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Inbox: Should Sox rest Sale more next season?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Boston fans
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

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.

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.

Video: HOU@BOS Gm3: Bradley hits homer off Reddick's mitt

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 Jake 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 Matt 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.

Video: Cora is excited to work with Devers

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.

Video: Red Sox add Moreland, look toward J.D. Martinez

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.

Video: BOS@TB: Castillo knocks in a run with infield single

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.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts, JBJ, Pomeranz among 9 to avoid arb

Betts only Red Sox player not to agree to terms on new contract
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- The Red Sox reached one-year agreements with nine players on Friday to avoid salary arbitration, including cornerstone lineup pieces Xander Bogaerts ($7.05 million) and Jackie Bradley Jr. ($6.1 million) and key rotation member Drew Pomeranz ($8.5 million).

Friday at 1 p.m. ET was the deadline for teams to exchange arbitration figures with all eligible players.

BOSTON -- The Red Sox reached one-year agreements with nine players on Friday to avoid salary arbitration, including cornerstone lineup pieces Xander Bogaerts ($7.05 million) and Jackie Bradley Jr. ($6.1 million) and key rotation member Drew Pomeranz ($8.5 million).

Friday at 1 p.m. ET was the deadline for teams to exchange arbitration figures with all eligible players.

The only arbitration-eligible player Boston did not reach a deal with is Mookie Betts.This is the first arbitration-eligible season for Betts, who is widely considered to be Boston's best all-around player.

The Red Sox submitted a figure of $7.5 million for their starting right fielder, while Betts countered at $10.5 million. The Red Sox and Betts can still reach a deal any time before a potential arbitration hearing in February. However, at this point, the expectation from both sides is that it will go to a hearing.

The other players who signed one-year deals are utility man Brock Holt ($2.25 million), catchers Sandy Leon ($1.95 million) and Christian Vazquez ($1.45 million) and pitchers Joe Kelly ($3.825 million), Eduardo Rodriguez ($2.375 million) and Brandon Workman ($835,000).

This is the last arbitration-eligible season for Pomeranz and Kelly, who will be eligible for free agency next season.

Bradley is a Super Two player and has two arbitration-eligible seasons left.

This was Vazquez's first arbitration-eligible season.

Earlier this week, the Sox avoided arbitration with knuckleballer Steven Wright and setup man Carson Smith by signing them to one-year contracts.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Waiting game with Martinez continues for Sox

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- While one significant hitter (Jay Bruce) has found a landing spot (Mets), the biggest bat on the free-agent market (J.D. Martinez) remains in limbo.

This means the Red Sox are also still in limbo.

BOSTON -- While one significant hitter (Jay Bruce) has found a landing spot (Mets), the biggest bat on the free-agent market (J.D. Martinez) remains in limbo.

This means the Red Sox are also still in limbo.

Hot Stove Tracker

The one glaring need Boston has this winter is a big bopper who can smash 35-40 homers. Martinez is the one player out there who can clearly provide that. If only it were that simple.

The Red Sox offered Martinez a five-year deal at some point in recent weeks, it has been widely reported. But Martinez and agent Scott Boras believe he can get a longer-term deal, which explains why he hasn't signed yet.

Who will blink first?

According to MLB Network contributor Jon Heyman, Martinez isn't in a blinking kind of mood at the moment. Citing "Miami acquaintances" of the outfielder, Heyman reported that Martinez is willing to remain unsigned into Spring Training in order to get what he believes is his market value.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are being similarly patient. Instead of rushing into a deal with a fallback option, they appear to be staying flexible so that they will be in position to sign Martinez if the two sides can ever find common ground.

Video: Red Sox may be the favorites to sign J.D. Martinez

However, the strategy doesn't come without its risks. The D-backs are also interested in signing Martinez after he provided them with monster production down the stretch last season. There could also be a mystery team or two lurking.

If, at the end of this whole saga, Martinez winds up signing elsewhere, the second-guessers will say that the Red Sox should have outbid the Phillies for Carlos Santana or the Mets for Bruce. That is a risk Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is willing to take. Having already acquired Martinez when he was with the Tigers, Dombrowski knows full well the value of the player he is trying to snag again.

There are still some second-tier hitters on the market who might be able to help the Red Sox, including Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda, both of whom reached the 30-homer mark last season.

