Dave Dombrowski may wind up trading away the future at the trade deadline in a week. That’s his M.O., after all. Here’s the thing: I can’t really blame Dombrowski for trying to sell out for this season. Don’t get me wrong, this 2016 Red Sox team is incredibly frustrating and might wind up blowing the season down the stretch, deeming any trade acquisitions a complete waste of resources. But it’s the fact that the Sox are so frustrating that makes it so understandable for Dombrowski to go full throttle for this season at some expense of the future.
This Red Sox team should be one of the best in the league. They’ve scored 539 runs this season (as of Saturday night’s 11-9 loss to the Twins), and no other team has even 500. They have David Price, who have every ability to be an ace. Rick Porcello and Hanley Ramirez were two of the team’s biggest question marks heading into the season, and both of them have played like they’re actually worth $20+ million a year. Steven Wright has come out of nowhere, and now the Sox have one of the season’s best pitchers in Drew Pomeranz. Finally, they have a bullpen with five relievers who have a 3.55 ERA or less.
That’s what makes losses like those on Friday or Saturday night so damn frustrating. They lose 2-1 after David Ortiz, of all people, grounds into a double play with the bases loaded and 0 outs in the 9th. The next night, they score 9 runs and lose because their ace David Price gets shelled, and then Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree decide “Oh yeah David? Bet I can do a lot worse.”
The 2016 Red Sox are more than well-equipped to win the World Series. Their rotation now consists of 4 dependable starters, assuming that Price pitches like he did in May and Pomeranz only has a slight dropoff from his San Diego numbers and not a major one. Their bullpen, when Kimbrel returns, will have enough guys to throw to the fire, although I wouldn’t mind one more guy via trade. And their offense is fantastic. Problem is, the rotation has been a mess outside of Porcello and Wright, and the bullpen and offense both struggle from cases of bad timing.
I know that baseball analytics say that there’s no such thing as a clutch player or clutch team, but that’s one of the few analytical items that I’ll push back on. This Red Sox team hasn’t been clutch, and Friday and Saturday night demonstrated that perfectly. When they give up 2 runs and are facing the lowly Minnesota Twins, the offense somehow does nothing and disintegrates with the best clutch hitter of all time grounding into a DP. When they score 9 runs and have their ace on the hill, the ace sucks and the bullpen sucks worse.
I’m still hopeful, and you should be, too. The Sox have everything that it takes to win, and that’s why I find it hard to blame Dave Dombrowski for trading good prospects for Ziegler, Pomeranz, and maybe someone else in the next week. But something has to change with the 2016 Red Sox, and that something is the timeliness of the players’ production.
Earlier today, Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics re-signed Tyler Zeller to a 2 year, $16 million deal with a team option for the 2nd year. On the surface, the deal seems like a fair-but-not-very-meaningful one. The Celtics used their remaining cap space on a quality backup in Zeller, which is fine given that there are no more worthwhile free agents out there and Zeller’s new deal doesn’t tie up any 2017 cap space.
When examining the contract a little further, though, the deal is tremendous. What’s at the top of every Celtics fan’s wishlist right now? That’s right, a blockbuster trade. When trading for a superstar, the Celtics will need to match salary in order to trade for one of the top guys on the market. Given that they don’t have any huge expiring contracts on mediocre player a la Theo Ratliff in 2007, making it hard to math salaries without giving up an asset that the C’s otherwise wouldn’t have to (such as Amir Johnson and his $12 million salary).
If the C’s wanted to trade for Jimmy Butler and his $17.5 million salary, for example, they couldn’t get the job done by only giving back Avery Bradley, RJ Hunter, Terry Rozier and a bunch of top draft picks to put the deal over the top. (The picks would be the centerpiece of that trade, of course.) The C’s could make that deal by throwing in another small salary, but what if they wanted to take back another player from the Bulls or another team in a 3 team deal? Or what if they wanted to give the Bulls the option of attaching a bad contract to Butler in order to get more assets from the Celtics?
Now that the Celtics have Zeller signed for $8 million this season, they can toss in another expiring contract. And Zeller has some added value as an expiring deal, because he’s still a productive player who is on a reasonable deal for the 2017-2018 season, if some team chooses to pick up his option. Any team that might acquire Zeller from the C’s would probably love the option to give a productive center $8 million to hold down the front court.
Worst case scenario? Zeller gives nothing to the Celtics, who cut him, trade him as part of a larger trade, or trade him for nothing to one of the many teams with cap space. There’s zero downside to Tyler Zeller’s new contract, which is why Danny Ainge made a fantastic move.
Life sucks sometimes. Actually, pretty much all the time. I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be able to post for a full 2 months, and I apologize for that. The good news is that the 2 months I missed featured no Boston teams in the playoffs and only the Red Sox during the regular season, and I’m back for the baseball pennant race and Pats training camp, preseason, and the regular season.