Red Sox

Three deals that illustrate where Dave Dombrowski ultimately went wrong in eyes of Red Sox ownership

Three deals that illustrate where Dave Dombrowski ultimately went wrong in eyes of Red Sox ownership

Here's the thing about Dave Dombrowski's "worst" deals -- they almost always landed impact players.

When he overpaid for closer Craig Kimbrel, in his first major acquisition as Red Sox president of baseball operations, he still landed an All-Star. When he took the David Price bidding into the stratosphere in what became the highest contract ever given to a pitcher, he still landed the de facto 2018 postseason MVP. When he surrendered promising left-hander Jalen Beeks to the Rays, he still landed eventual playoff hero Nathan Eovaldi.

But those deals still took a toll on the long-term health of the organization, and it's worth exploring how they came to be viewed by ownership as signals that Dombrowski wasn't the right man to lead the baseball operation moving forward, which is why he was fired on Sunday night.

Start with Kimbrel. Dombrowski acquired the All-Star closer from the Padres on Nov. 13, 2015, by making what became his signature -- the offer you can't refuse. The trade created a ripple of uneasiness across a front office that had grown accustomed to the hoarding of prospects by predecessor Ben Cherington, even as it recognized the need to ease up on the reins.

At issue: the centerpieces of the trade -- outfielder Manuel Margot and infielder Javier Guerra -- represented a fair price on their own to acquire the disgruntled closer, who hadn't thrived in San Diego after five years of dominance in Atlanta. Each was a consensus top-60 prospect, with Baseball Prospectus ranking Margot 14th following the 2015 season.
Dombrowski is a man of action, however, and he wanted the deal done, so he sweetened the pot with left-hander Logan Allen, a teenager who had just posted a 1.11 ERA in his pro debut while walking only one batter in 24.1 innings.

While Kimbrel certainly produced in Boston, making three All-Star teams and saving more than 100 games, the loss of Allen proved costly this July when the Indians made him a central figure in the three-way trade that sent right-hander Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati, top prospect Taylor Trammell to the Padres, and Allen and slugger Franmil Reyes to the Tribe.

Allen debuted this season at 22 and is exactly the kind of cost-controlled piece the Red Sox could use to augment a rotation that's underperforming and overpaid.

Speaking of the rotation, Dombrowski has committed more than $400 million to three giant question marks -- Price, Chris Sale, and Eovaldi. When the Red Sox signed Price for a record $217 million a month after acquiring Kimbrel, they didn't just surpass the next-highest offer, they obliterated it. The runner-up Cardinals reportedly offered Price a seven-year deal in the $175 million range. The Red Sox blew that number out of the water to overcome whatever misgivings Price may have harbored about pitching in Boston, which probably should've been a red flag. As the Globe's Alex Speier noted, they effectively bid against themselves. Now his contract looks unmovable.

Then there's Eovaldi. This was an under-the-radar moment, but many in the organization felt he could be acquired without surrendering Beeks, a hard-throwing left-hander who had impressed in an emergency start against Team USA before the 2017 World Baseball Classic, when he struck out Christian Yelich and Adam Jones in two scoreless innings.

Beeks had a number of advocates on the player development side who recognized his potential to develop into a big league starter, especially after he overhauled his arsenal to feature a 95 mph four-seam fastball and cutter.

It's easy to look at that deal and say, "Eovaldi was instrumental in winning a World Series. Who cares that you gave up Jalen Beeks?" But what if the Red Sox could've acquired Eovaldi for a lesser prospect -- and with Eovaldi coming off yet another arm surgery, his market wasn't exactly robust -- and kept Beeks?

He'd be another depth option in an organization that badly needs it. Instead, he has emerged as a key multi-inning arm in Kevin Cash's bullpen, with an 11-3 record since arriving in Tampa.

The same can be said of Giants right-hander Shaun Anderson, a 2016 third-round pick shipped to San Francisco in 2017 for Eduardo Nunez. Anderson has made 16 starts in the big leagues (albeit with a 5.22 ERA) and owns a higher ceiling than the pitchers the Red Sox were forced to throw in the 4-5 spots of the rotation this season.

Meanwhile, how much could the bullpen use someone like Ty Buttrey? The 6-foot-6 right-hander had some command issues early in his minor league career, but since going to the Angels last July for second baseman Ian Kinsler, has averaged nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings while posting a 3.90 ERA. That's a solid setup man in exchange for a second-base rental.

