Inbox: Should Sox rest Sale more next season?
Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Boston fans
Do you think Chris Sale would have benefited from slightly less time on the mound last season? His effectiveness appeared to dip a little nearing the end of the season and into the playoffs. If so, what is the logical solution? Take him out earlier in games, or go with a six-man rotation for a period of time, such as midseason?
-- Paul, New Zealand
Without question, the Red Sox are looking into possible reasons Sale's performance has dipped in September for three consecutive seasons. They will try to come up with a plan to prevent this from happening again. Possible solutions include a built-in break at some point during the season, giving him extra rest at times, or being more mindful of limiting pitch count when the occasion allows for it. For Boston to be at its best, it needs Sale at his best at the most important time of year.
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Should the Red Sox be looking to extend Sale?
-- Manuel A., Hanford, Calif.
Spring Training is typically the time that teams try to work out contract extensions with key players. I'm sure the Red Sox will speak with Sale's representatives and see if they might be able to find common ground. Boston holds another club option on Sale for the 2019 season, but it would love for Sale to be around a lot longer than that. Look for the Red Sox to also explore an extension for elite closer Craig Kimbrel, who is a free agent after '18. Additionally, they could talk about longer-term contracts with some of their young core players, including Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.
If the Red Sox are able to sign J.D. Martinez, what would happen to JBJ? Is it possible for JBJ to be traded for a solid pitcher?
-- Cory B., Stafford, Conn.
The Red Sox place a high value on Bradley's defense, and they have indicated they have very little interest in trading him. Bradley is a Super Two player, and Boston controls his contractual rights through the 2020 season. If the Martinez signing comes to fruition, it's more likely the Red Sox would try to move Hanley Ramirez, who has one year left on his contract plus a club option that would vest with 497 plate appearances.
Why don't the Red Sox go after Jacob Arrieta? We have an offense coming back that had a below-average hitting season last year, and these hitters should be better in 2018. Why not counter the Yankees with the best pitching staff in baseball?
-- Carl A., Four Oaks, N.C.
It's not a bad strategy. The Red Sox did this in the 2009-10 offseason, when they were unable to re-sign Jason Bay or sign Matthew Holliday. In that case, they reallocated their resources and signed John Lackey. Dave Dombrowski has given no indication that he'd consider investing in a marquee starting pitcher this winter, but you never know if he could pull off a surprise.
I know it is very early in his career, so I'm not giving up on Rafael Devers defensively at third base, but if we were able to land Manny Machado, do you think Devers could make a move to first? And in a similar vein, given our depth in the outfield and Dustin Pedroia's age, could you see Betts coming back to his former home at second, or is he set in the outfield?
-- Andy S., Birmingham, Ala.
The Red Sox would prefer to keep Devers exactly where he is -- at third base. It is early in his career to be making a position change. But if they were able to accomplish the unlikely and get Machado, you'd have to consider just about anything to fit in a player of that caliber. As for Betts, Boston is committed to keeping him in the outfield. Betts might be the best right fielder in the game. Also, the Red Sox don't like the idea of him taking the pounding on his legs that second basemen are subjected to.
Why don't the Red Sox just sign Mike Moustakas? He could be a much cheaper power option then Martinez. And especially with his left-handed pop, he would excel at Fenway. Am I crazy, or does this make any sense?
-- Jakeem L., New York
The Red Sox already have a left-handed power hitter at third base in Devers, so Moustakas doesn't really seem to fit. You might have been able to make a better case for this if not for the re-signing of Moreland. But Moustakas would seem to give Boston too much redundancy on the roster as presently constituted.
The Red Sox have a youthful core of players at five to six positions around the diamond, so it looks like a bright future. What are the chances of seeing Sam Travis add to the youth movement during the upcoming season, or does the Mitch Moreland signing limit those odds?
-- Taylor R., Framingham, Mass.
Travis is still a player the Red Sox have high hopes for as a potential run producer. The question is whether he can hit for enough power to hold down first base in the Major Leagues. The path is blocked somewhat for Travis in 2018 with the re-acquisition of Moreland, but he will get a chance to show what he can do in Spring Training and perhaps during the season, too, if there is a roster spot available.
Are there any Minor League contracts and non-roster invites for Spring Training so far? Did I hear Rusney Castillo is one of them?
-- James Y., Wells, Maine
There should be an announcement on Minor League free agents and non-roster invites in the near future. I'm sure Castillo will be invited to Major League camp. If nothing else, Castillo can audition for a potential trade by playing in Grapefruit League games. Barring an injury to someone else, it's hard to see where he fits with the Red Sox. Also, by adding him back to the 40-man roster, Castillo's salary figure would be included in luxury-tax calculations on Boston's payroll.