If Dombrowski starts to feel Martinez is slipping away, perhaps he will pursue one of those hitters or re-explore the trade market. Or maybe he will just stay with what he has and try to upgrade by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The one thing Boston did do earlier in the offseason was re-sign first baseman Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13 million contract.

That deal meant that the Red Sox have their entire starting nine back from last season. If the season started right now, the Red Sox could field a competitive lineup featuring Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Though Boston's 2017 lineup received a fair share of heat for not being as productive as the '16 mash crew with David Ortiz, they still finished sixth in the American League in runs while winning the AL East for the second straight season.

With Devers on board for a full season in 2018, and Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Hanley Ramirez all capable of having bounce-back years, that same lineup could move into the top five in runs and definitely hit more homers than the 168 that ranked last in the AL last year.

Though the Red Sox should field a competitive team no matter what, their best squad would probably be one that has Martinez hitting fourth.

And that's why Dombrowski continues to play the waiting game.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Taste of October has Maddox itching for more

Rookie reliever coming off dominant September callup and impressive ALDS
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

When Austin Maddox reflects on the breakthrough season he had in 2017, which culminated with a scoreless inning of relief against the eventual World Series champion Astros in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, he realizes there was value from the early rough patches in his professional career.

A third-round Draft pick of the Red Sox out of the University of Florida in 2012, Maddox struggled through the South Atlantic League in '13, posting a 5.63 ERA for Boston's Class A Greenville affiliate.

When Austin Maddox reflects on the breakthrough season he had in 2017, which culminated with a scoreless inning of relief against the eventual World Series champion Astros in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, he realizes there was value from the early rough patches in his professional career.

A third-round Draft pick of the Red Sox out of the University of Florida in 2012, Maddox struggled through the South Atlantic League in '13, posting a 5.63 ERA for Boston's Class A Greenville affiliate.

The next season, he went up one level higher to the Carolina League and didn't fare much better, as the hard-throwing righty had a 5.82 ERA.

But it was through those tough times that Maddox found himself, and learned what he needed to do to get better.

Video: BOS@HOU Gm 2: Maddox's K strands the bases loaded

"Going into my professional career, I didn't have a lot of pitching experience under my belt and I failed a lot early in my career," Maddox said last weekend at MLB's Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va. "Getting to pro ball was the first time I had dealt with that kind of failure and I didn't know how to handle it. Learning how to deal with that is a huge part in what I was able to do [in 2017]. It was a huge year for me, but I'm working hard now to get ready for next year."

An accomplished hitter in high school and then in college, when he belted 17 homers for Florida as a freshman, Maddox was a late bloomer as a pitcher. Sure, he misses taking his hacks. But Maddox has no regrets about the path he's on now.

"There's definitely days I miss hitting, but right now I'm focused on pitching and that's kind of the route that my career has taken me, and I'm running with it," Maddox said. "As long as I get to put a big league uniform on, I'm happy."

Last season Maddox put himself on the map for the Red Sox. He came to Spring Training and immediately impressed, nearly winning a spot on the roster out of camp before getting his first callup to Boston in June. Of the 13 times Maddox pitched for the Red Sox, he was unscored on all but once.

Though it was a relatively small sample size, it was enough for Maddox to earn an ALDS roster spot in a heated competition among several Boston right-handers.

"We found out when we got to Houston," Maddox said. "[Manager John] Farrell called me in the office and told me I would be active on the roster for the Series. I wouldn't say I was surprised. I felt like I was ready for the challenge and I'm glad the opportunity was presented to me."

The 26-year-old Maddox is ranked No. 27 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline and he looks to carry the momentum he gained last year into spring camp next month, when the competition for bullpen spots will heat up again under new manager Alex Cora.

"I went home in the offseason with a purpose, and I know what I'm working for because I want to get back to October next year," Maddox said.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Austin Maddox

Chavis set for Rookie Development Program

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

The Red Sox will have an impressive cast of prospects in Boston next week for their annual Rookie Development Program, led by slugging corner infielder Michael Chavis.

Most of the current homegrown Red Sox stars, from Mookie Betts to Xander Bogaerts to Jackie Bradley Jr. to Rafael Devers, participated in the camp in past years.

The Red Sox will have an impressive cast of prospects in Boston next week for their annual Rookie Development Program, led by slugging corner infielder Michael Chavis.

