Red Sox

Red Sox

BOSTON -- Dave Dombrowski's system of team building can best be described as blunt force trauma. See player, grab player, don't get too bogged down in the details; if a door ends up knocked off its hinges, send a repairman.

The sledgehammer approach broke a two-year cycle of underachievement and produced the greatest team in Red Sox history. Dombrowski sacrificed a considerable amount of both prospect and financial capital to acquire Craig Kimbrel, David Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi, but there's no questioning the results in a magical 2018. One hundred and eight wins and a World Series title? Mission bleeping accomplished.

Now comes the hard part, and it requires a defter touch. Replace that sledgehammer with a scalpel, toss the McMansion blueprints for a farmhouse demanding ground-up vision, replace those Mike Tyson haymakers with Floyd Mayweather's artistry.

That's the task facing the Red Sox and a roster that will soon be in transition. Does Dombrowski sound like the man for that job?

Not from here.

His security is a natural topic of conversation given his cratering team. The Red Sox lost for the ninth time in 10 games on Tuesday night, dropping a 6-2 decision to the woeful Royals without putting up much of a fight.

They're hopelessly out of the division race, plummeting in the wild-card race and on the verge of turning September into draft pick tankathon. While it's true that none of us saw this coming, it's also accurate that Dombrowski's job was to recognize warning signs over the winter and take bold action.

 

He instead followed the path of least resistance, re-signing World Series heroes Eovaldi and Steve Pearce despite red flags, extending Sale before even seeing him pitch in a real game following last season's shoulder injury, and assuming internal solutions such as Tyler Thornburg and Steven Wright could mitigate the loss of closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly. File each of those decisions under, "Disaster."

A year remains on Dombrowski's contract, but the wolves are already circling. The Globe's Dan Shaughnessy reported on Tuesday that Dombrowski has walled himself off from most of baseball operations except trusted advisors Frank Wren and Tony La Russa, and will likely be fired this fall. (For what it's worth, Dombrowski left his box after the loss Tuesday night with a trio of Theo Epstein holdovers -- senior VP of operations Raquel Ferreira and assistant GMs Brian O'Halloran and Eddie Romero.)

The implication is that Dombrowski will lose his job for reasons relating to personality, but in reality, he can be judged harshly on performance, too.

Signing Eovaldi to a $68 million extension despite his long history of underperformance and injury was a mistake that hamstrung the roster, especially following April surgery that left the team without a fifth starter. Eovaldi's replacements averaged three innings a turn for three months before the acquisition of Andrew Cashner, who dropped to 1-4 on Tuesday with a 7.54 ERA. As a beloved broadcaster might say, "Yuck."

Signing Sale to a $145 million extension despite his own history of second-half fades -- not to mention last season's shoulder injury that left him mostly useless until the final three outs of the playoffs -- was an easy first-guess. The extension doesn't even kick in until 2020. Imagine signing a free-agent starter solely for his decline years. There's no easy way out of that one, especially now that Magic Johnson isn't running the Dodgers anymore. Ownership has every right to feel queasy.

World Series hero David Price delivered when it mattered most, but he has otherwise proven a remarkably poor fit for Boston. Even knowing what Price would deliver last October, it's hard to imagine John Henry would shell out another $217 million if offered a mulligan.

Those three pitchers will almost certainly comprise the top of the rotation next year, and if that doesn't put a lump in your throat, nothing will.

That's on Dombrowski. So is a farm system that's in the process of being rebuilt behind promising prospects infielder Tristan Casas and right-hander Bryan Mata, but is bereft of talent in the upper levels, which is why the bullpen has seen a parade of Joshes and Ryans and Mikes fail to stem the bleeding.

The next Red Sox GM faces some pivotal decisions. Should Mookie Betts be extended or traded? If J.D. Martinez opts out, do you sign him long-term? Is it worth trying to find a taker for Price? Can budding superstar Rafael Devers be signed to an extension? Is Jackie Bradley Jr. worth keeping? Who replaces Rick Porcello's innings? Is Brandon Workman a solution at closer or will resources need to be spent on a fireman? Is Andrew Benintendi a part of the future or a lure for pitching?

 

That's a very different job than the one Dombrowski inherited from Ben Cherington almost exactly four years ago. What ownership must ask itself is if he's the right man for the new challenge, or if it's time to find his replacement.

The next great Red Sox team is going to require a chisel, not a bulldozer, and Dombrowski's wearing a hard hat.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.