Jalen Beeks

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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Watch Red Sox crush three homers in seven-run third inning vs. Rays

Watch Red Sox crush three homers in seven-run third inning vs. Rays

After dropping two of three to the lowly Orioles, the Red Sox needed to make a statement in their series vs. the Rays. That's exactly what they did on Monday night.

In the third inning of their series opener in Tampa Bay, Boston's offense exploded for seven runs against Rays starter Jalen Beeks. Red-hot third baseman Rafael Devers got the party started with a two-run double, then J.D. Martinez extended the lead with a three-run home run.

Andrew Benintendi and Sam Travis added to the onslaught with back-to-back homers. Watch the sequence below:

For Beeks, who Boston traded to Tampa for Nathan Eovaldi last year, those seven runs were the most the left-hander has allowed since his first start as a Ray when he allowed eight vs. the Orioles.

The Red Sox offense continues to be a bright spot in what's been a disappointing season for the defending champions. They currently rank first in MLB in runs scored, hits, and batting average.

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Jalen Beeks will always be connected to Red Sox postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, and he's fine with that

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USA TODAY Sports photos

Jalen Beeks will always be connected to Red Sox postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, and he's fine with that

BOSTON -- Baseball trades connect players in ways that endure. Mark Langston and Randy Johnson. Jeff Bagwell and Larry Andersen. Curt Schilling and Mike Boddicker. Pedro Martinez and Delino DeShields. 

Jalen Beeks can relate. The up-and-coming Rays left-hander knows his name will always be linked with Nathan Eovaldi after the swap that brought the eventual World Series hero to Boston last July.

"Every time I hear his name, I think we're always going to have that connection, that weird connection," Beeks said before Friday's rainout. "We might never talk to each other, but we're always going to have that connection. I hope he does great, and I hope I'm able to help this team as much as he helped the Red Sox in the World Series."

Parting with Beeks was not an easy decision, especially since he had a number of advocates in player development. But even with Eovaldi recovering from elbow surgery that could keep him out until June, it's hard to quibble, not after Eovaldi posted a 1.61 ERA last October while delivering the signature performance of the postseason -- a six-inning relief stint in a marathon World Series Game 2 loss to the Dodgers.

"I've never actually talked to him, but I've heard nothing but good things from former teammates," Beeks said. "Obviously, I was rooting for the Red Sox, not just because I was a part of it. I had a bunch of friends on that team that I wanted to see win the World Series. It was really fun to watch them, how hard they played and how well they played, how good a series it was. It was fun to watch. I was nothing but happy for the guy."

Beeks, 25, is transforming into a legitimate loss for the Red Sox, though. A 12th-rounder in 2014 out of Arkansas, where he played alongside Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, he appears to be a pitcher with a legitimate chance of reaching his ceiling.

He has developed into a power lefty with a 95-mph fastball out of Tampa's pen. He's 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 20 in 19 innings. He's coming off his best outing of the season -- 4.2 innings of shutout relief vs. the Royals with seven strikeouts.

"It's pretty crazy how things have turned out," Beeks said. "I'm still fighting every day to stay here. What they say is true -- the only thing harder thing than getting to the big leagues is staying here."

Beeks might have never landed on anyone's radar, except for a moment of serendipity in March of 2017. The Red Sox were set to play a spring training exhibition against Team USA before the World Baseball Classic. 

Beeks arrived at JetBlue Park expecting to pitch in relief, but when Red Sox scheduled starter Roenis Elias pulled an oblique 15 minutes before first pitch, the anonymous Beeks found himself thrust into action vs. a lineup of legitimate big league stars.

The stage did not overwhelm him as he faced a U.S. team composed of several All-Stars. He struck out future NL MVP Christian Yelich and Orioles All-Star outfielder Adam Jones leading off the game, and ended up going two scoreless innings, retiring Daniel Murphy, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jonathan Lucroy along the way.

"That game kind of put my name on the map a little bit, because I wasn't much of a prospect before," Beeks admitted. "Not a whole lot of people knew who I was, even if they read Baseball America. I just went out there like, 'Here's what I've got, guys. If you hit it, you hit it.' I'd been working to face big leaguers, and that was Team USA. There were plenty of them on that team. It's still crazy looking back on it. I might never get the opportunity to face a team like that again."

He shouldn't sell himself short. Only a few months after the Red Sox turned him into a postseason hero, he has a chance to carve out a legitimate career for himself. And who knows -- maybe one day Eovaldi will be remembered as the guy traded for Beeks.

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