Red Sox owner John Henry discussed a variety of topics in an exchange with Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (read more here and here). Fans of the team and those interested in the interaction of the front office and upper management will certainly want to give the Q&A a full read, but here are some of the highlights:
Henry discussed the baseball operations department quite a bit. He credited former GM Ben Cherington for his “discipline” during his tenure running the team. Indeed, Boston has benefited from the strong play of several young players who were often mentioned as possible trade pieces. Upon taking the helm, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has “done a very good job of bringing the clubhouse and front office together,” says Henry.
The decision to add Dombrowski not only represented a switch at the top of baseball ops, but also led Boston to join an increasing number of teams in utilizing a president of baseball operations as well as a general manager. C“I think most big clubs now realize that the traditional GM role was just too large and demanding,” Henry explains while noting that he has been impressed by the performance of new GM Mike Hazen, who was Cherington’s top lieutenant but ended up being retained and promoted by Dombrowski.
Henry also touched upon the status of injured and embattled Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The 30-year-old is an important part of the near future for Boston, Henry says. That’s self-evident to some extent, as Sandoval is owed $58MM over the next three seasons (including the buyout of a 2020 club option). But the Sox owner suggests that the organization has expectations that Sandoval can return to being the “supremely talented veteran and a proven winner” that the club signed up for in the first place. “This year and last were frustrating for him and frustrating for us,” Henry says of Sandoval. “We need him next year.”
Sandoval’s importance is heightened by the fact that David Ortiz is set to retire after the year, Henry suggests. Big Papi is in the midst of an all-time age-40 season — he currently leads the league with a 1.050 OPS — and that obviously represents a more-or-less irreplaceable source of offense, though the free agent market does promise to offer several big bats. Sandoval certainly doesn’t look like a direct substitute, but a typical pre-Boston season from the Panda would go a long way toward making up for the loss.
Ortiz’s monster season has inevitably raised questions about whether he’ll reconsider his decision to hang ’em up. While Henry says that he would invite that, it doesn’t sound as if anything is actually under consideration with Ortiz still battling through pain to make it on the field. “If at some point he seriously considers coming back, it would be a great day for the organization,” said Henry. “But, unfortunately, I don’t think that is in the cards.”
Even as the Sox bid adieu to Big Papi, they have some immensely talented, younger position players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. on hand to constitute a new core. The natural question is whether and when Boston will aim to extend some of these regulars. While Henry declined to answer in any detail, he did note that, “if this group wants to play together for a long-time, we’ll do everything we can to make it happen.”
It’s rather easy to make a case for offering new, long-term deals to any of those three players, each of whom has now performed in the majors for a reasonably extended stretch — thus seemingly making good on their promise as prospects. But the Red Sox organization has a much less impressive record in developing pitching than in churning out bats from the farm. Unsurprisingly, Henry labeled that a “problem.” While he didn’t divulge much, he suggested that it’s a priority for the team to figure out how to draft and develop young arms.