MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Though there's a tendency to think about Craig Kimbrel in the past tense as it relates to the Red Sox, a reunion shouldn't be entirely ruled out until the fireballing closer signs somewhere else.
And if he does come back, many of his teammates would welcome it.
"I would love it," said Red Sox ace Chris Sale. "I clearly don't have any say in it, but he's as good as it gets on and off the field as far as being a good guy in the clubhouse and a fun guy to be around. Obviously his numbers and what he does on the field speak for themselves. He's been the best. I would love to have that guy locking down wins for us again."
Though Kimbrel was an All-Star in all three of his seasons for the Red Sox, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has stated throughout the offseason he doesn't anticipate a big expenditure at closer due to a payroll that is already expected to be above $240 million.
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If Kimbrel does sign with another team, the Red Sox could promote an internal candidate such as Matt Barnes.
"I'd definitely relish the challenge. Would definitely look forward to it," said Barnes. "But at the same time I'm not going to sit here and wish that we don't sign Craig. Craig's a good friend. The organization is going to make the best decision that they think possible for the organization. But if we don't sign him, then I'll be ready or whoever it will be will be ready. And we'll be just fine."
Benintendi "all for" switch to leadoff
One of the first decisions Red Sox manager Alex Cora made about 2019 was to flip-flop the top of his batting order from last season and have Andrew Benintendi bat first while shifting MVP Mookie Betts to the No. 2 slot. Both players spoke publicly about the move for the first time on Saturday during the team's Winter Weekend.
"I'm going to try to set the tone like Mookie did last year and we'll see. It will be fun," said Benintendi. "I was all for it. It makes sense. I'm going to try to do my job as the leadoff guy and we'll see what happens."
Despite the strong season the Red Sox had offensively, Benintendi wasn't surprised when Cora told him about the switch.
"No, not really. I feel like you've got the MVP. He's capable of driving in 100-plus," Benintendi said. "I think that maybe me hitting leadoff and him hitting second, it will give him a chance to drive in some more runs. But yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited."
Betts appreciated the way Cora presented the information to him while relaying the switch.
"Cora hasn't put us in the wrong position yet, so there's no reason to start questioning him now. We'll just kind of see what happens," said Betts. "You know he came in and said it and was fully prepared to kind of state his why, and once he did that, I didn't say much. 'Alright, I got you.'"
Xander nearing crossroads
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, a hitting machine with the Red Sox for the past five seasons, is eligible for free agency at the end of the '19 season.
The Red Sox did approach his representation about an extension this offseason before agreeing with him on a one-year, $12 million contract.
Bogaerts is certainly open to staying in Boston beyond that deal.
"I mean, I enjoy playing here," Bogaerts said. "Obviously it's a winning city. It's a winning team. I mean, we've been to the playoffs three times in a row. So I don't see what's not to like about here. I mean, the contract stuff is pretty much left to my agents. I think if we can figure out something right, there's always room to talk. But I enjoy it.
"Yeah, man. It's an awesome city. As I said again, winning is a main priority here."
Kennedy expands on White House decision
Red Sox president/CEO Sam Kennedy said that many discussions are taking place within the upper levels of the organization on whether the tentative plan to visit the White House on Feb. 15 will come to fruition.
The issue is the lingering government shutdown.
"Alex [Cora], and I and John [Henry] and Tom [Werner] and Dave [Dombrowski] and the whole front office have been in constant communication about the trip. The conversation we've been having around the appropriateness of going during a government shutdown," said Kennedy.
"We're going to continue to talk to the White House, continue to talk to Major League Baseball and see what is the best path forward. There is a desire to go and we have a date, but we just want to make sure [going during] the shutdown doesn't send a wrong message. There's a lot of people out there suffering and we want to be sensitive to that. We'll have more information probably in the coming days ahead."
As Kennedy explained, it is a sensitive topic that goes far beyond the Red Sox.
"It's hard, you've got 800,000 federal workers who are not working right now … some are working, some are not working, but not receiving paychecks and it's hit people hard in the New England area," Kennedy said. "Not sure it's appropriate to be celebrating in such a public way while there's people who are struggling right now. That's been the internal conversation and we'll continue to examine it and make a decision here pretty soon."