The MLB Winter Meetings have wrapped up in Las Vegas.
Here’s what we learned:
Craig Kimbrel likely won’t be returning.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski indicated, not in so many words, to reporters that closer Craig Kimbrel likely will not be wearing a Red Sox uniform next season. Kimbrel, who declined a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Sox, is expected to command a contract Boston cannot afford — especially after the re-signing of Nathan Eovaldi.
“We’re not going to be overly aggressive with big expenditures for our relief closer at this point,” Dombrowski said. “Our payroll is pretty high at this point. Without getting specific on [Kimbrel], we’re not making a big expenditure in that area. Read that as you may.”
According to reports, Kimbrel’s desired deal will cost $70-80 million over four to five years, though his agent’s initial ask is comparable money over six years. The Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies have been floated as possible destinations.
As for who might replace Kimbrel should he indeed not return? Dombrowski and manager Alex Cora apparently are in no rush to name a closer, with neither expressing any urgency to have the situation ironed out by spring training — or even Opening Day. There are plenty of available free agent relievers the Red Sox could pursue, a path they still might have to go down outside of a closer capacity, but Dombrowski also highlighted the team’s existing talent.
“We like a lot of guys in our bullpen,” he said. “’[Matt] Barnes did a good job. [Ryan] Brasier did a good job. We’ve got [Brandon] Workman, we’ve got [Heath] Hembree, we’ve got Bobby Poyner from last year. We picked up Colten Brewer, so we have people who can help us out there.”
Chris Sale is healthy, but that’s about all the Red Sox will say.
Per the ace’s instructions, Dombrowski wouldn’t divulge much regarding the health of starting pitcher Chris Sale, who spent a significant period of time on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation during the final two months of the regular season.
“He’s not one that likes to share a bunch of information,” Dombrowski said. “That’s just the way it is.”
Despite the lack of transparency, Dombrowski maintained the club has “a pulse” of what happened last season and is “comfortable” with the situation. He insisted Sale is fine, health-wise, but would not elaborate on details.
“I’m really not going to discuss it,” he said. “But we feel very comfortable where he is and he just wants to kind of keep it between us.”
The Red Sox, who had already modified their approach during spring training last season by incorporating more additional rest, will likely once again have to handle Sale differently during February and March. Dombrowski wouldn’t get into specifics — namely whether the forthcoming adjustments relate to usage — nor would Cora.
“We know what we have,” Cora said. “We know what we’re going to do next year.”
Trading Jackie Bradley Jr. is nothing more than scuttlebutt.
A name that is no stranger to being included in trade talks once again was subject to those discussions, as the rumor mill speculated the Red Sox might deal center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in an effort to clear cap space for impending long-term contracts of Sale and Mookie Betts.
Dombrowski, however, expressed no interest in breaking up the outfield.
“It’s not one that we really look to change because we think it’s really strong,” he said. “We think it’s the best defensive outfield in baseball. I think it wins games. I think it’s athletic. You have offense and defense out of it. They’re good players. They’re winning players. We’re not looking to change that.”
While Dombrowski acknowledged on multiple occasions the team isn’t necessarily looking to move any players, he also noted it’s important to “keep an open mind.” Another name mentioned in rumors was pitcher Rick Porcello, who is scheduled to make $21.125 million in 2019, the final year of his contract with the Sox. According to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, teams have inquired about the 29-year-old.
“You always listen to anything,” Dombrowski said. “You can always get better. We’re not going to be able to sign all of our players, and that brings on conversations of teams asking you about various things. But I would say our primary focus is to win a championship in 2019.”
Dustin Pedroia’s future is still pretty uncertain.
By letting Ian Kinsler walk — the 36-year-old reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the San Diego Padres — the Red Sox are seemingly putting their faith in the successful return of second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Pedroia, who missed all but three games in May this past season, is still rehabbing his knee but says he’s “doing great” while “working hard and believing.” Dombrowski, too, is hopeful of a comeback, although he expects to gain clarity on a possible timeline when Pedroia starts running sometime in January.
Even with the departure of Kinsler, Dombrowski noted he does not feel the need to explore the market for a second baseman. If Pedroia is not able to play, the team will probably tap Brock Holt or Eduardo Núñez.
“We’re hoping Dustin comes back and we have some internal options,” he said.
“Beni leading off and Mookie hitting second,” Cora said. “I put it this way to Mookie, and I know Beni’s OK with it, but if you play 162 games, you’re going to come up 162 at-bats with nobody on.”