When the Boston Red Sox hired former Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski as their new chief of baseball operations back on August 18 — letting their own GM Ben Cherington walk out the door — rumors began immediately about which players would remain with the Red Sox next year, and who was on the chopping block.
While Dombrowski has been largely vague in his public comments about player moves he may or may not be contemplating as he evaluates the current Red Sox roster — a roster which has produced disastrous results this season, destined for a second consecutive last-place finish in the American League East and heading into a weekend inter-league series against the NL East-leading New York Mets with a sorry 58-69 record.
But Dombrowski did mention one specific, or semi-specific change that he has in mind.
“I guess we need to find some better pitching,” he said in one of his initial meetings with the Boston media.
While there are a few elite pitchers about to enter the free agent market, there is one in particular most likely to draw Dombrowski’s interest, particularly when he finds that he has access to the generous bankroll put up by the Red Sox ownership group, led by billionaire John Henry who employed Dombrowski as GM when he owned the Florida Marlins before buying the Red Sox after the 2001 season.
Lefty David Price, the 30-year-old former Tampa Bay Rays ace whose career ERA of 3.10 ranks him fourth among all active Major Leaguers — and first among American League hurlers — has already been a Dombrowski acquisition once, when the Tigers picked him up in a five-player, three-team deal at the 2014 trade deadline.
But with the Tigers also headed to a last-place finish this year, Dombrowski turned around and dealt Price to the Toronto Blue Jays at this year’s deadline. Since moving to Toronto, who currently sit atop the AL East, Price has been nearly untouchable, going 4-0 with a no-decision in five starts — and a 1.98 ERA in his 36 1/3 innings pitched.
But to help make salary room for Price, who will likely command a record contract, several baseball experts believe that Dombrowski will decline to pick up the $13 million team option on nine-year veteran Clay Buchholz — the Red Sox top draft pick (42nd overall) in 2005.
Over his nine seasons, Buchholz has shown glimpses of his potential. In the Red Sox World Series championship year of 2013, he posted a 12-1 record with a stellar 1.74 ERA. But he missed two months with an injury, and throughout his career, Buchholz has had an impossible time staying on the mound, managing to start more than 20 games just three times, and never reaching 30 starts in a season.
Buchholz is hurt again this year, leaving a game against the New York Yankees on July 10 with a strained tendon in his right arm — after a streak in which he won five of seven starts with two no-decisions.
Last Sunday, the Boston Globe — a paper owned by Red Sox owner John Henry — reported rumors that Dombrowski will let Buchholz become a free agent. If he is able to pick up David Price in the same offseason, Red Sox Nation seems likely not to miss the often-injured righty.
[Image: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images]