SEATTLE — The trading deadline came and went and Dave Dombrowski produced no “fireworks.’’ Now it’s up to the people who are still here to make or break this Red Sox season.
Take a good look at the Red Sox today. This is your team for the rest of the year.
Back in January, Sox owner John Henry said that if David Ortiz’s final game is not a playoff game, it would be a “disaster.’’ That’s pretty much where it stands today. After an offseason of spending and the amazing thunder of April and May, this team needs to make the playoffs. If the Sox don’t make it to the postseason, the 2016 season goes down as a failure. And John Farrell can just toss his office keys to Jim Leyland or Torey Lovullo.
Dombrowski’s been on the job for less than a year. With the help of Henry’s checkbook and a Theo Epstein farm system deep in everyday lineup talent, Dombrowski has positioned the Red Sox for a playoff run in the final two months of the 2016 season. It’s going to be difficult and it didn’t get any easier when Dombrowski stayed on the sidelines for most of deadline Monday.
While the Cubs, Rangers, Dodgers, and Indians went all-in to win the World Series in 2016, Dombrowski largely pulled back and watched. He acquired lefty reliever Fernando Abad for Pat Light (how long before Joseph Abboud strikes a deal with Abad?), but decided the price was too high for Chris Sale or even Rich Hill.
Dombrowski said he hadn’t even talked to the White Sox since last Friday, which would indicate that the Red Sox were never close on Sale.
So these are the Red Sox who will attempt to top the Orioles and Blue Jays for first place in the American League East. Rather than bring in another established starting pitcher, Dombrowski has opted to hold on to Jackie Bradley Jr. and five-star prospects Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi.
His reasoning became clearer late Monday night when word came that Benintendi was being called up and would be joining the team Tuesday in Seattle.
The thinking is that years from now, when Moncada and Benintendi are everyday stars, Sox fans will be happy that Dombrowski resisted the temptation to deal them for the short-term gain of the 2016 pennant race.
But this is Boston . . . and after three last-place finishes in four years, it’s win now, win big, or go home in disgrace.
“That’s how I feel every year,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who rescued the Sox from ignominious defeat with his two-out, ninth-inning homer in Anaheim Sunday. “I think our expectations are more than just making the playoffs. When you’re with the Red Sox, you win the World Series or you haven’t accomplished what you set out to do. That’s the goal and we’ve got the talent to do that. Now it’s just a matter of doing it.’’
Dombrowski admitted that he was offered a lot for Moncada and Benintendi.
“They’re really good,’’ said the president of baseball operations. “Those guys are special players and we are a club that not only wants to be good now, we want to be good for years to come.’’
This is not going to be easy. The Sox have a team ERA of 4.66 and they play 37 of their final 59 games on the road. With four months gone and two months to play, the Sox are in a three-team race with Toronto and Baltimore. They are going to have to win with a shaky rotation of David Price (the Sox are 11-11 in his starts), Rick Porcello, Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz (0-2), and Eduardo Rodriguez, who took a 2-4 record and a 6.51 ERA to the mound at Safeco on Monday night.
“The deadline is over, we like the team that is here,’’ Farrell told a somewhat disappointed Boston media corps (we love blockbusters way more than prudence). “There’s always that uneasiness of wonderment. Who’s coming? Who’s going. We made the majority of our moves early. Dave addressed the needs. We’re looking forward to going out and playing with the team that we’ve got.’’
Does he believe this is a playoff team? “I do. We’ve had our share of frustrations along the way, but it’s a balanced team.’’
“I like our club,’’ added Dombrowski. “It’s always interesting when people say, ‘Go do this, go do that.’ I’m not really sure how many more things you would do. Everyone can get better. We’re not a perfect club . . . Our starting rotation has gotten better. We’ve got the best offfense in baseball. You can always get better, but I don’t think there’s a glaring hole.’’
Bottom line: The Red Sox are a high-profile, top-five payroll franchise with three World Championships in this century. But they have won a playoff series in only one of the past seven seasons. The trading deadline came and went with tweaks, rather than blockbusters.
Now comes the hard part.