Just one year after building a team that put together the best season in Red Sox history, Dave Dombrowski is out of a job.
In the four seasons since being hired as President of Baseball Operations, Dombrowski did pretty much everything you could have asked for. He won the American League East in 2016, 2017, and 2018, which was Boston’s first division three-peat in franchise history, set a franchise record with a 108-win season, and, of course, won the World Series.
Surely Boston’s World Series hangover season couldn’t have been the sole reason Dombrowski was given the axe on Monday. For all his success, Dombrowski has made some errors.
Dombrowski has always been an aggressive, risk-taking general manager. Finally given a team with all the resources in the world, Dombrowski went all-in. He dealt away virtually all of the Red Sox farm to acquire the likes of Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and he opened up the chequebooks to sign David Price, and J.D Martinez. Mixed in with those acquisitions are some questionable decisions, like paying a premium to acquire Drew Pomeranz and signing Nathan Eovaldi to a massive contract on the back of one good playoff run.
The result, of course, was that incredible 2018 season, but also a cloudy financial situation moving forward. The Red Sox have roughly $120 million committed to five players next season and they need to sort out a new contract for reigning MVP Mookie Betts, who can hit free agency for the first time in his career after the 2020 season.
So while missing the playoffs this season likely wasn’t the single nail in the coffin for Dombrowski, the cost of this year’s hangover and a lack of faith in his ability to navigate the situation were matters that led to his firing. Dombrowski is an executive that can get you over the hump, but he isn’t really known for rebuilding and cutting costs.
Dombrowski won’t be out of a job for long. As I said, he’s a guy known to push teams over the hump with aggressive player acquisition and fearless cash spending. Can you think of a team with a bunch of cheap, young players, payroll flexibility, and a restless fanbase? You know, someone who needs a nudge?
Also can’t help but think that, given the Red Sox handling of this, something else is going on?
— Drew (@DrewGROF) September 9, 2019
Dombrowski was hired to run the Red Sox in August of 2015, right around the same time the Blue Jays hired Mark Shapiro to take over after the retirement of Paul Beeston. You might remember hearing Dombrowski’s name during that time. That’s because he was, reportedly, the organization’s first choice for the gig.
The Detroit Tigers fired Dombrowski from his position as general manager on Aug. 4. Roger Rai, a friend of Edward Rogers, made the initial contact with Dombrowski within a week.
After the interview, Dombrowski decided he was not interested in the Toronto job as it was more about making marketing and business decisions than making baseball decisions, according to people in the industry.
The Blue Jays are at an incredibly important crossroads. The cornerstones of the next generation of the franchise, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, have hit the ground running and their clocks are already ticking. You can’t dick around and waste these years.
There’s credit to be given to Shapiro for putting together a situation in which the organization is loaded with young talent and the payroll is completely open in the future. But, at some point, they have to stop rebuilding and start, ya know, contending.
Shapiro is under contract until the end of the 2020 season, just as Dombrowski was with the Red Sox. Do the Blue Jays believe Shapiro can be the one to push the team to the next level? A big chunk of his job here over the past five years has been behind-the-scenes stuff that the majority of casual fans don’t see, like modernizing the organization’s business operations, improving scouting and developmental systems, and making stadium renovations in both Toronto and Dunedin. The priority now shifts to the results of all of Shapiro’s processes, the on-field product.
For all his success in creating a wonderful fan experience at Progressive Field in Cleveland and modernizing a low-budget’s operations to a level of extreme efficiency, Shapiro never built a winner in Cleveland. His best result was a trip to the American League Championship Series in 2007, though his fingerprints are also all over the team that dismantled the Blue Jays in 2016 and made it to Game 7 of the World Series.
Sooner rather than later, the Blue Jays will have to make a choise as to whether they want Shapiro to lead the charge into contending. I think he’s done a very admirable job at tearing down and rebuilding a complicated situation, but, again, he might not be the one to push the Blue Jays over the hump. Dombrowski becoming a free agent might force the Jays to make that decision even quicker than expected.