Red Sox

Dave Dombrowski "happy" with Red Sox roster despite bullpen concerns

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Dave Dombrowski "happy" with Red Sox roster despite bullpen concerns

The Boston Red Sox don't have a closer with spring training about to begin, but the architect of the team's roster still feels pretty good about where things stand.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski didn't add any marquee free agents to his roster over the winter, and he has yet to find a replacement for star closer Craig Kimbrel, who remains unsigned on the free agent market. However, Dombrowski is content with the group that will open the 2019 season.

"We are happy with where our roster is," Dombrowski said Monday on NESN's "Red Sox From Fort Myers" show. "We're in a position where, basically, positonal player-wise we have the same club back. Starting pitching-wise we really have everybody back. Bullpen, of course, is the one area which will get a lot of discussion and I'm sure will be focused on by people. But we like a lot of our arms and a lot of our people out there. But basically the club is back -- we know we should have a good club unless something happens where you get decimated by injury but you hope that never takes place. We have the foundation of having a good club, and I think they'll be prepared to come back and battle and see if we can try to repeat."

Plenty of star players are still available in free agency, including Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Kimbrel. The chances of the Red Sox signing any of those players are pretty small, however.

"I would say we're exploring, but not big-name free agents," Dombrowski said. "They're more apt to be a big-league invite on a minor-league contract to try to come in and compete. Of course, we'll scout during spring training. That'll be one of our focuses, our bullpen people with other organizations. But the reality is every club has an area you're probably going to address, that's the one area with ours that sticks out. But we like our people in camp, and we think they can do the job for us."

Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Tyler Thornburg and perhaps Steven Wright are among the best in-house options to be Boston's next closer. The job definitely is open entering spring training, and it could be that way into the regular season as Red Sox manager Alex Cora gets a feel for who does a good job handling the pressure of the ninth inning. 

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MLB Rumors: Chris Sale, Red Sox agree to extension in $145 million range

MLB Rumors: Chris Sale, Red Sox agree to extension in $145 million range

The Boston Red Sox have one fewer pending free agent to worry about, it appears.

Chris Sale is nearing an agreement with the Red Sox on a long-term contract, The Boston Globe's Alex Speier reported Friday.

Speier didn't report terms of the deal but noted it would keep the left-handed ace in Boston "for years to come."

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal confirmed Speier's report.

Sale, who was set to hit free agency after this 2019 season, said earlier this spring he was open to signing an extension with Boston. He'll turn 30 in May but is coming off a strong season in which he posted a 2.11 ERA and 12-4 record in 27 starts.

Pitcher Rick Porcello, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and designated hitter J.D. Martinez all can hit free agency next offseason, but locking up Sale gives the Red Sox much-needed peace of mind knowing their best pitcher is sticking around.

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What's next for Red Sox after Chris Sale's pending contract extension?

What's next for Red Sox after Chris Sale's pending contract extension?

Dave Dombrowski couldn't resist getting involved in Extension Season.

To cap a busy week of franchise cornerstones signing long-term contract extensions -- Mike Trout, Alex Bregman and Paul Goldschmidt, to name a few -- reports surfaced Friday that the Boston Red Sox have agreed to an extension with ace Chris Sale worth $145 million over five years.

That's a lot of cash to commit to a player who turns 30 in eight days. But Sale has earned his price tag, posting a 2.56 ERA over his two seasons in Boston while finishing in the top five in American League Cy Young voting in both years.

Locking up their ace also allows the Red Sox to check the top item off their lengthy to-do list for next winter. And it's lengthy; here's a list of pending free agents after the 2019 season:

-- OF/DH J.D. Martinez (opt-out clause)
-- SS Xander Bogaerts
-- SP Rick Porcello
-- 1B Mitch Moreland
-- 2B Eduardo Nunez
-- UTIL Brock Holt
-- 1B Steve Pearce
-- RP Tyler Thornburg

Dombrowski admitted Thursday that Boston likely won't be able to re-sign one of Sale, Porcello, Martinez and Bogaerts. So, with Sale extended, which of that trio would be the odd man out?

Considering Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez all reportedly are under contract through next season for a combined $86 million, you could make a case it's Porcello.

Porcello has a 50-28 record in Boston over a three-year tenure that includes a Cy Young award. He's also an established leader in the clubhouse. His ERA has been north of 4.00 in each of the last two seasons, though, so it just might not make sense for Boston to pay him what he wants in free agency when it could pursue a back-end starter at a lower cost, especially if that gives the club flexibility to retain Martinez and re-sign Bogaerts.

There's another factor looming, of course: Mookie Betts' expected mega-payday. The Red Sox outfielder is set to hit free agency in 2020 and could command a contract in the $35 million-per-year range. If that deal is with Boston, the Sox would have three players under contract for north of $60 million combined from 2020 to 2023.

Dombrowski has been willing to spend big on pitching in Boston, and last year's World Series title certainly validates that strategy. But extending Sale may force the Red Sox's front office to make some tough decisions elsewhere on the pitching staff.

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