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Naming closer tops Sox's offseason to-do list

Boston must also lock down star players, deal catcher before Spring Training
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Some of the best deals come once the holiday season is over. That is the approach Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is taking when it comes to 2019.

Boston's World Series championship-winning squad is mostly intact. Gone are Joe Kelly and Ian Kinsler, though, and it is nearly inevitable that closer Craig Kimbrel will sign elsewhere.

BOSTON -- Some of the best deals come once the holiday season is over. That is the approach Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is taking when it comes to 2019.

Boston's World Series championship-winning squad is mostly intact. Gone are Joe Kelly and Ian Kinsler, though, and it is nearly inevitable that closer Craig Kimbrel will sign elsewhere.

The rest of the band is back together, and Dombrowski just needs to make a couple of tweaks to round out the roster. Here's what the Red Sox need to do before Spring Training starts:

Identify a closer, add relievers
One thing is certain: Dombrowski will acquire a reliever -- perhaps even two -- before the offseason is over. The question is whether they will be of the closer or setup variety.

It could be that Dombrowski brings on supplemental relievers from outside the organization with the idea that manager Alex Cora will promote either Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier to the role of closer.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Brasier retires Bregman to escape jam

Dombrowski has said multiple times he doesn't envision making a "big expenditure" for his 2019 closer. However, there happens to be a plethora of relievers on the market with closing experience. David Robertson and Adam Ottavino could get the biggest contracts of the free-agent relivers who are out there.

Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Brad Brach and Bud Norris are proven pitchers who also have a chance of slipping to the Sox.

Negotiate with Betts, Sale, Bogaerts
Boston's roster was simply loaded in 2018, and that will be the case in '19, too. Beyond that, however, there is uncertainty. Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts are both entering their "walk" years. American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Mookie Betts is under the contractual control for two more years. It would be comforting for Red Sox fans if Dombrowski could make headway with at least one of these players this offseason on a long-term deal.

Video: WS2018 Gm5: Sale strikes out the side to clinch WS

Betts and Bogaerts both came up through the Red Sox's farm system, and they are big success stories. It would be a shame to see their talents being used elsewhere. Sale was Dombrowski's prized acquisition two offseasons ago, and it cost Boston top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. When Sale struck out Manny Machado to end the World Series, it was clear that the trade paid off. If the Sox are able to keep Sale after his contract expires, it would be an even better trade.

Trade a catcher
Somehow, the Red Sox carried a catching trio on their roster last year in Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart. That probably isn't sustainable again next year. In fact, the Sox would probably get more production out of the position if there was clarity in who the lead catcher is. Boston still doesn't know exactly what kind of catcher Swihart is, because he's never gotten the chance to play regularly. This is mostly due to injuries, but last year, it was because Swihart was caught in a logjam.

Video: MIA@BOS: Leon throws out Riddle attempting to steal

If the Red Sox are planning to use Swihart sparingly again in 2019, it would behoove them to deal him this offseason while he still has some value. The other option would be to trade Vazquez and hand the keys to Swihart. In either case, Leon -- an excellent defender -- is perfect as a backup.

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

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