The Boston Red Sox completed one of the most impressive team seasons in recent memory on Sunday, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers to claim the 2018 World Series title. The Red Sox won 108 games during the regular season, then steamrolled through the New York Yankees and Houston Astros en route to their fourth championship in the last 14 years.
The Red Sox owe plenty of credit to their homegrown core, as our Mike Axisa outlined earlier in the month. A collection of hitters led by Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi combined to post about 18 Wins Above Replacement, the third-most in the majors. Add in the nearly four wins contributed by amateur free-agent signings, like Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, and the Red Sox received a considerable amount of production from players they developed.
Even so, don’t overlook the role president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski played in this season. When Dombrowski took over in August 2015, the Red Sox had a farm system brimming with young talent. He built a World Series winner by leveraging that young talent — both to fill lineup slots and to fill trade packages — and the Red Sox’s financial might.
Yes, Dombrowski has also whiffed a few times — trading Travis Shaw (and others) for Tyler Thornburg has proved to be a mistake — but let’s focus on the hits for the time being. Here are seven of Dombrowski’s most pivotal additions to the 2018 World Series champions. (Note that these are presented in no real order other than an arbitrary one you assign them.)
Where else would we start but with Chris Sale, who closed out Game 5 and the series?
In December 2016, the Red Sox sent four prospects to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Sale. That group included Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, then the No. 1 and No. 30 prospects in baseball. (Luis Alexander Basabe has developed into a solid prospect, too.) The Red Sox have since gotten their money’s worth from Sale.
In two seasons, Sale has posted a 175 ERA+ and remained an annual threat to win the Cy Young Award. As an added bonus, he has another year remaining on his team-friendly contract. It’s unclear if Dombrowski and the Red Sox will approach Sale about a long-term extension, but that scenario seems far more likely than Boston ever coming to regret this deal.
From one big-name southpaw to another. Dombrowski knew David Price from their shared time with the Detroit Tigers. That familiarity likely led Dombrowski to feel comfortable with handing Price the richest pitching contract (in terms of guaranteed money) in winter 2015. Price has since posted a 119 ERA+ in three seasons, all the while battling injuries and criticism as it pertains to his postseason record. Given what Price did in the World Series, it’s likely that tune will change heading forward. It’s worth noting, however, that he can opt out of his contract this winter.
This deal is perhaps less about Dombrowski than the rest of the league. For whatever reason, no one seemed to want J.D. Martinez after he homered 45 times in 119 games in 2017. The tepid market led him to join the Red Sox on a five-year deal worth $110 million, and he went bonkers again in 2018: hitting .330/.402/.629 with 43 homers and a majors-best 358 total bases. Martinez had a relatively quiet World Series, but this was a steal.
One of Dombrowski’s first big deals was to send four prospects (including Manuel Margot and Logan Allen) to the San Diego Padres for Craig Kimbrel. We still like Margot and Allen, and Kimbrel had a shaky postseason. But c’mon, even if he leaves the Red Sox this winter, he’ll have amassed 108 saves and a 184 ERA+ across three seasons. For perspective, those figures rank third and eighth among pitchers with more than 100 appearances since the start of 2016. That’ll do.
Trading Jalen Beeks for Nathan Eovaldi at the deadline didn’t seem like a needle-moving maneuver, but boy did it pay off. Eovaldi pitched well down the stretch for Boston, racking up 54 regular-season innings and a 132 ERA+. He then came up big in the postseason, especially in the World Series. Eovaldi’s relief appearance in Game 3 may have came in a loss, but it was an effort that should keep him alive in Boston lore no matter if he returns or signs elsewhere as a free agent.
Another one of Dombrowski’s in-season deals that passed without much notice. Steve Pearce hit .279/.394/.507 with seven homers in 50 regular-season games after coming over from Toronto in late June. He then filled in for the injured Mitch Moreland in the playoffs, and won the World Series MVP trophy after delivering four key hits in the final two games, including three dingers.
Although Dombrowski doesn’t have a reputation for building strong bullpens, Ryan Brasier proved to be a fruitful minor-league signing. Formerly a minor-league journeyman who spent last year overseas, Brasier made the most of his opportunity once he was promoted in July. He became such a key member of the Red Sox bullpen that he was called upon nine times in the postseason — tied for the most among Boston’s relievers. He delivered, posting a 1.04 ERA.
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