When the Boston Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski to be their president of baseball operations in August of 2015, they sent a message to the rest of Major League Baseball.
We want to win now.
“I am anxious to get to Boston and to focus on playing an important role in helping this great franchise continue its recent history of world championships,” Dombrowski told NESN in 2015.
In his first season with the Red Sox, Dombrowski wasted little time building Boston back into title contenders. After two disappointing seasons in which the Red Sox finished in last place, Dombrowski quickly addressed the team’s needs. Dombrowski went out and traded for one of baseball’s best closers in Craig Kimbrel before acquiring prized starting pitcher and former Cy Young winner, David Price. The moves instantly paid off as Boston won the American League East this past season.
But after Boston was swept in the American League Divisional Series by the Cleveland Indians, Dombrowski appeared very quiet throughout the beginning of the Winter Meetings. As some began to question if the Red Sox would make any significant moves, Dombrowski began to wheel and deal. After addressing the Boston bullpen by acquiring hard throwing righty Tyler Thornburg, Dombrowski shocked the entire baseball universe by acquiring sought after left handed pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox.
“In baseball, four years down the road is an eternity in many ways. You need to take advantage of that opportunity. If you make these moves, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win,”Dombrowski said Tuesday. “But I think you just keep taking a chance.”
Before getting Sale, Vegas listed Boston as 9-1 odds to win the 2017 World Series. Shortly after, Boston’s odds improved to 11-2, just slightly behind the Chicago Cubs.
With the acquisition of Sale, the Red Sox boast one of baseball’s best starting rotations. Over the past five seasons, Sale has been one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, finishing in the top five in Cy Young voting each of the last four seasons. Since 2012, Sale ranks first in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP in the American League. David Price, Sale’s new teammate and likely number two starter, ranks second in strikeouts and ERA and third in WHIP over the same time period. Considering that the Red Sox’s third starter will be reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello, Boston may just have the best rotation in all of baseball.
“We feel good. We feel like we have a better ball club. We feel like we’ve helped ourselves,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski, one of baseball’s best executives, came to Boston in 2015 with a long history of making bold deals. When he traded for All Star and future MVP Miguel Cabrera in 2007, Dombrowski gave away the organization’s brightest young stars, including Andrew Miller. Two years later, Dombrowski traded All Star Curtis Granderson for unproven righty Max Scherzer (Scherzer now has 2 Cy Youngs). Dombrowski capped off his final year in Detroit by acquiring All Stars Yoenis Cespedes and David Price, once again sending top young talent to the Red Sox (one of which was Porcello) and Tampa Bay Rays.
Given his prior deals and willingness to move young talent, many predicted that Dombrowski would make several blockbuster moves involving top prospects and superstars. And while the Red Sox did give up two of their top ten prospects when they acquired Kimbrel in 2015, it pales in comparison to what Dombrowski gave up to get Sale.
In return for Sale, the White Sox received Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz. Moncada is listed as the top prospect in baseball by MLB.com, while Kopech and Basabe were both top ten prospects in Boston’s organization. Kopech reportedly hit 105 mph in a minor league game this past season.
While Dombrowski knows that people may one day ask him why he ever traded away prospects like Moncada and Kopech, he also knows why the Red Sox brought him to Bean Town.
“You keep going for it as much as you possibly can. And hopefully, it [winning the World Series] works for you some day,” Dombrowski said after getting Sale.
In the process of adding Sale, Dombrowski also added his own touch to the message that the Boston organization sent baseball when they hired him two summers ago:
We want to win now. And we will do whatever it takes.