LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski woke up Saturday and heard the sobering news that the Yankees had a deal in place to obtain National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins.
“It didn’t like make my day that he went to the Yankees, by any means. He’s a heck of a player,” Dombrowski said Monday, the first day of the Winter Meetings.
That the Yankees obtained Stanton at the time the Red Sox need to add a power hitter to their lineup drew increased scrutiny on Dombrowski’s involvement in the Stanton talks and whether he was aggressive enough given the stakes.
He defended his approach, saying the Red Sox were involved to the extent they were comfortable.
Dombrowski first spoke to the Marlins about Stanton last month, but the talks broke down quickly. The same was true of the Yankees at the time.
“The early asks for him were not things we were interested in,” Dombrowski said.
The Marlins then successfully negotiated trades with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. But Stanton refused to waive his no-trade clause.
“They’re historic franchises, so I knew that they would figure out how to have a great product on the field within a few years, but I wanted to be ready this year,” Stanton said.
The Marlins pivoted to the Yankees and were able to arrange a trade that Stanton approved. Dombrowski tried to re-enter the talks but it was too late.
“When I reached out they were in the midst of dealing with the Yankees at that point,” he said.
Stanton also had given the Marlins a list of teams he preferred. Along with the Yankees, it included the Astros, Cubs, and Dodgers.
The Red Sox, who won 93 games last season, fit Stanton’s win-now preference. But agent Joel Wolfe never felt the Sox wanted his client.
“Boston was never presented to us as an option,” he said.
Said Dombrowski: “When we called at the end, we were not on his list. So they were going somewhere else. . . . We did all our homework on Stanton. I knew exactly where everything was, what they were looking for, dollars that were involved. Just was not where we were at that particular time.”
Would Dombrowski have wanted the chance to make a revised offer once the Marlins saw their leverage drop?
“I can’t really talk about that,” he said. “Those are things that are really on a confidential basis.”
There were obstacles beyond being able to make a trade.
Stanton, 28, has 10 years and $295 million remaining on his contract. The Marlins took back infielder Starlin Castro, who has $22 million left on his contract, and agreed to send the Yankees $30 million if Stanton does not opt out of his contract after the 2020 season.
Unless Stanton opts out, the Yankees will pay $244 million over the next 10 seasons. For the Red Sox, who are already sure to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold of $197 million, taking on that salary given their other payroll commitments was problematic.
That Stanton was posing for photos in his new pinstriped uniform Monday will not alter how the Red Sox hope to build their roster. Their goal is to add a middle-of-the-order hitter who is a first baseman or designated hitter.
Nor are their plans to add two such players, as some have speculated. Dombrowski plans to have Hanley Ramirez in the lineup, a statement that had manager Alex Cora nodding.
“I don’t think it can change what we do because we’re already trying to be the best club we possibly can,” Dombrowski said. “They’ve got a heck of a club. We’ve got a good club, too.”
Rival executives don’t necessarily believe that. They know Dombrowski’s affinity for splashy moves and believe he will find a way to counter Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
Now that Stanton is off the board, the trade and free agent markets are humming.
“Last week it was hard to get phone calls to clubs,” Dombrowski said. “When I would occasionally talk to people, they were saying the same thing. Since I‘ve been here, since [Sunday] afternoon, it’s been nonstop.”
That does not necessarily mean the Red Sox will make a deal this week. The free agent and trade options are such that it could take time to sort out.
“There’s a lot that’s going on. I would anticipate this would be a late winter compared to a lot of years,” Dombrowski said. “It would not surprise me if there were major moves being made in January.”