Winter Meetings preview: 5 issues for Red Sox
Winter Meetings preview: FIve issues for Red Sox
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Now that labor peace is at hand and baseball has a new collective bargaining agreement in place, it's time for the Red Sox -- and everyone else -- to get down to the business of preparing for 2017.
There's some certainty about the rules, about payrolls and future tax thresholds, but plenty of uncertainty about the roster, though not as much as past years.
Here are five issues the Red Sox must deal with in the next few days -- or weeks:
1) Find a DH
There's no replacing David Ortiz, at least not literally. But the Red Sox have to somehow find someone to provide some run production in the middle of their batting order.
From all indications, the Red Sox are highly unlikely to wade into the bidding for Edwin Encarnacion, since the veteran slugger expects a commitment of four years at minimum. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is on record as wishing to avoid a deal of that magnitude.
And Saturday, 39-year-old Carlos Beltran came off the market when he reportedly agreed to a one-year, $16 million deal with the Houston Astros.
There are other free-agent options, including Matt Holiday and old friend Mike Napoli, though neither, obviously, is left-handed and without Ortiz the Red Sox lineup now tends to lean more right-handed. The recent re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes by the Mets will force them to deal one of two lefty bats -- Curtis Granderson or Jay Bruce.
It's a buyer's market, so there are no shortage of choices for the Sox.
2) Find an eighth-inning set-up man
Both Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler are free agents and neither seems inclined to return to the Red Sox.
The Sox have Craig Kimbrel to close and Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree to compete for the high-leverage relief spot.
But they'd like a more proven commodity to work the eighth.
Greg Holland, coming off Tommy John surgery, is an interesting possibility and the Sox were among the many teams to watch him throw last month in Arizona. He offers swing-and-miss stuff and has closing experience in Kansas City.
Holland's former teammate in Kansas City, Luke Hochevar, is another possibility. He's been linked to the Red Sox in the past.
The closer class is deep (Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon) and will be highly paid. The set-up candidates aren't as numerous.
Of course, the Red Sox could trade for bullpen help if they didn't find any palatable free agent options.
3) Add a depth starter
The Red Sox five-man rotation is set with David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright under control and Clay Buchholz around as the sixth man.
Still, it's given that teams need as many as nine or 10 starters over the course of a season and currently, the Red Sox have little beyond Henry Owens and Brian Johnson in reserve.
The trick is to sign someone who could contribute, but isn't out of options -- someone who could be shuttled back and forth betweeen Pawtucket and Boston without being exposed to waivers each time -- and is willing to start the season in the minors.
Such a pitcher is hardly glamorous, but could prove invaluable.
4) Monitor the ace market
It's possible that a team like the Chicago White Sox will decide to go all-in on a rebuilding effort and shop a true No. 1 pitcher like Chris Sale.
The lack of front-line starters in the free agent class may force some clubs to entertain trades that they otherwise wouldnt - to capitalize on an extremely thin market.
Dombrowski has a history of making surprising bold moves, so he can't be discounted if talks heat up. And he should remain attentive, since the addition of Sale (or someone like Chris Archer) would give the Sox arguably the best rotation in the league. The Sox, remember, were involved with the White Sox when Sale attracted offers last July.
But the extraordinary cost in return -- three elite young players, at minimum -- may scare off the Sox, who don't feel a rotation upgrade is an absolute necessity.
5) Explore dumping grounds
It's highly unlikely that anyone will be interested in taking, say, Pablo Sandoval off their hands -- at least until Sandoval shows he's in better shape and fully recovered from last spring's shoulder surgery.
But you never know. A team may try to get desperate or creative and the Red Sox could unburden themselves from a chunk of Sandoval's future salary.
There's also the matter of Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig, but then, one supposes there are limits to the insanity of other clubs.