Red Sox

Craig Kimbrel leaving might be rare moment where weakening team makes sense

Craig Kimbrel leaving might be rare moment where weakening team makes sense

LAS VEGAS — If it’s possible to both make a team weaker and act smartly at the same time, the Red Sox appear to be walking down that path. But boy, it'd be great to know how much money is really involved in the whole operation.

Paying Craig Kimbrel as a free agent this winter won't make sense by most measures. Signing him and ponying up for a legacy of saves is not an efficient use of money. The Sox have already spent a ton for 2019, and they’ll need to spend plenty to retain their stars in coming seasons.

To that end — and it is just one end — the Sox have a wise stance. On the first day of the winter meetings, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski tacitly acknowledged the team is looking beyond Kimbrel, when he said the team isn’t looking to make “a big expenditure” on a closer. 

“Read that as you may,” Dombrowski added.

Unless Kimbrel decides to take a short-term contract — and why would he? — he’s absolutely going to fall into the category of a “big expenditure” this winter.

“You’re in a position where, again, there’s so many dollars to go around as you proceed in the long term,” Dombrowski explained. “And we still have other things that we’re looking at for the long term that aren’t concluded. And there also might be the possibility to not have to do long-term to add a reliever].”

Efficient spending helps an organization. Realistically, we know there’s a boundary to what Sox ownership will spend, so it’s in the fan interest to see dollars spent wisely. But the limit itself is hard to parse. 

Teams don’t make their profits and revenues public, never mind what owners have in reserve or access to. If they did, might we sit back and say — hey, they should be able to afford Kimbrel, and also achieve their other long-term goals? 

The Sox owners outspent everyone in 2018, and they should be applauded for that. But the fact is, we really don’t know how much they’re raking in with all their Sox-associated ventures.

So, put efficient spending aside for a moment, and answer this: How else do the Red Sox improve this winter if not in their bullpen? Perhaps Matt Barnes, who had very similar peripheral numbers to Kimbrel in 2018 can step into Kimbrel’s role seamlessly. It could happen.

Yet, the Sox’ situation is exactly the one where efficient spending can sometimes be secondary. They have an elite team. How do you upgrade, if not spend inefficiently? How do you maintain the status quo, even, if not spend inefficiently? 

Losing Kimbrel, as the Sox seem prepared to do, probably means the 2019 team will not be positioned as well the 2018 version. The ’19 Sox will remain incredibly strong, a favorite, a powerhouse — all of those things. The loss of Kimbrel may prove negligible. There’s a chance he’s declining. He did not have his best year and was shaky nearly every time he pitched in the playoffs. 

The Sox also probably won’t need 108 wins to win the division again. (Expecting even the exact same group of guys to win 108 games two years in a row would be madness. Injuries, drop-offs — they’re bound to happen. Other teams rise up, and so on.)

So it is a loss, essentially, that they can live with. Plus, there are reasons to move on from Kimbrel beyond the money.

The righty's preference to be a traditional closer is not ideal in today’s game. Pitcher roles are being redefined in some organizations, where “openers” are used in place of traditional starters, and some elite relievers jump from situation to situation nightly. Of course, plenty of organizations still believe in carrying a closer.

Dombrowski and Alex Cora both said Monday they’d be comfortable without having a named closer to begin spring training. Barnes, Ryan Braiser, perhaps Joe Kelly — if he re-signs, and there’s no way the Sox can sign both Kelly and Kimbrel, a source said — could all compete. But there’d be an unknown quantity in a place where there once was a known quantity, even with some warts. 

Dombrowski said the team does want to add a reliever, be it someone with closing experience or just high-leverage experience. The Sox may not wait for Kimbrel to make his choice to add an arm, either, Dombrowski said.

Yet there’s a bottom line here that's inescapable: the Sox will likely be a lesser club without Kimbrel.

“There’s a risk associated,” Dombrowski said of potentially moving from an established closer to someone unknown. “I don’t want to say that there’s not. But is it a risk worth taking, we think’s worth taking? Yes, if it comes down to it. But we’re not at that point of making that decision.”

Sounds like the budget and concern for the future have already made the decision for the Sox. That's smart, if we take the Sox at their word when they imply they can't afford Kimbrel, and we don't really have a choice.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

How Jonathan Lucroy factors into Red Sox' catcher plans after signing

How Jonathan Lucroy factors into Red Sox' catcher plans after signing

Jonathan Lucroy officially is a member of the Boston Red Sox.

But don't expect him to challenge Christian Vazquez for the starting catcher job.

The Red Sox have added Lucroy to their spring training roster as a non-roster invite, the team announced Wednesday.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

That means the 33-year-old catcher is on a minor league contract, as Mass Live's Chris Cotillo reported Tuesday morning, and likely will begin the year at Triple-A Pawtucket unless he outperforms current backup Kevin Plawecki in spring training.

Lucroy also will face competition from four other non-roster invites: Juan Centeno, recent addition Connor Wong, Roldani Baldwin and Jett Bandy.

Plawecki figures to be the No. 2 to Vazquez, who caught a career-high 138 games last season.

Lucroy has a more impressive pedigree -- he's a two-time All-Star and 10-year MLB veteran who spent five seasons as Ron Roenicke's catcher on the Milwaukee Brewers -- but hasn't been very effective while bouncing between five teams over the last four seasons.

The Red Sox appear to be making a minimal investment in Lucroy, though, which could pay off if he has a strong 2020 spring training.

MLB Rumors: Could Red Sox be part of three-team Wil Myers trade?

MLB Rumors: Could Red Sox be part of three-team Wil Myers trade?

Could the Boston Red Sox participate in another blockbuster trade before the 2020 season?

We learned Tuesday that the Red Sox and Padres are still discussing a trade involving San Diego outfielder Wil Myers, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

But it's possible a third team gets involved in a Red Sox-Padres trade, The Athletic's Dennis Lin reported Wednesday.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

From Lin:

As part of these considerations, the Padres have discussed a potential three-team trade that would ship Myers to the Red Sox and land Cincinnati Reds center fielder-second baseman Nick Senzel in San Diego, two sources told The Athletic

Lin added that no trade is imminent, but Acee also reported the Padres have interest in the 24-year-old Senzel, the Cincinnati Reds' No. 2 overall pick in 2016 who would become San Diego's center fielder.

Per Acee, a Padres-Red Sox trade would have Boston assume about half of the $61 million Myers is owed over the next three years while receiving some combination of pitcher Cal Quantrill and prospects Luis Campusano and Gabriel Arias.

It's unclear how the Reds' involvement would affect Boston's return for Myers, or if the Red Sox would have to send a player to Cincinnati in this deal.

But San Diego general manager A.J. Preller apparently is serious about making a move: The Padres also remain interested in Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Lin reports.