Inbox: Any chance the Red Sox get Realmuto?

January 31st, 2019

As Spring Training draws ever closer, Red Sox beat reporter Ian Browne opens the Inbox and answers fans' questions.
What do you think about the Red Sox trading for ? They could include one of their current catchers in the trade.
-- Al G., Barkhamsted, Conn.

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I've received this question so many times this winter that I think I need to answer it in a prominent spot such as this. I don't think there's much of a chance it is going to happen. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has said numerous times this offseason he's not trying to add any catchers, but rather trying to subtract one of the three he has.
Realmuto would be a big upgrade offensively for the Sox at the catching position, but who do they have to trade? The team is in the process of trying to restock the farm system. Subtracting top prospects probably isn't the best move at this time. The Sox also have little interest in trading young, cost-controllable players (think and ) from the Major League roster. It's hard to see the Red Sox and Marlins matching up on this one.

Is the natural replacement for not only at second base but as "team captain?" Will the club go long term on him or will they use youth at second base or possibly ?
-- Paul H., Manchester, England

Let's face it. Some players are better suited in a utility role than being out there every day. Holt is the quintessential example of that. Holt's true value is in his ability to move all over the field. As for the captain thing, I wouldn't worry about that. The Red Sox haven't had a captain since the retirement of Jason Varitek, and they aren't in any hurry to name one. With a manager like Alex Cora, there's no question who is in charge. As for Mookie at second base, it's simply not going to happen. He is too valuable in the outfield.
Who would get first crack at closing if the Red Sox don't re-sign ? My thought would be . Do you agree?
-- Eric M., Brewster, Mass.

I agree 100 percent. Barnes really showed me something in the playoffs last year. He looked like a player who had gained complete confidence in his ability, and he is in the middle of his prime. You never know whether a pitcher can handle the ninth inning until he is thrust into that role, and Barnes could well get the chance to demonstrate he can do it.

Although he's still rebounding from injury, how confident would the Red Sox feel about having close? He handled that role nicely with Milwaukee in 2016.
-- Matthew H., Penfield, N.Y.

I like the way you are thinking, but I don't think it is realistic the Red Sox would start the season this way. The first thing Thornburg needs to prove is that he can handle a normal workload and be consistently effective. If he can prove he is back, and some of the other closing options don't work out for whatever reason, Thornburg could be a good Plan B. When Thornburg spoke at Winter Weekend, he was pretty encouraged by his health.
Right now, the bullpen looks like it would consist of , , Thornburg, , , and Barnes. Do you think the Red Sox are OK with that?
-- Michael C., Orlando, Fla.

They could get by with it for part of the season. But if the Red Sox are going to get back to the World Series, I think they'll need to go out and get another high-impact reliever at some point. I think July is the latest they could wait. And even that might be pushing it.

I haven't read any discussion about , who had a great year in 2018 as a starter and out of the 'pen. Do you see him in a potential setup role behind Barnes/Brasier?
-- Alan B., Monterrey, Mexico

Cora frequently talks about how valuable Velazquez and Johnson were last year as swing men. For that reason, don't look for Velazquez to be a setup man. His stuff doesn't really lend itself to that role anyway. He is perfect in the role he's in. Look for the Red Sox to slot Velazquez and Johnson in as starters again this season. In fact, Cora has already stated he plans on going with a six-man rotation on the opening road trip.