Despite recent trades that have significantly depleted the farm system, the long-term future remains bright for the Boston Red Sox.
A farm system that was once arguably the best in baseball has been severely diminished since Dave Dombrowski took over at the helm of the Boston Red Sox front office less than a year and a half ago. Dealin’ Dave has lived up to his reputation as an executive who makes bold moves and isn’t afraid to part with coveted prospects if it means improving the big league club.
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When Dombrowski zeroes in on a target he usually gets his man, even if it comes at a steep price. Which is exactly what he was willing to pay to acquire Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox. The All-Star lefty is one of the American League’s best pitchers and signed to a bargain contract for the next three seasons, assuming both option years are picked up. Chicago had every right to ask for the moon, so Dombrowski threw a lasso around it and pulled it down for them as if he were George Bailey.
Adding Sale to a rotation that already includes David Price and Cy Young winner Rick Porcello vaults Boston to the top of the league next season, but it cost them two of their best prospects. Yoan Moncada is widely considered to be the top prospect in baseball, while Michael Kopech is a potential top of the rotation starter with a blazing fastball that can reach triple-digits on the radar gun.
Losing a pair of prospects of that caliber is a tough pill to swallow for any organization, especially when you factor other trades the Red Sox have made under Dombrowski’s watch. They gave up a strong package of prospects last winter to bring Craig Kimbrel over from San Diego. Then at the trade deadline, clearly under the belief that they hadn’t brightened the Padres’ future quite enough, they sent their top pitching prospect in exchange for Drew Pomeranz.
The way that Dombrowski has dismantled the farm system has many fans wondering if he has sacrificed too much of the future in a desperate attempt to win now. The Red Sox already had a playoff caliber team at the major league level to go along with a deep pool of prospects that would ensure they were fed with a pipeline of young talent for years to come. They had the makings of a dynasty in front of them, but mortgaged the future to upgrade for today, turning a potential decade of dominance into essentially a three-year window.
Yes, the Red Sox have blown up their farm system, but their major league roster is loaded with young, cost-controlled talent. Boston has half a dozen position players expected to make the Opening Day roster that are age 26 or younger, all of whom are under team control until at least 2020.
Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are two of the pillars of this young core. Part of why the Red Sox aren’t splurging on a long-term deal for sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion is because they are planning for room in the budget to resign these two superstars in a few years.
That gives the Red Sox four star players locked into starting spots on their roster for the foreseeable future. Plus guys like Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez will fill valuable roles on this team in the long run.
As for the rotation, their top three starters won’t necessarily be around three years from now. Maybe Porcello and Sale both bolt after their contracts run out at the end of the 2019 season. Price could opt out of his deal in two years. Most of the concern over a shorter window is tied to when the contracts expire for their trio of aces, but even if all three of them were to leave, does anyone really think that the Red Sox won’t use the cash they free up from their departure to bring in more pitching to replace them?
Boston also has 23-year old Eduardo Rodriguez, who many still believe can develop into a No. 1 or 2 caliber starter.
Their minor league system has been depleted, but it’s not completely barren. Rafael Devers is their power-hitting third baseman of the future. Jason Groome, their first-round pick in the 2016 amateur draft, is a starting pitcher with ace potential. These prospects will graduate to the big leagues within three years, when they’ll be given the opportunity to pry that supposed three-year window wide open. In the meantime, the organization will continue drafting more young talent to restock the system.
Dombrowski has given up a lot of talented young players, but he has done so to put the Red Sox in position to contend for a title. Former GM Ben Cherington deserves a ton of credit for providing the ammunition for these deals, but this was a franchise that suffered consecutive last place finishes prior to when Dombrowski started tinkering with the roster.
Now the Red Sox are the favorites in the American League heading into next season, yet there’s enough young talent left to ensure they remain in that conversation for the long run. Fear not, Red Sox Nation. The future is secure.