By Louis Addeo-Weiss
It’s been said that matterless World Series hangover has a persistent odor around Major League Baseball.
This theory may be supported by the fact that we haven’t had a repeat champion since the 1999-2000 Yankees, a club in the midst of their most recent dynasty.
However, we’ve seen clubs such as the 2008 champion Philadelphia Phillies march back to the fall classic the following year, only to be defeated by the 2009 version of the New York Yankees.
The last two World Series have had the National League represented by the Los Angeles Dodgers, though the club failed to win each of the last two years, losing to the Houston Astros and a team we’ll soon talk about, the Boston Red Sox, respectively.
It can be argued that the 2018 Red Sox, a team who won 108 games and breezed their way to a World Series win, their 9th in franchise history, and 4th since the start of 2004, were one of the most dominant teams in recent memory; however, while 2019 has still seen the club play to an above .500 record (67-61 as of August 22nd), the chances of them chasing a second consecutive title have essentially subsided.
According to baseball-reference, the 2019 version of the Red Sox has just a 1.2% chance of making the playoffs, this as of August 22nd.
Blame this on the already mentioned World Series hangover, or underperforming for some of the team’s biggest names, such as Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jackie Bradley Jr., the team’s overall performance has left many in Boston with the thought of “what’s to come”, as the team looks to 2020 and beyond.
For Sale, who signed a 5-year/$145M contract prior to the start of the season, an 0-4, 8.50 ERA start led many to question the health of the left-hander, as reports had leaked back in the previous August regarding inflammation in his left shoulder.
Pitching to a career worst 4.40 ERA and dismal 6-11 record, despite posting a sport leading 13.3 K/9, Sale was placed on the IL after further tests revealed continued inflammation in his shoulder, which has led many to believe Sale may require Tommy John Surgery, ultimately ending his season, and giving the club two high-priced arms (David Price being the other).
A second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who has performed countless reconstructive surgeries in the past, revealed that Tommy John wasn’t necessary at the moment, and that Sale would be re-evaluated in six weeks.
The club has also been without fellow left-hander David Price who has missed time with what doctors are referring to as a triangular fibrocartilage complex cyst in left wrist. Price hasn’t pitched since August 4th when he allowed 7 runs in just 2.2 innings against division rival New York.
From 2020-22, the Red Sox are set to pay Price $96M.
According to Bleacher Report, Boston’s farm system ranked 30th out of 30 teams following the 2019 First-Year Player Draft, a lot of which can be attributed to current head of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
When joining the front office in August of 2015, Dombrowski made it known that his focus was to win now, and for the most part, that’s exactly what Boston did, winning three consecutive AL East division titles from 2016-18, including the aforementioned World Series in 2018.
Dombrowski’s tenure in Boston followed a similar trend as he did while serving as the general manager of the Detroit Tigers where the win-now mindset coincided with trading away future minor league assets for established names to propel his teams into October.
Of the many players traded during his time in Detroit, some notable names included pitcher Robbie Ray, third basemen Eugenio Suarez, relievers Corey Knebel and Yoakim Soria, the previously mentioned Price, and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, for which he acquired Luis Cessa, who soon found himself traded to and pitching for the New York Yankees, and eventual Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer.
Briefly returning to the subject of large contracts, Dombrowksi was at the helm when the Tigers granted two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera the 8-year/$240M contract they now wish they could have back.
Following the 2016 draft, the Tigers farm system ranked 28th of 30 teams, further indicating how Dombrowski desecrated their farm system in hopes of winning a World Series, which they failed to do, though they did reach one in 2012, to which they were surprisingly swept in 4 games by the San Francisco Giants.
During his tenure in Boston, Dombrowski has traded the likes of Jalen Beeks, Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada, Ty Buttery, Travis Shaw, and Shaun Anderson, all of whom, except Kopech who underwent Tommy John Surgery last September, have become major league regulars.
With all of that said, many feel Dombrowski is on the hot seat given the club’s underperforming this season.
Not only is the club saddled with the contracts of Sale, Price, and World Series hero Nathan Eovalid, who re-upped with the team on a 4-year/$68M contract following the end of the season, and a feeble farm system, but the question of arguably the most important player in their franchise is one the Red Sox will be pestered about come season’s end; that player of note is right fielder Mookie Betts.
The 26-year-old reigning AL MVP is set to hit free agency following the end of the 2020 season, and with the already mentioned names who have been locked in, including shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is signed through 2025 on a 6-year/$120M deal, and DH/OF J.D. Martinez, who can opt out of his current 5-year/$110M deal following the end of 2019, Boston should consider the idea of moving their prized position player.
While not having the year he did in 2018 when he lead baseball in WAR (10.9), batting average (.346), and slugging percentage (.640), Betts has still amassed a 5.0 WAR, .388 on-base-percentage, sport leading 116 runs scored, and more than respectable 128 OPS+, so the question of whether or not his value on the trade market would be lessened is merely a null factor here.
Dombrowksi may have met his win-now quota, but the myriad of signings, extensions and trades have come at the expense of foraging the club’s long-term plans.
Given the Red Sox haven’t come together with Betts on an extension and his impending free agency, Boston doesn’t want to make the same mistake the Baltimore Orioles did with Manny Machado and hold onto him until they receive an inadequate return.
Trading Betts this offseason presents them with their best opportunity to get bang-for-their-buck, as Mookie is the kind of player who can drastically alter a farm system overnight.
As for Dombrowski, it appears he may pull a Jim Carrey and leave before things get much worse, or Boston may just wind up letting him go.
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