Boston Red Sox

Red Sox open to trading any of their three catchers

Red Sox open to trading any of their three catchers

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, and Blake Swihart are all on the trading block this offseason according to Dave Dombrowski.

The Red Sox' President of Baseball Operations said Monday during the Winter Meetings that teams have shown interest in Boston's trio of catchers, and Boston is open to parting ways with one of them.

"You can see there's other catchers out there," Dombrowski said. "There's more big-name catchers that are out there, and usually when that happens, a lot of clubs are talking about them first, but there's been some interest in our guys."

"Nothing against any of the three, because we like them all, but it's hard to carry all three on the big league club. None of them have options left, but we're also not going to just give them away to give them away. We'll see where that takes us."

Dombrowski didn't indicate which of the three the team would most like to keep, but reiterated that the challenge of keeping three catchers on the big league roster makes any of them available for the right price.

"We like them all," he said. "We're not looking to per se trade them, but just the circumstances... so we'd be open to talking about any of them."

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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.

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Dave Dombrowski implies Craig Kimbrel won't be returning to Red Sox

Dave Dombrowski implies Craig Kimbrel won't be returning to Red Sox

It's looking more and more likely that Craig Kimbrel won't be returning to the Red Sox in 2019.

With the Winter Meetings underway in Las Vegas, Dave Dombrowski touched on various topics related to what the team's philosophy will be this offseason. Perhaps the biggest takeaway was the Red Sox' President of Baseball Operations discussing the chances of re-signing closer Craig Kimbrel.

"We're not going to be overly aggressive with big expenditures I don't think for an elite closer at this point," Dombrowski said Monday evening. "Our payroll is pretty high at this point, so without getting specific on him, we're not looking to make a big expenditure in that area. So read that as you may."

Dombrowski mentioned the team feels comfortable moving forward with the bullpen as currently constructed.

"We like a lot of the guys in our bullpen," Dombrowski said. "Brasier did a good job, Barnes did a good job for us, now they've moved Steven Wright out to the bullpen for us with this type of move that we made. We've got Workman, we've got Hembree, we like Bobby Poyner from last year, we like some of our young arms, we picked up Colten Brewer, so somebody that may end up helping us out there any way we can. But I don't have a specific on that; it's somewhat dependent upon cost of acquisition and how there's an acquisition. There's a lot of relievers out there at this point."

Sox manager Alex Cora shared the same sentiment as Dombrowski.

"Obviously with Barnes and Brasier, we feel comfortable they can get outs late in games, so I'm comfortable with the guys we have," Cora said. "We don't have to name a closer going into Spring Training."

The odds of the Red Sox bringing Kimbrel seemed slim once it was revealed the 30-year-old is looking for a six-year contract. As all indications point toward Boston moving on from the 2018 World Series champion closer, they still appear to have multiple free agent relievers on their radar.

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