In each case, there was apprehension within the organization that Dombrowski was overpaying. That's tolerable when the farm system is loaded, but it's not sustainable, which is why the Red Sox suddenly find themselves in the market for a new GM.

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Scott Boras explains why J.D. Martinez opted in to Red Sox contract

Scott Boras explains why J.D. Martinez opted in to Red Sox contract

An offseason filled with uncertainty for the Red Sox began on an encouraging note as J.D. Martinez chose not to opt out of his contract earlier this month.

Boston's prized DH decided to return for $23.75 million in 2020 rather than test the free-agent market. Wednesday at the GM Meetings in Arizona, his agent Scott Boras explained why.

“J.D. wanted assurance of competition at a high level and the fact that he played so well in Boston,” Boras said. “We looked at it and with those two things in mind, that was the focus. For that reason, he decided to opt in. The contract that we structured allowed him choices after each season. It was something that in this year, at this time, we felt like it was the best decision.”

Martinez enjoyed another stellar season at the plate for the Red Sox in 2019. The 32-year-old hit 36 home runs with 105 RBI and a .939 OPS in his second season in Boston.

“This is an elite bat,” Boras said. “This is very different than what DHs are, usually, to most teams. He’s a franchise bat so we always look at him that way.”

While Martinez's bat obviously will be welcomed back to the middle of the Red Sox lineup, his return casts even more doubt on Mookie Betts' future in Boston. Betts is set to become a free agent after the 2020 campaign and has repeatedly been the subject of trade rumors.

Martinez will get another chance to opt out following the 2020 season.

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MLB rumors: Latest free agent buzz on Yankees, Madison Bumgarner, Jose Abreu and more

MLB rumors: Latest free agent buzz on Yankees, Madison Bumgarner, Jose Abreu and more

The MLB offseason is underway, and the rumor mill has been in overdrive since the GM meetings began earlier this week in Arizona.

Some of the top pitchers in the sport, including Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner will dominate free agency headlines in the coming weeks. Several good hitters are available, too, setting the stage for what should be an exciting winter of player movement.

And, of course, the trade market is always fun to monitor. 

Here are the latest rumors from the GM meetings in Arizona.

Josh Donaldson, 3B
Donaldson rebounded from a disappointing 2018 to hit 37 home runs with 94 RBI and a .379 on-base percentage over 155 games for the Atlanta Braves in 2019. As you might suspect, he's drawing interest from several teams, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale reports the Texas Rangers are in on Donaldson as well.

Madison Bumgarner, SP
Bumgarner should be one of the most sought after starting pitchers on the free-agent market, and one team keeping tabs on the veteran left-hander is the Philadelphia Phillies, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

"Yes, the Phils have checked in on Bumgarner, and likely are motivated to keep him away from the Braves, their NL East rivals. The Braves are the team closest to Bumgarner’s hometown of Hickory, N.C., and seem a more natural fit for him than the Phillies."

Bumgarner did his best to help the Giants contend for a postseason berth with a 4-2 record, a 3.75 ERA and 88 strikeouts over 96 innings after the All-Star break. He's no longer a No. 1 ace, but Bumgarner is still a quality pitcher and should be pursued by World Series contenders. His postseason résumé, which includes two championships and 16 total appearances, is really impressive.

The Phillies ranked 11th out of 15 National League teams with a 4.64 starters ERA in 2019, so Bumgarner absolutely would be a quality addition to their rotation in 2020.

New York Yankees
Another team to watch in the Bumgarner sweepstakes is the Yankees. Acquiring another top-of-the-rotation pitcher should be a top priority for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman this offseason, and he recently confirmed the team's interest in Bumgarner to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I will definitely talk to Bumgarner’s agency,” Cashman told the Chronicle.

New York's lack of an ace was a problem in the 2019 playoffs, and the team's 4.51 ERA among starters ranked fourth among the five American League playoff teams during the regular season. The Yankees are interested in Gerrit Cole, too, but as the top free-agent starter on the market, he's going to receive a massive contract. Bumgarner would be a cheaper option for the reigning AL East champs.

Jose Abreu
Abreu is a great option for teams in need of more power in their lineup. He's averaged 29.8 home runs and 101.8 RBI over his six major league seasons, and at 32 years old, the veteran first baseman should still have a few really productive years remaining.

One team to keep in eye on with Abreu is the Miami Marlins, per Heyman.

The Marlins certainly could use another big bat in their lineup. Miami hit the fewest homers (146) of any NL team, in addition to having the third-worst batting average of those 15 clubs.

A Red Sox-Yankees trade? Bloom, Cashman won't rule it out>>>

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