The assembly of representatives from all 30 teams for the general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., marks a symbolic start for teams to barrel down the road towards 2016. Now, writes Peter Abraham, the reshaping of the Red Sox under new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is about to get underway in earnest.
Dombrowski is unquestionably in an enviable position. He assumed responsibility for a team that has finished in last place the last two years, but with a foundation of young big leaguers who started to come into their own in 2015 in a fashion that resembled the launch point for many of the last teams standing in October. Moreover, he faces a confluence of resources that can be matched by few teams.
The Sox have money at their disposal. Dombrowski said earlier this offseason that the team would not take a backwards step in payroll, which in turn suggests that the Sox should have at least $30 million with which to play – and potentially quite a bit more, given the possibility for a) salary-shedding trades and b) the potential freedom to flex even greater financial muscle.
After all, a $200 million payroll does not represent the limit of what the Red Sox’ financial model can tolerate. It’s worth rewinding eight months, when the team committed $63 million to acquire Yoan Moncada in March ($31.5 million signing bonus, $31.5 million MLB tax), a massive one-off expenditure that former team president/CEO Larry Lucchino explained by saying that the team’s ownership group was “willing to sacrifice some profits for a winning baseball team.” Evidently, there’s quite a bit of profit to create notable decision-making flexibility.
In other words, while Dombrowski – like all heads of baseball operations – undoubtedly faces budgetary restrictions, and while he is restricted to a degree by significant (and thus far) inefficient commitments to Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, and Pablo Sandoval, he also has enough financial latitude to explore the possibility of acquiring any free agent.
At the same time, the Sox’ deep reservoir of high-ceiling prospects likely will allow the Sox to explore the possibility of acquiring any player who is available by trade. Peter Gammons, for instance, suggested that if the White Sox make the heretofore untouchable Chris Sale available in a trade, the Red Sox – with catcher Blake Swihart and Single A shortstop Javier Guerra – would stand close to the front of the line as a potential trade partner.
One longtime talent evaluator recently took stock of the Sox’s top minor league prospects, weighing whether he’d target Moncada, five-tool outfielder Andrew Benintendi, potential middle-of-the-order third baseman Rafael Devers, or the dazzlingly talented 17-year-old righthander Anderson Espinoza to anchor a deal. After considering the individual merits of each, he arrived at an open-ended conclusion.
“I’d be excited to get any of them,” he said.
The combination of financial might and a brimming farm system has left Dombrowski in a position where he can consider nearly every option. Such far-reaching possibilities can be challenging – it can be harder to arrive at a precise evaluation for every player in the game than it is for a subset – but the available opportunity is immense.