What's in store for Red Sox at Winter Meetings?
It’s a virtual guarantee the Red Sox will add a big bat and a left-handed reliever this offseason. The question is what else they come away with, and more to the point, what they need following those acquisitions.
The lefty regarded as the best available, Mike Minor, signed a three-year deal with the Rangers. He’s making $28 million, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, giving him the highest average annual salary for a non-closing reliever. The Red Sox were aggressive with Minor, but going to the Rangers better fit his comfort zone, sources said. Aggressiveness entirely fits the m.o. of Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. But it’s been slow moving -- at least when it comes to crossing the finish line -- for really everyone but the Rangers, who also signed Sox free agent Doug Fister.
Adding a second bat behind a bopper could make sense.
What position does that big bat play? Did it require a trade from the major-league roster to get either the bat or the reliever? If you trade an outfielder for a first baseman, you probably go out and replace that outfielder.
For now, there are many moving parts until one of the dominoes falls.
ONE OF THESE FOUR
The Winter Meetings, which begin next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., are expected to finally get the market moving. Japanese pitcher-hitter combo Shohei Ohtani took up time and attention from every front office before he whittled his list down, crossing the Red Sox off along with every other East Coast team. The Giancarlo Stanton pursuit never looked to gain serious steam for the Red Sox, and barring something strange, he’ll wind up in San Francisco or St. Louis.
The bat at the top of the list have been clear for some time. J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana are among the available power bats, and in this observer’s opinion, it would be surprising if one of the three did not wind up in a Red Sox uniform. With an offensive boost available without giving young talent or current major league assets, it seems the most cost effective way to improve.
But the White Sox Jose Abreu is appealing, particularly because he’s a huge bat that doesn’t come with the contractual commitment a guy like Martinez. Abreu would be expensive in terms of trade pieces, and if it required parting with a current contributor, then the Sox would likely set out to subsequently replace that piece.
(Jackie Bradley Jr. has been the hot name in fan and media discussion, although there’s reason to doubt he makes sense for the White Sox because Bradley has three years of team control left before free agency. Abreu, has two years and is arbitration-eligible this season and next, so it's not like Bradley would set up the White Sox for the long haul. )
In the lefty relief market, Jake McGee and Tony Watson are the top two options out there.
“Nobody else at those guys’ level,” one scout said.
Robbie Ross is a free agent, but he and the Sox may both prefer different directions.
As MLBTradeRumors.com's Steve Adams pointed out, Brian Duensing (left), whose only year as a reliever was in ’17 with the Cubs, could be undervalued. He’ll be 35 next year, but he struck out 8.8 per nine innings last season.
ZIGGING WHILE EVERYONE ELSE ZAGS
If Dombrowski moves quickly, and strikes at the winter meetings as he did last year with the trades for Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg, he could end up zigging when the rest of the league is zagging.
The slow-moving market could reflect a general philosophy among teams that the best time to sign players is later in the offseason, as time and buyers shrink away. Well, if too many people waiting around ends up, there could be a scramble and a deficit, Dombrowski could come away with value buys early in the winter.
Trades also might be harder to come by for a lot of clubs, but perhaps not Dombrowski's win-now Sox.
“There has been an evolution in trades over the course of the last 10 years or so, where there’s a lot more information on players across organizations,” Indians president Chris Antonetti said via MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. “And I think what we’ve seen is teams are starting to value players similarly. And, when that happens, it can make it a little more difficult to find matches on trades, when one of the things that leads trades to happen is you have different evaluations of a player.
“One team may value a player a certain way and another team values him differently, and there’s an opportunity to overlap. Those types of trades are becoming a little bit less common than they would in the past. Now trades happen when there are just areas of surplus or areas where one team may have a surplus in a place and another team may have a deficit. You can match up there. Or, you can match up where maybe teams aren’t valuing present-year wins as they are future-year wins -- teams that might be rebuilding -- and you can match up on trading with teams that have different priorities on different time horizons.”
Hanley Ramirez doesn't appear a guarantee, but the Sox appear to be proceeding as though he's their DH. Still, it's worth wondering, would there be a cheap option amongst available free-agent first basemen to add in as insurance or a complement?
A righty reliever to go with a lefty reliever as well could make a lot of sense, particularly if the Sox dip into their group of current righties as trade currency.