What Dave Dombroski Needs to do to Fix the Boston Red Sox

Ben Cherington had a heck of a ride as GM of the Boston Red Sox. He came into an organization that was in shambles in 2011, acquiesced when ownership insisted on hiring Bobby Valentine to replace fired manager Terry Francona, booted Valentine after a horrific 2012 season, set out to rebuild the team in 2013, improbably won the World Series that same year, watched the team struggle in 2014 and 2015, and was forced out this past month.

 

Did you get all that?

 

New Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, whose arrival prompted Cherington’s quasi-voluntary resignation, must be hoping that his tenure goes a little more smoothly – though he’d be lucky to enjoy a World Series championship as quickly as Cherington did. Here are a few things Dombrowski should focus on in order to fix the Red Sox.

 

Hire a Qualified General Manager

Nobody really expected Cherington to stick around after the Red Sox front office shook things up, so Dombrowski almost certainly has a slate of candidates ready. At the time of this writing, the frontrunner seems to be Frank Wren, who worked with Dombrowski in Miami when the pair helped assemble the 1997 world champion Florida Marlins.

 

Wren was most recently with Atlanta, where he built very competitive teams but eventually lost his job on a down year, reportedly due to his interpersonal skills. That could be an issue in media-crazed Boston, but Boston has good ownership and could be a better fit for Wren than Atlanta was (Wren doesn’t have any other significant interpersonal issues on his resume). Whoever the GM is, they would do well to follow the mold that Boston has used since they had Theo Epstein: sabermetrics and strong scouting.

 

Rebuild the Pitching

It will, of course, fall to the new GM to get started rebuilding the Red Sox pitching. But the whole front office, guided by Dombrowksi, will be involved. So how do the Sox go about getting an ace and a more reliable pitching staff?

 

One thing they could do is sign a big free agent ace this offseason. David Price is probably the top candidate. Price will be 30 years old, and he’s expected to land a contract at least as big as Max Scherzer’s (7 years, $210 million). Cole Hamels, 31, is also an option if the Sox are willing to trade for him. Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann, both 29, are also options.

 

Of course, plugging one high-priced ace into a team that’s currently 55-66 isn’t going to do the trick alone. That’s why the Red Sox might be better off trading for a younger pitcher who will be around for longer, giving them a wider window in which to develop their bats. The Mets were viewed as a good trade partner for the Sox last offseason, but nothing happened. Under a new front office, Boston might be more inclined to make a deal with New York this coming offseason. The Sox may not be willing to move the pieces it would take to get Matt Harvey or Jake DeGrom, but what about Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler? Young pitching is a smarter move for a team that is (let’s face it) rebuilding. Which brings us to our next section.

 

Treat This Rebuilding Project Like a Rebuilding Project

This seems obvious, but rebuilding is a tough thing to do in New York and Boston. The 2013 Red Sox were a great surprise, but their early success relied a bit too much on luck and lightning in a bottle. It was impossible for the organization to “keep rebuilding,” because winning a World Series isn’t something that’s supposed to happen during a rebuilding year, but in retrospect it’s clear that the World Champions were, paradoxically, not ready to win the World Series. The Sox needed to develop more talent and start working on a championship window for the future, not run after free agents like Pablo Sandoval in a vain attempt to win now.

 

So it’s time to be realistic, making trades for young pitching under team control or inking a free agent who won’t be 40 by the time the team is competitive again (most of the free agent pitchers are around 30, which would be fine in a year or two but less fine in five). The team should consider 2016 a work in progress – and if they win the World Series in their rebuilding year again, well, then we’ll know we’re back on the roller coaster.

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