownership did not acknowledge their most basic of obligations: to improve every winter. John Henry and Tom Werner suggested they had made sufficient changes.

Later in the day, Henry and Werner put their money where their mouth earlier was not.

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Doling out dollars is not always the solution, as the Red Sox and many teams have learned over the years. But in this case, a situation where the Sox were so clearly missing one thing — a bat capable of 40 home runs, someone whose production might come close to David Ortiz’s — dipping into free agency made sense. The depressed market and the state of the Sox farm system made a signing even more logical compared to a trade. There was greater impetus to act now, too, because of the likelihood this group looks somewhat different in coming years.

Missing out on Martinez would have been problematic. The posturing throughout the negotiations was constant from both sides, and sometimes downright aggravating to listen to. But the Sox did what they had to, and Martinez is still positioned to get a full slate of at-bats with the Sox this spring to be ready for Opening Day. Long wait, no foul.

One has to hope, and assume, that the Sox dug in on Martinez’s background, personality and character to best predict how he’ll fit in Boston. He’s not an Eric Hosmer, center-of-the-clubhouse figure. He’s a thoughtful and confident hitter, someone who was released four spring trainings ago by the Astros and signed with the Tigers on a minor league deal — Dombrowski’s old Tigers. Martinez handled the pressure of a pennant race last season in Arizona, although Arizona is a wee bit different.

The contract can work out well for both sides. Martinez surely wanted more, but he’s getting $50 million over the first two years and $72 million in the first years if he chooses not to take one of his two potential opt outs. He can become a free agent after Year 2 or Year 3, and has the insurance of two more years if he doesn’t want to test the market again.

Dombrowski has taken a lot of flack here and elsewhere for being an inefficient spender, for not squeezing out value when he can and should. He took the Martinez pursuit right up to the first day of full workouts at JetBlue Park (and Martinez’s agent, Scott Boras, took it there as well). But Dombrowski squeezed out value.

Martinez’s production at the plate is on par with some of the absolute best, even if he is a late-blooming star who isn’t as well known as say, Giancarlo Stanton.

From 2014-16, Ortiz had a .937 OPS. From 2014-17, Bryce Harper had a .937 OPS. Martinez had a .936 OPS.

The top slugging percentages from 2014-17, with a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances: Mike Trout, .579, Martinez .574, Stanton .573 and Ortiz .564.

Via BaseballSavant.com creator Daren Willman, Martinez barreled up 19.5 percent of batted balls last season, third most in the majors behind Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo.

Speaking of Judge — he has a partner in the lineup in Stanton. The Astros added top pitcher Gerritt Cole. Finally, the Red Sox added a big piece of their own. They did what they had to, and Dombrowski, Sam Kennedy and the Sox owners should be applauded for that.

Now, can they upgrade the bullpen? Just kidding. Mostly.

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