He’ll be 61 in July and is usually tagged as “old school.’’ He’s been in his chosen profession for almost 40 years. So how could Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski be a game changer?
Ask Sox fans. They’ve noticed a distinct alteration in the way things are done at Fenway Park since Dombrowski came on board in August 2015. It’s been seismic. The Sox no longer patiently cling to every top prospect drafted during the Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington administrations. They no longer worship at the altar of analytics. And they no longer finish in last place.
The Sox were bound for their third basement finish in four years when Dombrowski signed on during a dismal baseball summer. The tall Midwesterner (Dombrowski was raised in Illinois and went to college at Western Michigan) started dealing from the top of the Sox’ prospect deck almost immediately. He sent four minor leaguers to the San Diego Padres for fireball closer Craig Kimbrel. Then he signed free agent lefty David Price to a $217 million contract.
The 2016 Red Sox became about “winning now’’ and soared to the top of the American League East, winning 93 games for a first-place finish in Dombrowski’s first full season. Along the way, Trader Dave dealt another highly touted pitcher, Anderson Espinoza, for All-Star lefty Drew Pomeranz.
It’s been more of the same since the 2016 Sox flamed out in the playoffs. In one day in December 2016, Dombrowski traded four more kids — including potential future All-Stars Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — to the White Sox for All-Star lefty Chris Sale, then made a deal for Brewer reliever Tyler Thornburg. By a conservative count, the Sox baseball boss traded seven of the organization’s top 10 prospects in his first 18 months on the job. “It’s hard for me to relate to what was done in the past, since I wasn’t here,’’ Dombrowski explained. “We didn’t add the players that we added . . . to not try to win. So any time you try to win, there’s a sense of urgency.’’
Boston’s once-fertile farm system will look to reseed in next month’s amateur draft, while the parent club at Fenway dreams of a Fall Classic matchup with Epstein’s world champion Cubs. The future is now for Dombrowski and the 2017 Red Sox.