Inbox: Will familiar faces fill out Red Sox's 'pen?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Boston fans' questions

December 5th, 2018

Which of these free-agent relievers are most likely to be the Red Sox's closer in 2019: , Zach Britton, , Joe Kelly, , , , or ?
-- @MikeLloydOBrien

Keep an eye on Ottavino. The Red Sox looked at him prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline last year. Pitching for the Rockies, Ottavinoput up filthy numbers in 2018. The one small concern is that he's never been a full-time closer.
I like Miller because he is already Boston-tested. But it's unclear how healthy he is. Robertson would also be an excellent fit and has a home in Rhode Island that he'd like to live fairly close to during the season. Of course, the Red Sox would love to have Kimbrel back, but it sounds like the cost could be prohibitive.
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What do you think about trading one of the catchers and for J.T. Realmuto? That would get us a quality hitting catcher and open up a spot for Michael Chavis to get a chance. And give them a chance to move up Bobby Dalbec to Triple-A.
-- Art N., Naugatuck, Conn.

I am intrigued to see if the Sox will make a play for Realmuto. Though they won a championship last season with precious little production from the catching position, I'm not sure if that is sustainable. I'm not sure I'd part with Devers, however. The team still has five years of club control with Devers, and it would only have two with Realmuto. The 27-year-old Realmuto had a .825 OPS in 2018. I'm guessing he could improve on that if he played half of his games at Fenway Park.
Keep and Craig Kimbrel. We need them. They are great.
-- Ann M., Hollywood, Fla.

I don't see a question in there, but your point is taken. I just don't think the Red Sox have the budget for both Eovaldi and Kimbrel. They are likely going to have to pick one or the other. Don't forget that there are some star players on the team who are going to need to be paid within the next year or two if Boston wants to keep them, including , Chris Sale, and possibly J.D. Martinez. By signing both Kimbrel and Eovaldi, you wouldn't be leaving yourself much financial flexibility going forward.

Do the World Series champs focus on trade talks or just focus on free agents at the Winter Meetings?
-- @bigcitybarry

It is definitely a multifaceted effort. When it comes to shoring up the bullpen, the free-agent market seems like it is definitely the way to go. There are many relievers on the market this offseason. But president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will also talk trades with many different teams to see who might be out there.

Why has Joe Kelly not been re-signed to the Sox?
-- Bruce S., Worcester, Mass.
Kelly is seeing how the bullpen market plays out, as are the Red Sox. They have interest in bringing Kelly back to the fold, and Kelly is on record as saying he'd love to come back. I'm curious to see how much Kelly can build off the huge success he had in the 2018 postseason. There's a chance that could springboard him to a place where he can be more consistent over the course of a 162-game season than he's been in the past.

Do you think the Red Sox will try to sign Joe Kelly as their next closer?
-- Michael S., Skowhegan, Maine

It can't be ruled out. But if the Sox don't go out and sign another established closer, I see Matt Barnes as the more likely candidate to close next season. His numbers were the best in the team's bullpen last year. Kelly would be invaluable as a setup man if Boston loses Barnes in that capacity.
Do you see the Red Sox making multiple moves this offseason to control future roster turnover? Making trades for young controllable pitching and shipping out deals that will expire in the next couple of years? Like adding young controllable pitching () at the cost of established vets () or standing pat?
-- @mbaile38

I think the Red Sox are committed to sticking with this core and seeing if they can repeat rather than tinkering with it. One thing Dombrowski has been consistent with since he took over is keeping this group together and trying to maximize the window of winning while they are all under the control of the club. So far, that has resulted in three American League East titles and a World Series championship. This could be the last go-around with this particular group, with the possible exception of Kimbrel, who is now free to sign elsewhere.