SEATTLE -- In lieu of acquiring Chris Sale, Dave Dombrowski emerged from Monday's nonwaiver trade deadline with a sales pitch.
"I like our club," the Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations said. "It's always interesting when people say, 'Go do this, go do that.' I'm not really sure how many more things we would do. Every club can get better. We're not a perfect club. But I don't think there's a glaring hole out there."
Well, there is the matter of the Red Sox's 4.36 team ERA, 10th in the American League and the primary reason for their 2-29 record when they score fewer than four runs in a game. But after making three deals last month to bolster the rotation (lefty Drew Pomeranz), the bullpen (submariner Brad Ziegler) and the bench (infielder Aaron Hill), Dombrowski capped off trade season with a tweak on the margins, obtaining left-handed reliever Fernando Abad from the Minnesota Twins for hard-throwing Triple-A reliever Pat Light.
That's it. There was no bold blockbuster, no go-for-broke jaw-dropper that will vault the Red Sox over the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East or make them a World Series favorite in David Ortiz's last season.
Instead, Dombrowski and general manager Mike Hazen are putting all their eggs in the baskets of the players they already have. If the Red Sox are going to avoid what principal owner John Henry said would be the "disaster" of sending Ortiz out without one final postseason appearance, it will be up to manager John Farrell and a $200 million roster to help him get there.
"Now we've got to go out and execute. There's no question about it," Farrell said. "We've got an offense, it's deep, it's dynamic. It's a balanced team when you look at both sides of the ball. Whether at the plate or from the mound, the bottom line, no question, is for us to go out and execute to our abilities."
Oh, it had to be tempting for Dombrowski to contemplate the impact of trading for Sale or fellow Chicago White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana, both of whom were made available within the past few weeks. The Red Sox have the inventory of prospects and young major league-ready players to meet the White Sox's sky-high asking price. And given the struggles of $217 million ace lefty David Price, the uncertainty that exists behind him in the rotation and the lack of appealing options in the upcoming free-agent pitching market, Sale or Quintana had to look even more attractive.
But Dombrowski said he was "extremely" reluctant to part with either of his twin top prospects -- second baseman Yoan Moncada and center fielder Andrew Benintendi. He classified them as "special players" and indicated they might be ready to contribute at the big league level before the end of a season that will have the Red Sox on the road for 35 of the final 58 games.
"I'm not making that prediction, but they could be," Dombrowski said. "These guys are really good players. When you talk to other clubs, people offer you good big league players for them. I do think we feel we have a club that can not only win now, but we want to be good for years to come. They're a really important part of what we're going to do."
Can't fault Dombrowski for his prudence, even though neither of the White Sox's 27-year-old lefties would have been two-month rentals. Quintana is signed for $7 million next season and $8.85 million in 2018, with $10.5 million and $11.5 million team options for 2019 and 2020, respectively. It's a club-friendly contract matched only by Sale, who will make $12 million next season and has $12.5 million and $13.5 million options for 2018 and 2019.
But if Benintendi, 51-for-151 (.338) with a .406 on-base percentage in his past 41 games for Double-A Portland, can be the late-season answer to the Red Sox's revolving door of left fielders, then he might be able to help the 2016 cause as much as Sale would have. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have begun to prepare Moncada for an eventual position change by directing him to take grounders at third base, another potential position of need down the stretch.
The Red Sox mostly stood pat, but they didn't sit the deadline out, either. Dombrowski convened a delegation of 10 team officials last week for four days of meetings in Anaheim, California, and over the past few days, he said they had "active conversations" with about 20 teams, including the archrival New York Yankees, who acted as deadline sellers by moving closers Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs and Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians, while sending outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers.
But contrary to multiple reports that indicated the Red Sox increased their contact with the White Sox late Sunday night, Dombrowski said they didn't speak to Chicago after on Friday.
"Everybody has a right to ask for whatever they want, and you just decide that's not a price you want to pay," Dombrowski said, alluding to talks with the White Sox. "If we had walked in today and said, 'OK, we acquired Pomeranz, Hill, Ziegler and Abad,' people would have said, 'Wow, I can't believe how much they did.' But we spaced it over a time period, so it doesn't have quite the same oomph. But we're very happy with where we are."
Like it or not, that's behind the aggressive Rangers and Indians as AL front-runners. The Red Sox are going for it, but only to a point.
"We like the team that is here," Farrell said. "There's always that uneasiness of wonderment: Who’s going, who’s coming? Dave was very proactive in that regard, so the fact that the deadline is behind us, we’re looking forward to going out and playing with the team we’ve got."
For better or worse, that's the path that the Red Sox chose.