Most of the current homegrown Red Sox stars, from Mookie Betts to Xander Bogaerts to Jackie Bradley Jr. to Rafael Devers, participated in the camp in past years.

Chavis, Boston's No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, totaled 31 homers and 94 RBIs in a 2017 season split between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland.

The right-handed-hitting Chavis will be joined by first baseman Josh Ockimey, infielders Chad De La Guerra and Esteban Quiroz, left-handers Jalen Beeks, William Jerez and Bobby Poyner, and right-handers Ty Buttrey, Justin Haley and Mike Shawaryn.

Ockimey is ranked No. 8 among Red Sox prospects. The other prospects from the group who are in the Top 30 are Shawaryn (No. 6), Beeks (No. 16), Jerez (No. 20) and De La Guerra (No. 23).

The week-long program, which starts Monday and will include daily workouts at Boston College, focuses on helping players ease their transition into becoming Major Leaguers.

The Red Sox typically invite players they feel are reasonably close to being big leaguers.

The list of speakers at the event will include Red Sox president/CEO Sam Kennedy, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, manager Alex Cora and special assistants Jason Varitek and Tony La Russa.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Kimbrel anchors Red Sox's strong 2018 'pen

Boston brings back majority of key relievers from last season
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- It comes at you with waves of heat, this Boston bullpen. And by the ninth inning, Craig Kimbrel is mixing his 98-mph fastball with a knuckle curve that ties hitters in knots.

The bullpen should once again be a strength for the Red Sox in 2018, as every key member is back except for free-agent right-hander Addison Reed.

BOSTON -- It comes at you with waves of heat, this Boston bullpen. And by the ninth inning, Craig Kimbrel is mixing his 98-mph fastball with a knuckle curve that ties hitters in knots.

The bullpen should once again be a strength for the Red Sox in 2018, as every key member is back except for free-agent right-hander Addison Reed.

Carson Smith should be there for a full season this time, now fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Former starting pitcher Joe Kelly is now entrenched as a reliever, and he throws with triple-digit velocity at times.

The one thing president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is looking to add to the group is a standout lefty to complement the impressive collection of righties.

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Craig Kimbrel, RHP
Carson Smith, RHP
Joe Kelly, RHP
Matt Barnes, RHP
Heath Hembree, RHP
Brandon Workman, RHP
Robby Scott, LHP

STRENGTH
Kimbrel is a force in the prime of his career, and his 2017 season was one of the best by a reliever in Red Sox history. In 69 innings, Kimbrel had a whopping 126 strikeouts and a microscopic WHIP of 0.68. He struck out 16.4 batters per nine innings. Perhaps most impressive was Kimbrel's utter dominance against right-handed hitters, who posted a feeble .109/.156/.180 slash line against him. New manager Alex Cora is going to look for opportunities to bring Kimbrel on more often in the eighth inning when the situation presents itself. If Kimbrel continues at his current pace, he will build a strong candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Over eight seasons, his ERA is 1.80.

Video: Cora open to using Kimbrel in high-leverage spots

QUESTION MARK
Who will be the primary setup man? Reed served that role the final two months of last season following his acquisition from the Mets, but he seems likely to land elsewhere as a free agent. It would be fitting if Smith wound up taking over in the eighth because that's the role the Red Sox got him for in the first place, only to lose him for most of 2016 and '17 due to Tommy John surgery. Kelly and Barnes both have the power stuff to pitch in the eighth, but they also are valuable serving in a multi-inning role.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
A deep setup crew could get even deeper if Tyler Thornburg can make it back from the thoracic outlet syndrome procedure he had on his right shoulder last summer. Thornburg was acquired from the Brewers for Travis Shaw to be the lead setup man in 2017, but he missed the entire season. The Red Sox are cautiously optimistic he will be healthy for Spring Training.

The one thing Dombrowski would like for his bullpen is a little more right-left balance. The search for a lefty has been slow going so far, but it should be fruitful at some point this offseason. Tony Watson, Brian Duensing and Oliver Perez are available via free agency. If Dombrowski can't acquire a left-hander, the Red Sox might explore converting starter Brian Johnson into a reliever. Johnson works fast and throws strikes, two traits that generally play well out of the bullpen. He has seemingly been on the cusp of helping the Red Sox as a starter, but he has gotten held back by untimely injuries. Moving to a relief role might allow his arm to hold up better.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Rotation remains rock of Sox's 2018 roster

Led by Sale and healthy Price, club on track to boast top-tier staff
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

The Red Sox haven't done any tinkering to their rotation this winter, and for good reason. The feeling within the organization is that Boston's collection of starters is one of the best in the American League.

