It may appear Dealer Dave Dombrowski, the man whose career has been built on the mega-deal and star power, was just beat at his own game. But it's not the Giancarlo Stanton trade that will deliver the potential knockout from Brian Cashman, if the trade with the Marlins is indeed finalized.
The desicive blow was cumulative, in all the moves that led up to a point where Dombrowski is tiring and Cashman has enough energy to taunt him with a blockbuster.
As Elias pointed out via ESPN, there's been only one other time when the team with the most home runs added the player with the most home runs: 1919, when the Yankees traded for Babe Ruth. The Red Sox need one thing above all this offseason: home runs.
They will still acquire some, you can be sure of that.
"I, for one, can't wait to see how Dave responds to this," one American League scout said Saturday.
There was foreboding schadenfreude laced in those words, a sense that Dombrowski may overreact. That he'll do something to alleviate a fan base's disappointment in seeing Stanton join forces with Aaron Judge, but at an unreasonable cost to the Sox in the long term.
You can only make so many restrictive moves: David Price signings, top-prospect trades and the like. Yes, Stanton's injury risk and salary qualify as a restrictive move. Even if Stanton wanted to come to Boston, it would have been a straining deal to pull off. The Yankees can more easily replace Starlin Castro because of their farm system.
Now, this is not a defense of the Red Sox. On the contrary: It's a distinction in where the issue lies.
The problem is not simply the fact the Sox didn't trade for Stanton, but the fact they both needed a player like Stanton and also lacked the reasonable wherewithal to acquire him. Everything that preceded this point made the Stanton deal less feasible for the Sox and more so for the Yankees. That's the problem.
The amount of flexibility available is directly a product of baseball leadership. Dombrowski was saddled with some bad contracts from Ben Cherington and the previous administration. The fact that the Red Sox feel constraints (at a time they need to add from the outside to improve) while the Yankees can move freely is a reflection of management. If not necessarily bad Sox management of late, then particularly good Yankees management. Cashman deserves a ton of credit.
Over the summer, it was already apparent that the Yankees were in a position of power when it comes to the ability to add to their team. From the trade deadline:
But the harsher reality: The Sox have already spent most of their savings. Dombrowski's already pulled off a blockbuster. More than one. Only two certified gold doubloons remain: Rafael Devers and Jason Groome.
There are two elements at play here.
The Sox have been in their competitive window for longer than the Yankees. Dombrowski, being Dealer Dave, has taken his shots. No one can argue with the immediate success of Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale either.
But who used their prospect capital and large-payroll ability more prudently, Cashman or Dombrowski? Which team will now have the longer competitive window?
The old rivals both are in a window now. The Sox, despite all their expenditures, are not comfortably positioned to repeat as a division winner.
"I think there's windows of opportunity because it's very tough to keep everybody together or hungry or healthy," Cashman said this spring. "When you have a collection of talent, depending on like how long, how young that talent is, I guess you can keep your window longer. No, I believe in the window stuff.
"You always want to sustain and maintain, but obviously, the way the rules of the game are, the more success - what goes up has to come down, because you're not getting the high-end draft picks. You're being penalized for success, which pulls successful teams down, and you're being rewarded for failure, which is going to catapult people out of the abyss. So, the structure of the game and the rules of the game are designed that make those windows real."
Cashman has all the elbow grease to keep his window open. Dombrowski is running out.