Jalen Beeks' atrocious start reminder that Dave Dombrowski has mostly been right about prospects he's traded away


It is now commonplace for Red Sox fans to beat up Dave Dombrowski, especially whenever Marcus Walden or Hector Velazquez is summoned to get crucial outs late in a close game. The Red Sox’ president of baseball operations failed to replace either Craig Kimbrel or Joe Kelly this offseason, and the team has payed a big price all season long. It is the primary reason the most expensive team in baseball sits two games out of a playoff spot at the end of July.

With that in mind, Dombrowski is rightfully pilloried for leaving the bullpen bare. But when it comes to the Red Sox’ barren minor league system, which is slotted near the bottom of the league in nearly every ranking imaginable, the story is a little more complicated. Yes, Dombrowski has traded away many of the team’s heralded prospects in recent years. But his aggressive moves built a World Series winner, and the truth is, few of the highly touted youngsters who were shipped away have accomplished much at the Major League level.

So far, Dombrowski has mostly dealt the right guys.

This overlooked reality came to focus Monday during the Red Sox’ 9-4 victory over the Rays, who are suddenly scuffling. Boston lit up Jalen Beeks for eight runs over 3.2 innings, including three home runs, with J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and Sam Travis all smashing their blasts in the third frame. 

Since the start of last season, J.D. Martinez has hit 14 balls 400+ feet to the right of center field.Mike Trout has six such hits.pic.twitter.com/91SrCtE5HX

— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) July 23, 2019

The Red Sox probably wouldn’t have captured the World Series last season without Nathan Eovaldi, who struggled mightily Monday in his first appearance out of the bullpen. It looks like it was a big mistake to net the oft-injured righty to a four-year, $67 million contract. But don’t let that cloud the significance of last summer’s trade. Beeks has been up and down between the Majors and Triple-A this season, and serves as one of Tampa Bay’s bulk relievers, meaning he’s usually tasked with replacing one of the club’s openers. Monday was only his second start of the season.

Given the amount of money the Red Sox have invested in the starting rotation –– $88 million! –– it’s easy to bemoan the loss of a potential young and cost-controlled hurler. But it’s uncertain Beeks would contribute much more to the back end of the rotation than Ryan Weber or Josh Smith. The lift Eovaldi gave them last postseason, and could still provide this year, is more valuable.

When Dombrowski took over the Red Sox’ baseball operations department in August 2015, the organization was rife with promising prospects, most notably Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Micheel Kopech and Anderson Espinoza. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. weren’t prospects per se, but they were still very young players without much big league service time. 

Dombrowski kept the right ones.

Outside of Moncada, who’s socked 18 home runs for the White Sox this season, none of the departed Red Sox farmhands have lived up to the hype. Kopech features a blistering fastball, but underwent Tommy John surgery last year, and is out for the entirety of the 2019 campaign.

And besides, can anybody really fault Dombrowski for trading Moncada and Kopech in order to land Chris Sale? You have to give up talent to get talent.

From a philosophical standpoint, perhaps Dombrowski’s most assertive trade was when he shipped four prospects –– Manuel Margot (No. 3-ranked), Javy Guerra (No. 6-ranked) and two others –– to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel. Trading two top-ranked prospects for a closer, even a dominant closer in his prime like Kimbrel, represented the antithesis of Ben Cherington’s more conservative tendencies. 

But Kimbrel put in three (mostly) very good seasons here. Margot, meanwhile, is a below average player in San Diego, posting a .702 OPS in 367 career games. Guerra, meanwhile, only played 13 big league games last season.

Even more controversially, Dombrowski shipped teenage flamethrower Anderson Espinoza to the Padres for veteran Drew Pomeranz, who actually won 17 games for the Red Sox in 2017. The loss of Espinoza was bemoaned, but much like Kopech, he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery this summer. 

It was his second Tommy John operation in three years.

Based on Dombrowski’s shoddy player development track record, there are legitimate questions about whether he’s the right individual to retool the Red Sox. But he built the winningest team in franchise history, and the price to get there, at least in terms of players, didn’t turn out to be all that grand.