Ace Chris Sale is a dominant force, and he is in his prime. David Price made just 11 starts last season due to left elbow woes but was healthy going into the offseason. Judging by the powerful way Price threw the ball out of the bullpen against the Astros in the AL Division Series, he remains more than capable of performing at a high level.

The Red Sox haven't done any tinkering to their rotation this winter, and for good reason. The feeling within the organization is that Boston's collection of starters is one of the best in the American League.

Ace Chris Sale is a dominant force, and he is in his prime. David Price made just 11 starts last season due to left elbow woes but was healthy going into the offseason. Judging by the powerful way Price threw the ball out of the bullpen against the Astros in the AL Division Series, he remains more than capable of performing at a high level.

Yet another lefty in Drew Pomeranz is coming off the best season of his career. Righty Rick Porcello needs to bounce back after a tough follow-up season to his Cy Young performance in 2016.

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Chris Sale, LHP
David Price, LHP
Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Rick Porcello, RHP
Steven Wright, RHP

STRENGTH
The Red Sox don't just have standout performers at the top of their rotation, they have premium power pitchers. Sale led the Majors last season with 308 strikeouts. Before last season's mishap with his elbow, Price was a model of consistency in terms of durability and results. From 2014-16, he averaged 233 innings and 241 strikeouts. In hindsight, it's amazing the Red Sox were able to still win the division in '17 while missing Price for two-thirds of the season. Pomeranz, if less heralded than Sale and Price, was Mr. Dependability last season, going 17-6 with 174 strikeouts and a 3.32 ERA.

QUESTION MARK
It's hard for the Red Sox to know what they will get out of Porcello. The sinkerballer stunned the baseball world by winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2016. Then came the noticeable dropoff of '17, when he gave up a league-leading 236 hits and had a 4.65 ERA. For whatever reason, Porcello's sinker didn't have the same bite last season, and opposing hitters were able to routinely square the ball up. The Sox don't need Porcello to be a Cy Young Award winner again. But they need him to be consistent. The type of season Porcello had for the Tigers in '14 (15-13, 3.43 ERA) would be perfectly acceptable.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
For now, Wright, who agreed to a one-year deal, is projected to be the fifth starter when the season opens. That's due to the fact Eduardo Rodriguez is recovering from right knee surgery. But if Rodriguez can recover quicker than expected, there's a chance he could get back into the rotation by the first week or two of the season. That would leave Wright in the bullpen if everyone else is healthy. Left-hander Brian Johnson, a prospect who has been trying to break through the last three seasons, could also get a chance to compete for the fifth spot in Spring Training.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has been steadfast all winter in saying he's not looking to acquire a starting pitcher. But you wonder if things could change if he's unsuccessful in acquiring J.D. Martinez or another big bat. Could he then re-allocate his resources and go after a marquee free-agent pitcher like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta? It seems unlikely, but Dombrowski has pulled off surprises before.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Red Sox announce Minor League field staffs

Former Greenville skipper Fenster promoted to manage Double-A
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

The Red Sox announced their Minor League field staffs for 2018 on Tuesday, which included the news that Darren Fenster will be the new manager for Double-A Portland, replacing Carlos Febles, who was recently promoted to be Boston's third-base coach.

Fenster moves up from Class A Greenville, where he managed the past four seasons and led the Drive to the franchise's first South Atlantic League championship in 2017.

The Red Sox announced their Minor League field staffs for 2018 on Tuesday, which included the news that Darren Fenster will be the new manager for Double-A Portland, replacing Carlos Febles, who was recently promoted to be Boston's third-base coach.

Fenster moves up from Class A Greenville, where he managed the past four seasons and led the Drive to the franchise's first South Atlantic League championship in 2017.

There will be continuity at Triple-A Pawtucket, where Kevin Boles will return for a fifth season as manager. He will be joined again by Bruce Crabbe, who is serving as an additional coach to extend his tenure with the organization to a 14th season. Rich Gedman, the starting catcher on the pennant-winning Red Sox of 1986, will be back for a fourth season as Pawtucket's hitting coach. Kevin Walker, who was the pitching coach at Portland last year, will fill that role for Pawtucket.

