It may appear Dealer Dave Dombrowski, the man whose career has been built on the mega-deal and star power, was just beat at his own game. But it's not the Giancarlo Stanton trade that will deliver the potential knockout from Brian Cashman, if the trade with the Marlins is indeed finalized.
The desicive blow was cumulative, in all the moves that led up to a point where Dombrowski is tiring and Cashman has enough energy to taunt him with a blockbuster.
As Elias pointed out via ESPN, there’s been only one other time when the team with the most home runs added the player with the most home runs: 1919, when the Yankees traded for Babe Ruth. The Red Sox need one thing above all this offseason: home runs.
They will still acquire some, you can be sure of that.
“I, for one, can't wait to see how Dave responds to this,” one American League scout said Saturday.
There was foreboding schadenfreude laced in those words, a sense that Dombrowski may overreact. That he’ll do something to alleviate a fan base’s disappointment in seeing Stanton join forces with Aaron Judge, but at an unreasonable cost to the Sox in the long term.
You can only make so many restrictive moves: David Price signings, top-prospect trades and the like. Yes, Stanton’s injury risk and salary qualify as a restrictive move. Even if Stanton wanted to come to Boston, it would have been a straining deal to pull off. The Yankees can more easily replace Starlin Castro because of their farm system.
Now, this is not a defense of the Red Sox. On the contrary: It’s a distinction in where the issue lies.
The problem is not simply the fact the Sox didn't trade for Stanton, but the fact they both needed a player like Stanton and also lacked the reasonable wherewithal to acquire him. Everything that preceded this point made the Stanton deal less feasible for the Sox and more so for the Yankees. That’s the problem.
The amount of flexibility available is directly a product of baseball leadership. Dombrowski was saddled with some bad contracts from Ben Cherington and the previous administration. The fact that the Red Sox feel constraints (at a time they need to add from the outside to improve) while the Yankees can move freely is a reflection of management. If not necessarily bad Sox management of late, then particularly good Yankees management. Cashman deserves a ton of credit.
Over the summer, it was already apparent that the Yankees were in a position of power when it comes to the ability to add to their team. From the trade deadline:
But the harsher reality: The Sox have already spent most of their savings. Dombrowski’s already pulled off a blockbuster. More than one. Only two certified gold doubloons remain: Rafael Devers and Jason Groome.
There are two elements at play here.
The Sox have been in their competitive window for longer than the Yankees. Dombrowski, being Dealer Dave, has taken his shots. No one can argue with the immediate success of Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale either.
But who used their prospect capital and large-payroll ability more prudently, Cashman or Dombrowski? Which team will now have the longer competitive window?
The old rivals both are in a window now. The Sox, despite all their expenditures, are not comfortably positioned to repeat as a division winner.
“I think there’s windows of opportunity because it’s very tough to keep everybody together or hungry or healthy,” Cashman said this spring. “When you have a collection of talent, depending on like how long, how young that talent is, I guess you can keep your window longer. No, I believe in the window stuff.
“You always want to sustain and maintain, but obviously, the way the rules of the game are, the more success — what goes up has to come down, because you’re not getting the high-end draft picks. You’re being penalized for success, which pulls successful teams down, and you’re being rewarded for failure, which is going to catapult people out of the abyss. So, the structure of the game and the rules of the game are designed that make those windows real.”
Cashman has all the elbow grease to keep his window open. Dombrowski is running out.
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BOSTON — The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton seems to prefer a trade to a team in California, where he grew up. You can’t blame him for wanting to go home.
In addition, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic notes Stanton's preferences are something of a moving target. And NBC Sports Boston previously reported Stanton intends to have an open mind throughout the process.
Would he have felt that way 15 years ago, that so much choice existed?
There was a time when Boston was, for most, one of the two premier destinations in baseball. You had the Sox, the Yankees and everyone else — and everybody knew it. Those days are gone, because the majority of baseball, a collection of 30 teams, wanted them gone.
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Money was at the heart of the Sox’ allure and competitiveness then, and always will be. As a player under contract with a full no-trade clause, Stanton knows how much he’s going to be paid, so the choice is simply whom he prefers now pay him.
But the power of money has been lessened overall because the disparity in payrolls has tightened. Parity’s rise, by way of a de facto soft salary cap, has not only impacted the gravitas of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, it’s lessened Boston’s pull in general.
The Sox are not one of just one of just two teams that can pay up, that can win. The history of the organization and Ted Williams’ sweat beads are still strewn across center field. The brand name still rings loudly. But you don’t have to go to Boston to be relevant, to be on a perennial contender, to matter and compete.
In part, that's because the idea of a perennial contender has been dismantled by the sport's bosses.
“I don’t think you can look at like that period [circa 2004], I don’t think you can look and say, ‘Oh, teams aren’t as good now,’” one general manager said. “The rules were so favorable to the big market teams back then, it was incredible.”
There’s an inevitability at play here. You can argue for the game’s survival, the rules had to change.
Now, the reward of winning in Boston, or New York another major market may be a bit sweeter than a smaller market. The celebrity status may be greater. But if coming to Boston also means the fishbowl headache, that cost-benefit analysis for players probably should not be what it once was. If dollars are near equal, maybe Boston is no longer the place you just have to be.
Some people will want to be in Boston for the pressure and passion, for the legacy, for the elements that have always been in place. The Red Sox still have an advantage compared to, say, the Brewers.
But the imperative Alex Rodriguez faced in the offseason before 2004, when the Sox and Yanks both chased him, seems to be disappearing: you don’t have to come to the Sox, and you don’t have to go to New York.
You probably do have to go to a big market to get paid the maximum amount of money as a free agent, but if the dollars aren’t too far apart, you can compete elsewhere. You can be on a good team with a lesser headache.
Do David Price and Carl Crawford set a precedent for others? Will Bryce Harper or Manny Machado — Machado, you’ll recall, has only the highest respect for the Red Sox organization — want to be paid just a bit extra to come to Boston when they're free agents?
Playing at home, as Stanton may find out, can at times be its own headache. Couple a homecoming with Hollywood, and Stanton may be asking for a different kind of nuisance than he’d find in Boston.
But decent choices are wider now. Baseball wanted it that way.