LAS VEGAS -- The Winter Meetings seem like a fine venue for the Red Sox to figure out who the closer will be for their title defense next season, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski doesn't have the ability to control the pace of the free-agent market.So it seems
LAS VEGAS -- The Winter Meetings seem like a fine venue for the Red Sox to figure out who the closer will be for their title defense next season, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski doesn't have the ability to control the pace of the free-agent market.
So it seems likely that Dombrowski will still have late-inning relief specialist on his holiday shopping list by the time he heads back to Boston on Thursday afternoon. It turns out he's fine with that.
The way Dombrowski looks at it, there's a lot more supply than demand on the relief market and someone will be there at a price that is palatable for the Sox, who are trying to stay under the final luxury-tax threshold for the coming season.
Earlier this week, Dombrowski all but ruled out a return to Boston for Craig Kimbrel, saying that his team was unlikely to make a big expenditure on a closer.
Player Page for David Robertson and Adam Ottavino are two relievers the Sox have been linked to frequently, but their cost could be too high. The same goes for former Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller and Zach Britton.
Boston clearly had interest in bringing back Joe Kelly, but he reached agreement with the Dodgers on a three-year, $25 million deal on Wednesday, a source told MLB.com.
Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Brad Brach, Cody Allen and Bud Norris are pitchers who could wind up in Dombrowski's price range.
"It is supply and demand. There's so many guys out there, so that does make a difference," Dombrowski said. "I think that probably at the end of the day, when you do your addition and your homework, there's more supply of guys than are going to get Major League contracts. I don't know if there's a guy or two holding up the market and once one of them signs there's a run on it. I don't know if clubs are focused on spending their dollars in other places before they get there. I'm not sure."
Currently, there is a logjam, and Dombrowski will wait until it lifts and do something that makes sense.
"It does give you the ability to wait it out," said Dombrowski.
Sox not in on Realmuto, high on Swihart: While the Sox are open about the fact they want to trade one of their three catchers, don't look for them to add the highly coveted J.T. Realmuto. The Marlins are openly shopping one of the top offensive players at the position.
"I don't think so. We have not done that at all," Dombrowski said, asked if his team had explored adding a catcher. "We liked our catchers. I know when you look at all statistical aspects and offensive aspects, they weren't high in Major League Baseball, but we liked the way they handled our pitching staff and we put a lot of priority on the defensive aspect of the game, so we liked that."
Though Blake Swihart was the most seldom used of Boston's three catchers last year, he could elevate to a more prominent role next season. Swihart is the youngest of the trio -- which also includes Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon -- and has the most upside offensively.
"Like Dave said, we like all of them and the way he handled himself behind the plate last year, blocking balls, taking ownership of the game-calling. Even though he didn't play that much in the postseason, he was locked in with Christian and Sandy," said manager Alex Cora. "He's capable. He's a good one. His footwork was a lot better. Obviously he has a cannon. It was a tough situation for him, but he made it the best situation. He worked hard. We'll see what happens. We'll go to Spring Training and we'll put the best lineup out there."
No Kinsler reunion: Though second baseman Dustin Pedroia's health remains iffy -- and the Red Sox won't have more clarity on the situation until mid-January -- Dombrowski will not pursue a reunion with Ian Kinsler, who is a free agent.
"I feel right now we're not prepared to offer anybody a Major League contract for that, just because of where we are, because of Dustin's situation, hoping that he comes back, thinking he's going to come back," Dombrowski said.
"And then the other internal options that we have. Someone like Ian, and I'm sure anyone else out there right now, is probably looking for big league deals. My instincts are he's looking for a big league contract and sounds like he'll probably get one."
Keeping outfield together: If the Red Sox wanted to move some money to make room for, say, a reliever, they could trade Jackie Bradley Jr. and move Mookie Betts or Andrew Benintendi to center field while putting J.D. Martinez in the outfield. But Dombrowski's preference is to keep the loaded outfield together for as long as possible. Betts and Bradley are both free agents following the 2020 season.
"We really like our outfield," said Dombrowski. "And we think it's the strength of our club all-around, but from a defensive perspective, it wins games for us. It's not one we really look at to change, because we think it's really strong. I think it's the best defensive outfield in baseball. I think it wins games. I think it's athletic. You have offense and defense out of there. They're good players, they're winning players, so we're not really looking to change that."
Window isn't closing: Because so many key Red Sox players can become free agents over the next two years, there's a lot of talk about how Boston's window as a championship-caliber club could be closing in the near future. Dombrowski doesn't agree.
"I've never bought that," Dombrowski said. "I've heard it before. When I was with Detroit, I heard it there. We won a lot of games after that. And I think the reality is when you have a foundation of good players which we will have under any circumstances, and you have revenues to spend and a good organization, that your window of opportunity to win with that group of players, maybe, is done.
"But it doesn't mean your window to win is complete. Because the reality is, when you look at our club, we still have a lot of young players that are not close to free agency -- a couple of key guys, Benintendi and [Rafael] Devers, guys we have for quite a while.
"We have some starting pitching signed for the long term, and if we do lose X, we can try to get Y. And a lot of times you want to retain your own players, but if it doesn't work, you try to go out and get somebody else -- and ownership is very supportive of us having a good club. I do think the key is, that, yeah your window of opportunity ends with the same core of players, because some will leave, some will be in a position to get better deals than we're willing to offer and they want to pursue that. But it doesn't mean you can't keep winning."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.