Former Major League catcher Joe Oliver is returning for his third season as manager for Class A Advanced Salem.

Iggy Suarez, who played for the Red Sox in the Minor Leagues, takes over for Fenster as Greenville's manager. The former infielder started his coaching career as the hitting coach for Class A Short-Season Lowell and managed that club the past two seasons.

Corey Wimberly is the new manager for Lowell, and Tom Kotchman (father of former Red Sox first baseman Casey Kotchman) enters his fifth season as manager of the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, having spent 38 total seasons as a Minor League manager and scout.

Jose Zapata will be back for his 12th season as the Red Sox's Latin American field coordinator. New to the staff is former Major League veteran Fernando Tatis, who will manage one of Boston's two Dominican Summer League clubs. Managing the other DSL Red Sox squad will be Aly Gonzalez, who has been with the organization for the past nine seasons as a player (2009-11) and coach (2012-17), including the past three seasons in the same role.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Red Sox hope '18 lineup sees offensive uptick

Several players seek bounceback seasons as Boston continues pursuit of Martinez
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland last month, it meant that all nine members of Boston's 2017 starting lineup are back in the fold.

It's always good to have stability, but there's also a need for a more productive offense in 2018. Boston finished sixth in the American League in runs last season, but it was 14th in slugging percentage and last in home runs.

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox re-signed first baseman Mitch Moreland last month, it meant that all nine members of Boston's 2017 starting lineup are back in the fold.

It's always good to have stability, but there's also a need for a more productive offense in 2018. Boston finished sixth in the American League in runs last season, but it was 14th in slugging percentage and last in home runs.

Even though everybody is back, there are two reasons to believe that the offense will be better in the upcoming season. The first is that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is still working hard to add another bat, and free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez is a name that keeps coming up. The second is that several players who had subpar stats in 2017 are more than capable of bouncing back.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineups of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Red Sox might stack up:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Mookie Betts, RF
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Hanley Ramirez, DH
Rafael Devers, 3B
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Christian Vazquez, C
Marco Hernandez, 2B

STRENGTHS

New manager Alex Cora wants to set the tone by deploying his two best all-around hitters at the top of the lineup. He thinks that utilizing the power of Betts in the leadoff spot gives the Red Sox a similar dynamic that the Astros had with George Springer last year. Benintendi was solid as a rookie, but he will become a true force if he can minimize the length of his slumps. Devers has the chance to turn into one of the league's best power hitters, and his presence over a full season rather than just the two months he was on the team last year should make a considerable difference.

Video: Cora is excited to work with Devers

QUESTION MARKS

For the first few weeks of the season, the Red Sox aren't sure what kind of production they'll get at second base while Dustin Pedroia is on the disabled list recovering from left knee surgery. Hernandez, Brock Holt and Deven Marrero are among the players who will get a chance to get at-bats. Another big question is whether Ramirez can regain his form after an inconsistent and injury-plagued 2017 season. The lineup would look a lot more imposing if Bogaerts and Bradley can get closer to their '16 stats than they did last year.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

The one name on the free-agent market that could change the entire complexion of this lineup is Martinez, and that's why his name is continually linked to the Red Sox. He would be the force in the middle of the lineup that Boston badly missed last season following the retirement of David Ortiz. If the Red Sox are successful in signing Martinez, it will be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together. Boston has a full outfield of Benintendi, Bradley and Betts, and also a DH in Ramirez. Unless there is an unexpected trade of Bradley with Benintendi moving to center, the most likely scenario would be Martinez serving as the primary DH. In that case, Ramirez would have to share at-bats with Moreland at first base. The Red Sox could also try to trade Ramirez.

Video: Red Sox may be the favorites to sign J.D. Martinez

So what happens if Dombrowski winds up striking out in his pursuit of Martinez? Perhaps then he would go to the next tier of free-agent hitters, which includes Jay Bruce and Logan Morrison. There's always the chance of a trade. Manny Machado is the best trade option left, but the Orioles are looking for a lot in return. And the fact Machado is a free agent after 2018 complicates the situation.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Ted Williams rejoined Marines on this day in '52

Back in the 1940s, Ted Williams went from putting up MVP-caliber seasons ... ... to serving in the U.S. military during World War II -- all without missing a beat.

 

Wright, Red Sox agree to 1-year deal

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- With the deadline looming at the end of this week for teams to exchange figures with arbitration-eligible players, the Red Sox announced one-year, non-guaranteed contracts with right-handers Carson Smith and Steven Wright on Monday.

Smith, who made a strong return from Tommy John surgery late last season, allowing one run in eight regular-season outings, will earn $850,000 in 2018.

BOSTON -- With the deadline looming at the end of this week for teams to exchange figures with arbitration-eligible players, the Red Sox announced one-year, non-guaranteed contracts with right-handers Carson Smith and Steven Wright on Monday.

Smith, who made a strong return from Tommy John surgery late last season, allowing one run in eight regular-season outings, will earn $850,000 in 2018.

Hot Stove Tracker

Knuckleballer Wright missed most of 2017 due to left knee surgery but is expected to be a full go by Spring Training. His one-year deal is for $1.1 million.

Wright was a second-round Draft pick of the Indians in 2006 and was traded to the Red Sox at the '12 non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for first baseman Lars Anderson. The 33-year-old has pitched all of his five big league seasons in Boston, debuting with the '13 World Series champion club.

Wright enjoyed his best year in 2016, going 13-6 with 3.33 ERA. He also earned his first All-Star Game selection. Last season, Wright made just five starts, posting an 8.25 ERA before an injury to the cartilage in his left knee forced him to undergo season-ending surgery. Wright earned $593,500 last season.

The Red Sox acquired Smith from the Mariners in December 2015 with the idea he could emerge as their primary setup man. But the sidewinder missed the majority of the '16 season, making just three Major League appearances before undergoing surgery on May 24.

In 90 Major League outings since being selected by the Mariners in the eighth round of the 2011 Draft, Smith is 3-5 with a 1.95 ERA, 14 saves, a 1.00 WHIP and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

There are 10 remaining unsigned Red Sox players eligible for salary arbitration: infielder Brock Holt, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, catchers Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez, outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and pitchers Joe Kelly, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brandon Workman.

The deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures is Friday.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Steven Wright

Red Sox extend deals with Pawtucket, Lowell

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have extended their player development contracts for an additional two years through 2020 with their two closest affiliates, Triple-A Pawtucket and Class A Short Season Lowell, it was announced on Friday.

Pawtucket (R.I.) and Lowell (Mass.) are both less than an hour from Fenway Park, giving Red Sox fans a chance to keep tabs on prospects.

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have extended their player development contracts for an additional two years through 2020 with their two closest affiliates, Triple-A Pawtucket and Class A Short Season Lowell, it was announced on Friday.

Pawtucket (R.I.) and Lowell (Mass.) are both less than an hour from Fenway Park, giving Red Sox fans a chance to keep tabs on prospects.

The partnership between the Red Sox and PawSox started in 1973, making it the second longest in all of Triple-A behind only the Kansas City Royals and the Omaha Storm Chasers of the Pacific Coast League ('69).

"All of us in the Red Sox family are proud that this affiliation is the longest in the International League," said PawSox executive vice president/general manager Dan Rea said. "PawSox fans are Red Sox fans and Red Sox fans are PawSox fans. The PawSox organization looks forward to continuing its legacy of affordable family entertainment while preparing young stars for the bright lights of Fenway Park."

The Lowell Spinners have served as the Short Season affiliate for the Red Sox in the New York-Penn League since the team's inception in 1996.

"We are proud to extend our relationship with the Boston Red Sox, who have been an integral part of our family for the last 22 years and counting," said Spinners owner Dave Heller. "Fans throughout Red Sox Nation know Lowell as a place where many Red Sox greats have begun their professional careers, and with key additions and renovations to our ballpark over the past several years and years to come, we look forward to continuing our relationship as a member of one of the most storied franchises in all of baseball."

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox

Red Sox may open '18 with trio of catchers

Vazquez and Leon could be joined by versatile Swihart, who's out of options
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

With the start of Spring Training just a few weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. MLB.com is going around horn to break down each area of the Red Sox, starting today with catcher.

The Red Sox had health, stability and solid defense behind the plate last season, as Christian Vazquez (85 starts) and Sandy Leon (77) were the duo that teamed up to start all 162 games of the regular season, plus the four games in the American League Division Series against the Astros.

With the start of Spring Training just a few weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. MLB.com is going around horn to break down each area of the Red Sox, starting today with catcher.

The Red Sox had health, stability and solid defense behind the plate last season, as Christian Vazquez (85 starts) and Sandy Leon (77) were the duo that teamed up to start all 162 games of the regular season, plus the four games in the American League Division Series against the Astros.

With the tandem back in the fold for 2018, this area should again be a strength for the Red Sox. But there could be some new wrinkles.

Blake Swihart, once deemed Boston's catcher of the future, is out of Minor League options. This opens the very real possibility that the Red Sox could open the season with three catchers.

Video: BOS@MIN: Swihart lines an RBI single to right

The reason they can do this is because Swihart has positional flexibility. He can also play left field, first base and designated hitter.

While carrying three catchers is a luxury few teams can make work, Boston's unique situation could allow manager Alex Cora additional flexibility in the late innings when it comes to pinch-hitting or pinch-running.

After two injury-plagued and inconsistent seasons, the fact that Swihart is now out of options means he is at a crossroads in his time with the Red Sox. Last year, Boston kept him in the Minor Leagues until it was time for September callups. The luxury to do that is no longer there, and it's all but certain Swihart would be claimed if the team designated him for assignment.

Swihart's athleticism and hitting potential from both sides of the plate makes him an intriguing player. And he's still young at 25.

The other thing that could change with the way the Red Sox handle their catchers is the way the playing time is divvied up.

Former manager John Farrell came to believe that job sharing was the best way to go at catcher, and he did get decent results out of Vazquez and Leon under that arrangement.

Video: HOU@BOS: Vazquez nabs Maybin, call stands

But after getting a chance to evaluate his catchers in Spring Training, Cora could end up going with a true No. 1 catcher. Vazquez probably has the best chance to land that job.

Vazquez demonstrated that his cannon arm was all the way back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2015, and he threw out 21 of the 50 runners who tried to steal on him in '17.

The right-handed hitter also demonstrated he can get the job done at the plate, slashing .290/.330/.404 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 345 at-bats.

"I think I like to play," Vazquez said earlier this offseason. "I don't like to be on the bench. That's something I'm looking at. I think I'd like to test my skills to play more than 100 games. That's the goal this year, and get back to October -- that's all."

Vazquez acknowledges that the area he needs to continue to get better at is calling a game.

Video: HOU@BOS Gm3: Leon singles to get Red Sox on the board

After Leon's surprisingly strong 2016 season (.310/.369/.476), he dipped to more expected levels in '17 (.225/.290/.354).

Leon's strength has always been his defense, and the fact that ace Chris Sale loves throwing to him doesn't hurt his stock.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

Former first-round pick Bard reportedly retiring

Ex-Red Sox righty, 32, last pitched in Major Leagues in '13
MLB.com @DKramer_

Daniel Bard, the former flame-throwing setup man and first-round pick by the Red Sox, is retiring from baseball, according to a report from SB Nation.

Bard, 32, was the 28th overall pick in 2006 and blossomed into Boston's primary setup man by '10, when he posted a 1.93 ERA in 73 games and was widely assumed to fill the ninth-inning role after Jonathan Papelbon.

Daniel Bard, the former flame-throwing setup man and first-round pick by the Red Sox, is retiring from baseball, according to a report from SB Nation.

Bard, 32, was the 28th overall pick in 2006 and blossomed into Boston's primary setup man by '10, when he posted a 1.93 ERA in 73 games and was widely assumed to fill the ninth-inning role after Jonathan Papelbon.

However, he was eventually moved to the rotation -- where he went 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA -- then back to the bullpen before reportedly battling symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome and mental roadblocks that culminated in landing on the waiver wire after two outings in '13, just months before Boston won the World Series. He wouldn't pitch in the Majors again.

Over the next four-plus years, Bard spent time with the Cubs', Rangers', Pirates', Cardinals' and Mets' organizations, pitching just 13 1/3 innings in professional ball, largely due to a lack of command. He was out of baseball for all of 2015.

According to Thursday's report, Bard felt the emotional toll of attempting a comeback that never manifested led to self-reproach that prompted him to retire.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Daniel Bard