By: Joe Spinosa
There is no better indicator of the future than the past. Keeping this in mind, let’s peer into the rearview mirror to assess how Dave Dombrowski has fared in his transactions while running the Boston Red Sox. The first move being featured is the trade for reliever Craig Kimbrel.
On November 13, 2015, Dave Dombrowski kicked off his Red Sox tenure by pulling off a blockbuster for stud closer Craig Kimbrel. Outside of World Series hero Koji Uehara, the Sox bullpen was a major liability in an overall lackluster campaign for the team, so Dombrowski reached into goldmine created by former executives Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington to solve the problem.
In exchange for Kimbrel’s services, the Red Sox surrendered Manny Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, and Carlos Asuaje to the San Diego Padres. Quite frankly, this return illustrates Dombrowski’s disregard for highly touted prospects. At the time of the deal, Margot was the 25th ranked prospect in all of baseball, and Guerra, a powerful shortstop, was another top 100 guy according to MLB Pipeline. One of my personal baseball philosophies is that teams should not overextend themselves for closers. While Kimbrel was arguably the best reliever in the game, giving up prospects of that caliber seemed like an overpay. Despite a handful of names always appearing on the leader board for saves, many closers come out of the woodwork to help out their teams. An example of this is from 2013 when Koji Uehara was behind Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan on the depth chart, but at 38 years old was able to own a 1.09 ERA. Essentially, relief pitching is of the utmost importance in today’s MLB, but overpaying with elite young talent should not be the answer.
So now let’s use the great tool called hindsight to see how this trade looks almost two years out. Headliner of the deal Manuel Margot has been playing in the majors for the Padres and looks to be a solid young piece despite missing time due to a calf injury. At only 22 years of age, Margot has hit for a solid average of .272, .325 since the All-Star Break, with 6 home runs, and 10 thefts. Margot looks to be a very good center fielder as develops. Unlike Margot, the second elite prospect in the deal Javier Guerra has struggled mightily since joining San Diego’s system. Owning only a .227 average between A and AA, Guerra has been a disappointment and no longer ranks amongst the organization’s top prospects. Lastly, lesser-known players Logan Allen and Carlos Asuaje have fared well so far. Allen’s stock has risen as he has shined in A ball with a 2.46 ERA this year, and Asuaje looks to be a utility man who can fill many holes on the diamond.
Kimbrel was a solid closer in his first season with the Red Sox, but had some command issues while enduring the worst season in his stellar career. However, in 2017, Kimbrel has been nothing short of lights out, dominating hitters with a 1.27 ERA while punching out an awe-inspiring 16.5 hitters per nine innings. One negative about Kimbrel’s tenure in Boston has been his lack of effectiveness in non-save situations. This was a problem in 2016, but he has fared much more favorably in 2017. My only worry about Kimbrel for 2017 and beyond is his usage. According Jared Carrabis of Barstool Sports, Red Sox staff approached manager John Farrell about his management of the star closer. The most important aspect of elite relievers today, like Andrew Miller, is the ability to be a weapon in any scenario. Despite Kimbrel’s dominance, it remains to be seen if he can come into a game in the 7th or 8th inning to shut down a team in a scoring situation. Kimbrel’s 2017 has certainly made this trade look a lot better, but he still needs to finish out the year strong and make a difference in the playoffs.
Overall Grade: B-
Photo: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswriter