A starter and a closer last year, along with some spare parts. An ace and a top reliever this year.
Look what Dave Dombrowski has done … to the Boston Red Sox once-vaunted minor league system.
To obtain the players he wants, like White Sox left-hander Chris Sale this past week, Dombrowski has given away prospects like candy canes.
He has gutted the farm so much that it could be stagnant – developing few players – and leave little for trades in the near future.
The farm system appears stable, but will Dombrowski continue this approach until all valuable prospects are gone? That would be a mistake.
One thing I know is that I listed 30 top Red Sox prospects in this space two weeks ago, and now seven of them are gone (four traded, two taken in the Rule 5 draft, and one designated for assignment).
And that does not include the trades Dombrowski made last year. Say goodbye to 16 prospects (17 if counting Travis Shaw who played 11/2 seasons in Boston).
Should you be worried about the direction Dombrowski is taking this team?
No … not yet.
Look at these Red Sox and Boston fans have to smile. The roster is young and many of them homegrown. It is conceivable they could be in store for a Yankee-type run when New York had its core, led by Derek Jeter. Remember that dynasty from 1996 to 2003? Six World Series appearances and four titles.
Can the Red Sox keep this team together when contracts start to run out? Why are we asking this question as if Fenway Park is located in St. Petersburg, Florida; or San Diego? If these players remain productive and Boston can’t keep them, that’s a column for another day.
For now, Dombrowski has built a dynamo (we’ll hold off on too many accolades, in light of the 2011 team – called the best Boston group ever assembled – that blew up, missed the playoffs, caused its manager to be fired and general manager to bolt town).
This Boston team should win, and its farm system will survive – if Dombrowski tempers future actions.
For the moment, Boston does not need a deep, rich minor league system. This team is constructed to stay together.
Dombrowski’s trades, for the most part, did not affect Boston’s future, they helped it. Several of the traded players were either so young it was hard to tell if they would work out, or at positions where Boston had little need.
Of all the prospects traded, I’d argue that only three were high-ceiling players – stars, if you will – that would almost certainly help the Red Sox in the future: infielder Yoan Moncada and pitchers Michael Kopech and Anderson Espinoza.
Both Moncada and Kopech were part of the Sale deal, a fair value-for-value trade.
Espinoza was dealt for Drew Pomeranz last summer. Unless Pomeranz proves he can be a consistent starter, that may be one of Domkowski’s biggest regrets.
Of course, any one of the other young prospects just dealt could turn into a star.
You just don’t know.
One thing Dombrowski’s trading frenzy has done is thin the minor league’s depth. Look for Boston to sign a boatload of minor league free agents to fill gaps in Pawtucket (which has only two starting pitchers at the moment).
Trading Shaw may hurt, but as effective as he was, Shaw was also streaky especially when his playing time was spotty. But, assuming he was not going to be a starter, his playing time would continue to be spotty.
Here’s a glance at 16 prospects Dombrowski has traded. I will group them into “stars,” “squeezed,” “maybes,” “potential” and “extras.”
The stars are likely major leaguers, maybe even All-Stars, but there are questions about all of them.
• Third baseman Yoan Moncada (Chris Sale trade). Can dominate a game. Was projected to be Boston’s starting third baseman as early as the second half of 2017. He still has flaws – striking out, hitting against lefties, and consistent fielding.
• Pitcher Michael Kopech (Sale). Power arm with a good slider and potentially good change-up. Was scheduled for Portland in 2017, with possible call-up later in the season. He has been wild and has yet to pitch a full season.
• Pitcher Anderson Espinoza (Drew Pomeranz trade). Mature, with an electric young arm, Espinoza drew raves from Pedro Martinez. He has a ways to go, having pitched in lower Class A last year.
These two have major league futures. They also play positions already manned by young players in Boston.
• Shortstop Mauricio Dubon (Tyler Thornburg trade). Solid fielder, good hitter, Dubon is a potential starting shortstop in the majors. If he stayed with the Red Sox, Dubon would eventually become a utility player, playing behind Xander Bogaerts.
• Outfielder Manuel Margot (Craig Kimbrel trade). Margot batted .304 in Triple-A for the Padres. He’s got tools. He also would have been insurance in Pawtucket, playing behind Boston’s young outfielders.
These two have tasted the majors, with no guarantees they will stay there.
• Relief pitcher Pat Light (Fernando Abad trade) has good Triple-A numbers but is still figuring it out in the majors. He had a 9.00 ERA in 15 games with the Twins. Command is an issue so far.
• Infielder Carlos Asuaje (Kimbrel). Asuaje has been a surprise after a so-so season in Portland in 2015 (.251 average, 15 errors). He batted .321 in Triple-A last year and received a brief call-up to San Diego.
These are players still in Class A, most of them at low Class A.
• Shortstop Javier Guerra (Kimbrel). Noted as a top prospect because of his fielding, Guerra batted .279 for Salem in 2015. He moved to the hitter-friendly California League and batted .202.
• Luis Alexander Basabe (Sale). A potential big-hitting outfielder (career .253 average/.761 OPS) who is still in Class A.
• Pitcher Logan Allen (Kimbrel). A left-hander who had one season of rookie ball when he was traded. Allen looked good last year in low Class A (3.33 ERA). He seemed to be a toss-in player in this deal, and could turn out to be a catch.
• Relief pitcher Victor Diaz (Sale). In his first full pro season last year, in Greenville, Diaz had a 1.42 ERA in the second half. Could be another throw-in surprise.
• Pitcher Jose Almonte (Brad Ziegler trade). Had a 3.56 ERA in low Class A last year.
• Pitcher Josh Pennington (Thornburg). Mid-90s fastball. Has yet to pitch above rookie ball.
These three seemingly had no future in Boston and were destined to be dealt.
• Pitcher Aaron Wilkerson (Aaron Hill trade). A great story after rising to Triple-A from the independent leagues, Wilkerson was not considered for Boston’s roster. He struggled with Colorado’s Triple-A team (6.42 ERA).
• Infielder Wendell Rijo (Hill). Rijo had been touted as a prospect because of potential with the bat. It never materialized. He hit .186 in Portland last year and, after the trade, hit .202 in Class A.
• Infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe (Ziegler). The twin brother of Luis Alexander, this Basabe was not highly considered. He broke out with a .310 average in Greenville but, after the trade, hit .217.
So, who is left?
There is enough to help Boston this year, and later. Among the top players in Pawtucket will be reliever Robby Scott and first baseman Sam Travis. One of Boston’s best prospects remaining is third baseman Rafael Devers. He should be in Portland.
The Red Sox could push third baseman Bobby Dalbec, drafted this past summer, to Salem. And first-round draft pick, pitcher Jason Groome, just out of high school, could be pushed to Greenville. He’s the top pitching prospect, with Espinoza and Kopech gone.
All of the above are promising prospects. Other teams will want them.
Dombrowski may be tempted to deal – you can always improve the major league club.
But he has to know he can’t empty the farm system of all its value.
The farm’s been harvested enough. It needs time to grow back.