On a day when former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein was recognized by the Sporting News as baseball’s Executive of the Year, current Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski dusted off one of the more controversial elements of Epstein’s Boston playbook.
After the 2009 season, Epstein discussed his interest in acquiring veteran talent on short-term deals to allow the team to compete in the coming year or two while permitting development time for the coming wave of young talent in the team’s farm system. He described a veteran bridge from one young core (Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, etc.) to the next.
In many respects, Dombrowski outlined a similar interest this offseason, specifically as it related to replacing David Ortiz as designated hitter and, by extension, defining the team’s options at third base.
“How long do you want to tie somebody up for that position when we have a lot of young players coming?” Dombrowski mused. “I think that’s a very important part of it. Hanley [Ramirez] has two years and an option left. All of a sudden we have Pablo [Sandoval] back at third base – I’m not saying he’s the third baseman but he has the capability of being the third baseman, he’s put himself in good shape, he’s ready to go and he’s an established guy.
“You have [Travis] Shaw, you have [Brock] Holt, you have [Yoan] Moncada coming, you’ve got [Sam] Travis that’s not too far away, the three outfielders are pretty much, I think will be entrenched for awhile. So those are a lot of guys. And even a guy like [Rafael] Devers, I don’t know how far away he’s going to be. So do you want to tie up that one spot with one individual? I’m not sure. Now, one year? Maybe one year is different but from a long-term basis, do you want to do that? I’m not sure.”
Dombrowski arrived to the Sox with a reputation for moving aggressively to add pieces from outside the organization to fill gaps. Last winter, he remained true to form with the additions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel – though at a time when the Sox didn’t have any alternatives who resembled near-term ace or closing options.
This winter will be a fascinating window into the philosophical outlook of Dombrowski and the Red Sox’ commitment to the long view under his stewardhsip. There are bats available to serve as a DH/corner and address the Sox’ most glaring need, though the best of them would require long-term commitments that would indeed create bottlenecks that would represent impediments to the team’s top position prospects. (I wrote about Moncada, Travis, and Devers at some length here.)
The fact that there has yet to be any signs of interest in a player like third baseman Justin Turner further underscores the notion that the Sox are willing to seek short-term solutions – and, in all likelihood, some short-term ups and downs – with the likes of Sandoval, Shaw, and Holt, while waiting for Moncada and/or Devers to emerge.
Statements on Nov. 7 aren’t the same as actions over the entirety of the offseason, but at the least, Dombrowski is suggesting a willingness to draw from a different playbook than the one he employed a year ago – and more in line with the one that garnered raised eyebrows when utilized by Epstein in 2009-10.
Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier.