Inbox: Pomeranz, the 'pen and free agency

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Red Sox fans

November 14th, 2016

Has there been talk of moving to the bullpen? He was outstanding as a reliever in the postseason but inconsistent as a starter since joining the Red Sox.

-- Nate M., Hilliard, Mass.

Keep in mind that Pomeranz was effective enough as a starter to be an All-Star with the Padres. Without question, the Red Sox didn't see the best of Pomeranz after the trade. Was this due to fatigue, health, adapting to a new environment or perhaps all of the above? I think Boston would like to see what it has in Pomeranz as a starter first before making him a reliever.

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Going into the offseason and Spring Training, what are the Red Sox looking at as far as a potential bullpen mix next year?

-- Alex B., Tampa, Fla.

Team president Dave Dombrowski has been clear in what he is looking for on the market: Someone who can handle the eighth inning. Though the Sox could lose , and -- all free agents -- it sounds as if they are only aiming to acquire one key reliever. This is because they feel good about some of the emerging pieces they have, including , and .

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Any chance that the Sox have an interest in in an eighth-inning setup role?

-- @pmunzing

The Red Sox tried to sign Papelbon after he was released by the Nationals last August, and he wasn't interested in pitching for the rest of the season at that point. I haven't heard anything from Papelbon lately on whether he still intends to pitch. I'll keep you posted if I hear anything. I'm guessing Dombrowski will prioritize a setup man who was still active at the end of last season.

Is there any chance that Dombrowski might work on a trade that would land a lefty slugger?

-- Joey M., Quincy, Mass.

Sure, there's definitely a chance. Dombrowski will also pursue left-handed-hitting free agents. It's clear he would prefer acquiring a lefty or a switch-hitter over a pure righty. What's not clear is which left-handed hitters would be available in a trade. It was almost exactly a year ago the Red Sox traded for , and that was a bit of a surprise at the time, as the Padres weren't rumored to be shopping him. is an intriguing option as a free agent, and Boston tried to get him last July before he went to Texas.

What are the chances that the Red Sox have of trading for ?

-- Ian Z., Rock Valley, Mass.

I don't think the Red Sox will trade for Sale because the cost is likely to be prohibitive. I'm guessing the White Sox would want an All Star-caliber Major Leaguer and two high-level prospects. Considering the money Boston already has invested in its rotation, I'm skeptical the Sox would trade away several key pieces to get another high-end starter.

What is the status of ? He was supposed to be such a big part of the 'pen. Will he make it back in 2017?

-- John D., Mattapoisett, Mass.

Smith underwent Tommy John surgery in late May, and he could return by late May or early June. He would be a huge addition. The Red Sox had planned on Smith being a big part of their bullpen last year, and they basically got nothing out of him due to the injury.

When will the Sox get to hit offspeed pitches consistently?

-- Name unknown, Newton, Mass.

The Red Sox can do all they want, but Moncada is ultimately the one who is going to need to make the necessary adjustments. This will be a prime area of focus during Spring Training. It sounds at this point as if Moncada will get some more development in Triple-A at the start of the season before getting another crack in the Majors. Boston is still high on him, and he's very early in his career.

Would be a free-agent possibility for the Red Sox to fill the DH position?

-- Jack L., Winchester, Mass.

I don't think so, for a couple of reasons. The first is that Trumbo is coming off a monster season, which means the Red Sox would have to "buy high" for his services. The second is that he's a right-handed hitter, and Boston is pretty comfortable with its core of right-handed bats.

I'm thinking the Sox couldn't deliver a better playoff run for because the young players got tired. What do you think?

-- Bill M., Flagstaff, Ariz.

From talking to players who have played in these games, I think adrenaline helps them overcome fatigue. I think a bigger factor was lack of postseason experience and perhaps not knowing quite how to channel that adrenaline or the butterflies. It seemed like players were just starting to get used to the environment when the American League Division Series ended. I'm guessing they will be more ready for it next time.

With so many players last year having career high years in terms of production at the plate, what type of regression do you see , , and others experiencing?

-- Stephen P., Concord, N.C.

This could actually go the other way. Given how young these players are, they are still getting better. In actuality, Bogaerts didn't have a career year. I thought he was actually better the year before. Betts appears ready to be one of the elite all-around players in baseball for years to come. Bradley needs to find a way to become more consistent at the plate.