The adage that a front office takes two months into a season to assess its baseball team does not work for Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski.

Before the season was two weeks old, the moves are aplenty.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was benched despite his $95 million contract, then was suspiciously put on the disabled list with a sore shoulder (the suspicion comes from Sandoval going on the DL before he even had his shoulder examined).

Outfielder Rusney Castillo was not only benched – despite his $72.5 million contract – but was considered the fifth outfielder until he was finally banished to Triple-A.

And now catcher Blake Swihart – not a big contract yet, but lots of potential as a switch hitter – is also with Pawtucket, where he will catch and learn the ins-and-outs of playing left field.

What’s next? Clay Buchholz gone? Joe Kelly to the bullpen? A trade for another starter?


One thing for sure, Dombrowski isn’t asking for patience. He doesn’t seem willing to wait for results, especially when it’s dubious those results will come with the status quo.

Maybe the biggest shocks were the treatment of Sandoval and Castillo. We naturally think guys have to play because they are paid so much. But Sandoval and Castillo are not Dombrowski’s mistakes. They belong to Ben Cherington, so Dombrowski feels no allegiance.

Can you imagine Dombrowski’s conversation with Red Sox owner John Henry?

“John, about that $167.5 million …”

Well, they can always raise the concession prices (a good beer, footlong hot dog and peanuts are currently a bargain at $22.50).

But money aside, how will Dombrowski make this team a contender? Let’s look at the moves and what’s concerning.


Third base. Travis Shaw handled the pressure of replacing Sandoval impressively, batting .308/.899 OPS through Friday, with errorless play.

The mistake here, obviously, was signing Sandoval last year even though his production was trending downward.

The promise is that Shaw shows the maturity, plate discipline and ability to learn that may make him a major league mainstay.

The concern is Shaw is unproven over a whole season.

 Left field. Brock Holt is the unexpected starter, giving up most of his utility ways; although there have been sightings at third base after Shaw sat (mistakenly, in my opinion) for a pinch hitter.

The mistakes begin with Castillo, whose expensive signing in 2014 was a reaction to Boston losing out on another Cuban, Jose Abreu, the year before. This spring, Castillo looked overmatched (.183 average) and should have begun the season in Pawtucket.


Another mistake, I thought, was not keeping David Murphy. The Red Sox had a veteran, left-handed hitting outfielder, who batted .283/.739 last year and would complement right-handed Chris Young, and they let him go.

The promise is that Holt is a solid enough player – his .979 OPS is second only to David Ortiz on the team – and Young gets enough at-bats to be effective. There’s also a chance that Swihart helps out eventually.

The concern is that not only does Boston lose Holt’s versatility, since he’s a regular outfielder, but that he can hold up for a whole season. He tends to fade – a career .307/.811 hitter in the first half and .241/.600 in the second.

 Catching. Christian Vazquez rebounded from Tommy John surgery sooner than expected (especially after the trouble of Baltimore’s Mark Wieters). He is already considered one of the best defensive catchers in the game and his promotion is a no-brainer.

The mistake may be not developing Swihart’s flexibility sooner. But that’s understandable. With the uncertainty of Vazquez and Swihart’s need to keep working on his catching skills, giving him reps in left field could have caused more problems.

The promise is an eventual tandem of Vazquez and Swihart. Vazquez will catch most games but if Swihart can develop at other positions, his offensive talent won’t be wasted.


The concern is Swihart adjusting, but he’s shown an ability (and desire) to learn and stay in the majors.

 Starting pitching. Boston must improve. When ace David Price was signed, many wondered if anyone else even qualified as a No. 2 starter. Eduardo Rodriguez had the potential but also injured his knee early in the spring.

The mistake was relying too much on Buchholz and Kelly – who are averaging just over four innings a start. Yes, there is potential, but just how patient can Boston be, as these two tax the bullpen?

The promise is that Rodriguez is pitching simulated games in Florida, meaning rehab assignments are on the horizon, with a return to Boston maybe a month away.

The concern is the unknown about Rodriguez. He has potential but Boston needs results. While Kelly could go to the bullpen if he could adapt, Buchholz (making $13 million) looks lost. A trade for a starter makes sense, but opponents aren’t exactly giving away quality starting pitching.

These Red Sox can contend but there are obvious concerns. Dombrowski has a history for action, so one thing is sure. He’s not finished making moves.


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