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Inbox: Will prospects put pressure on Devers?

Red Sox reporter Ian Browne answers questions from fans
January 24, 2019

What will happen at third base for the future with prospects like Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec rising in the farm system? -- Ben G., Bellefonte, Pa.I think this is great for Rafael Devers to have the motivation of knowing that Chavis and Dalbec could be pushing him in the

What will happen at third base for the future with prospects like Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec rising in the farm system?
-- Ben G., Bellefonte, Pa.

I think this is great for Rafael Devers to have the motivation of knowing that Chavis and Dalbec could be pushing him in the near future. Devers will know that the job isn't just his by showing up. He needs to earn his keep by continually getting better. I was pretty encouraged by the way Devers was swinging the bat in the postseason. Obviously he needs to gain more consistency on defense. People forget that Devers is just 22 years old, and some of the mistakes he made last year were probably due mainly to his youth and the fact he was promoted to the Majors earlier than expected.
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Is there any sort of traction on a trade for a reliever? I feel confident in Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier at the end of games, but I think the Red Sox still need to add one more established and successful weapon. What do you think it would take for the Red Sox to go out and acquire a hidden gem?
-- Emus J., Clinton, Mass.

I'm not feeling much traction right now. You've seen pretty much every established reliever come off the market. If there's something still to follow, it is what happens with Craig Kimbrel. You can't completely rule out his return until you see him sign somewhere else. I could see a scenario where the Red Sox reach a deal with Kimbrel on a shorter-term contract where he could try free agency again in the next year or two. As for a hidden gem, it's hard to say, but Boston has made it clear it wants to trade one of its catchers. Perhaps the Sox could move a catcher for a difference-maker in the bullpen.
With three catchers on the 25-man roster, isn't the best option for 2019 to trade Sandy Leon and platoon Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez?
-- Sam W., Brookfield, Conn.

I do think the best combo of offense and defense the Red Sox could have behind the plate is with Swihart and Vazquez. However, Leon probably has the lowest trade value of the three, so it depends how much you are motivated by what you might be able to acquire. This storyline could continue into Spring Training, when all three catchers will have a chance to showcase their value to prospective teams.
What do you think of moving Nathan Eovaldi to closer? It could keep his innings down after the two Tommy John surgeries, and he showed an electric arm during the playoffs and ability to get big outs.
-- Eric M., Brewster, Mass.

I've received a surprising amount of inquiries about this topic this winter, so I feel I need to address it. It's not going to happen. The Red Sox firmly believe in Eovaldi as one of their five starters, and I think they have a quiet confidence that he could be in line for his best season. Using Eovaldi for one-inning stints would be a waste of his repertoire and talent. As for his health, offseason examinations showed that Eovaldi's arm is in tremendous shape.
I'm 75 years old and a Red Sox fan for most of those years. IMO the 2018 team is the best I've ever seen. Does anyone have a better choice? I can't think of any, including the "cardiac kids" and the Curt Schilling miracle. Those teams were not better, just more dramatic.
-- Jack K., unspecified

In my opinion, this 2018 club was the most consistently great in Red Sox history and they have the record to prove it. They started the season 17-2, and that set the tone for the entire year. Even in the playoffs, Boston dominated, losing just one game per round. The '04 team was certainly a wagon for the final two months of the season and into the playoffs but didn't sustain greatness for an entire season like this group. I think, at least in modern times, the team that has the best case for measuring itself against this squad was the '07 club. They pretty much led the division from wire to wire, though they did hit a rut in early to mid-September.
Do you feel Dave Dombrowski is going to replenish the Red Sox's farm system? Do you think that is an important priority for him?
-- Tim R., Albany, N.Y.

That is the goal. The farm system is vital for two reasons. The first is the natural boost it gives the Major League club when the top prospects are ready to contribute at the highest level. The second is that you can use your best chips -- as Dombrowski has done in the past -- to trade for players like Kimbrel and Chris Sale.
When are we done paying Panda?
-- Tony, North Cambridge, Mass.

This is the fifth and final year of the ill-fated five-year, $75 million contract the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to in November 2014. 

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.