With the MLB trade deadline nearing, the Boston Red Sox have already made three key moves. First year team president Dave Dombrowski has added infielder Aaron Hill, relief pitcher Brad Ziegler, and starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz in three separate trades. Gone are several prospects, including 18-year-old pitcher Anderson Espinoza.
Dombrowski has a reputation of trading off key prospects, and there has been buzz of the Sox being in on key trade targets such as Chris Sale or Jose Fernandez. Despite having a few of the best prospects in baseball, there has been speculation of Dombrowski’s willingness to move them, as evidenced by trading Espinoza.
The former Detroit Tigers general manager has a history of, at the very least, high profile moves, starting back in 2006. However, after acquiring Craig Kimrel for top prospect Manuel Margot in the off season, Red Sox fans should not be stunned by the way Dombrowski operates.
In 2007, Dombrowski acquired former Marlins farmhand Miguel Cabrera, along with pitcher Dontrelle Willis, for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, and other prospects in an off season trade. He also traded to get Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Max Scherzer in a three way trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees.
Maybin, though he has settled into being a solid major leaguer, in fact returning to the Tigers, never lived up to his top prospects billing and ended up being a small price to pay for Cabrera, one of the best hitters of the past decade.
Dombrowski added pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, giving up a top prospect in Matt Joyce. Joyce never was able to settle into a regular role in the major leagues, bouncing around and struggling to hit left handed pitching. Joyce could not break the Mendoza line in 93 games with the Angels last season, and is in a backup role for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Jackson became a key piece in later trading for Max Scherzer.
One of the more well known one-for-one trades in an era full of trade pieces, Dombrowski was able to unload a bad contract in Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. Kinsler has remained one of the biggest offensive contributors on the Tigers roster and remains one of the best offensive second basemen in the game. Meanwhile, Fielder has struggled considerably in Texas, hitting just .212 with eight home runs this season.
The Tigers added Yoenis Cespedes in December of 2014 from the Boston Red Sox for Rick Porcello. The same day, Dombrowski traded for Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon for shortstop Eugeino Suarez. Suarez has become a contributor with the Reds while Simon struggled in the American League. Simon returned to the Reds in 2016 after pitching to a 7.21 ERA in 2015 with the Tigers.
Suarez hit .280 with 13 home runs in 2015, and has hit 16 home runs already this season.
While Dombrowski has made several off season moves and given up prospects and pieces, his trade deadline moves have also been of mention, and contributed to the building of the Tigers franchise.
One of the most underrated moves of Dombrowski’s career in Detroit was adding veteran first baseman Sean Casey in 2006. The Tigers acquired Casey from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Brian Rogers, and Casey went on to be a major piece in the Tigers run to the American League pennant. Casey went on to hit .529 in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, and staying a key contributor to the Tigers in 2007.
In 2010, Dombrowski added a key piece in shortstop Jhonny Peralta who played in parts of three seasons with the Tigers. Going back to the Cleveland Indians was Gionvanni Soto, who did not see the major leagues until 2015. The Tigers were not in contention at this point, but took a flyer on Peralta, who saw most of his contract paid by Cleveland while he returned to being an all-star shortstop.
One year later, Dombrowski continued to add key pieces to his contending Tigers when he added Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners for four prospects, none of which have seen considerable major league time. Fister pitched with Detroit for two and a half seasons to a 3.29 ERA.
Dombrowski traded with his former team again in 2009 to get Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez, giving up a then top prospect in pitcher Jacob Turner. Still a member of the Tigers, Sanchez has been a solid part of the Detroit rotation while even being in the Cy Young voting in 2013. Turner has not pitched in the majors since 2014, and despite being the 22nd prospect in baseball at the time of the trade, has bounced around. He ended up with the Chicago Cubs and then White Sox, never once living up to his potential.
The trade for Sanchez is one of the best examples of Dombrowski being willing to trade top minor league talent for a starting pitcher to compete right away. Sanchez was a part of several Tigers playoff runs, and remains a cog in their rotation.
The 2013 trade deadline saw Dombrowski trade Avisail Garcia to the Chicago White Sox in a part of a three team trade with shortstop Jose Iglesias going to Detroit. The jury is still out, but Iglesias has certainly proven capable as a major league caliber shortstop while Garcia has struggled. He did play in 147 games last season, hitting 13 home runs but hitting just .233. Meanwhile, Iglesias hit a surprising .300 in 120 games last season, being named to the all star team.
In 2014, Dombrowski acquired pitcher David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays for Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly in a three team trade. At the time, Jackson had been an established center fielder with the Tigers and Smyly a highly regarded left handed pitching prospect coming back from injury.
Thus far in 2016, Smyly is 2-11 with a 4.51 ERA and pitching his worst season to date. Still just 27 years old, he is a part of a weak Rays team, but it appears the Tigers did not give up much to acquire Price in the first place.
At the trade deadline of 2015, Dombrowski pulled the trigger to trade Price to the Toronto Blue Jays while the Tigers were falling out of contention due to injury woes. Daniel Norris was the key piece going back to the Tigers, who has pitched just three games in his age 23 season in Detroit thus far before injuring his oblique. After a recent rehab outing, Norris should be ready to return soon and take a place in the Detroit rotation.
Pitcher Matt Boyd was also acquired in the trade, and he has pitched to a 4.63 ERA in nine games so far in 2016.
Dombrowski also shipped Cespedes to the New York Mets, who ended up in the World Series, but the Tigers ended up with pitcher Michael Fulmer. With a 2.13 ERA so far this season, this as one of Dombrowski’s final moves in Detroit is one of the most positive impacts on their current roster.
In his Detroit tenure, Dombrowski was willing to give up top prospects such as Turner, Smyly, Garcia, and Maybin, and he’s already traded Margot and Espinoza in Boston. Yet, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t allowed top prospects to flourish. In Miami, he let Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez become top players. In Detroit, Cabrera, Justin Verlander, and Nick Castallanos remained.
Dombrowski has never traded away prospects recklessly, and in fact, his track record shows a history of getting a return value worth the risk. It remains to be seen if that remains true for the Espinoza trade, or those that are still to come, but for now, Dombrowski’s history is worth trusting.