The Opening Day roster represents a landmark, most notably as a career milestone for the players who participate in the pageantry of the season opener for the first time in their careers. But it’s worth remembering: The 25 players who line up for the anthem for the first game of the year aren’t the same group that will conclude it.
The reality of roster flux looms large over a Red Sox team that is already demonstrating a capacity for restlessness. The changing roles of Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo underscore that the 2016 Red Sox are, in many ways, a team that will tinker with its mix, that views its composition as dynamic rather than static.
They’re not alone in that view, as part of the job description of front offices is to reimagine constantly the configuration of a club to make it better. Still, the Sandoval and Castillo moves suggest the possibility of a particularly aggressive approach to team needs, lending further credence to the perception of how president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski likes to operate.
Dombrowski is known for straight-line approaches, as with an offseason in which he targeted an elite starter, a top-shelf reliever, and a backup outfielder, and hit all three marks before the start of the winter meetings. If he sees a need – or an opportunity – he moves quickly in response to it.
Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press looks back on the Tigers’ trade for Miguel Cabrera after the 2007 season, a blockbuster that is particularly revealing about the dealmaking style of Dombrowski – and his willingness to treat another team’s asking price as fair rather than haggling over a player he wants.
“The six names they gave us were the six names we gave them,” Dombrowski said of the package the Tigers sent to the Marlins, which included top prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin along with four additional players (most notably reliever Burke Badenhop). “I said, ‘You know what? This is too big of a deal and we like this guy too much and we’ve got a chance to get him. … Let’s not make this complicated. Let’s just tell them we’ve got a deal.’”
In some ways, the way the Sox closed on Craig Kimbrel proceeded similarly. There might have been a chance to get the Padres to budge on the back part of that deal; while San Diego had made clear that the inclusion of Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra was necessary, it’s possible that the Red Sox could have dug in on a player like lefthander Logan Allen. But Dombrowski recognized a player he wanted in Kimbrel, and avoided complicating the process – and potentially giving San Diego the impetus to explore other trade avenues.
Dombrowski’s willingness to make moves may loom large over the 2016 season. In his beat writer’s notebook, Peter Abraham suggests that the Red Sox’ season may hinge on whether the team is able to deepen its rotation behind David Price.
It remains to be seen whether that’s the case – or whether the rotation proves better and deeper than is widely assumed. But nine months into Dombrowski’s tenure with the Red Sox, it seems fair to characterize the Opening Day roster not as a finished product but instead a starting point that is subject to aggressive, ongoing change.
Podcast: A conversation on the mound
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@alexspeier.