LAS VEGAS -- Amid reports that his Red Sox are "openly listening" to offers on Rick Porcello and would be willing to discuss deals for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that he isn't driven to move core players from his championship club
LAS VEGAS -- Amid reports that his Red Sox are "openly listening" to offers on Rick Porcello and would be willing to discuss deals for Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that he isn't driven to move core players from his championship club for the purpose of shedding payroll.
Tweets by the USA Today's Bob Nightengale and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal suggested that Boston could use the money gained by trading one of those three players to invest in the bullpen.
However, Dombrowski didn't sound inclined to tinker too much with a team that just went 119-57 (postseason included).
"Yeah, I've heard those tweets, I guess, out there," Dombrowski said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. "I'd say we're not driven by that fact, that approach. Again, I would say that you always listen to anything. You can always get better. I know, long-term, we're not going to be able to sign all of our players. That brings upon conversations and people calling you about various things, but I would guarantee you our primary focus is to try to win a world championship in 2019, to try to repeat."
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With Chris Sale, Porcello, Bogaerts, Bradley and American League MVP Award winner Mookie Betts all eligible for free agency within the next two years, the 2019 season could represent Boston's best chance to win it all in the coming years.
"We're not looking to move anybody. We're not driven to move anybody," Dombrowski said. "But I think, again, you always keep an open mind to anything that takes place. And people come to you with different thought processes. That's what the meetings bring about. That's why, I, in some ways, always enjoy the [Winter] Meetings."
If the Red Sox were to make a substantial investment for a closer, it could put them in danger of going above the top luxury-tax threshold of $246 million. Dombrowski acknowledged his club would like to avoid going over the highest threshold for the second straight season, given the penalties that come with it.
"Would it be my preference [to stay under it]? Yes. We exceeded it last year, that threshold, but my preference would be [to stay under it]. It's a pretty stiff penalty when you do that," Dombrowski said. "We were willing to do that. We dropped 10 spots in the Draft this year, paid a significant financial cash penalty. There's not a mandate, but would there be a preference? Yes."
For the Red Sox to keep their core together and stay under the last threshold, they might have to be creative when it comes to finding a closer. This is why there's almost no chance free agent Craig Kimbrel will return. The Sox do have interest in re-signing Joe Kelly, a key member of the setup crew the last couple of seasons. Dombrowski said Monday he didn't envision making a big expenditure to fill the closer's role.
Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have been touted as internal candidates to assume closing duties, which would save Boston a lot of money in the bullpen.
A return to form by Tyler Thornburg, who signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract last month, would also be key. The Sox acquired Thornburg from the Brewers to be their primary setup man two years ago, but he's made next to no impact thanks to injuries and a rocky recovery from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome.
The one thing the Red Sox must weigh when constructing their roster for the 2019 season would be the danger in tinkering with the chemistry of a World Series-winning team.
Toward that end, some players have already lobbied for the return of Kelly.
Aside from being one of the most durable starting pitchers in the game over the last decade, Porcello is one of the most respected members of Boston's pitching staff. This is why it would be stunning to see the veteran righty traded, even with just a season left on his contract.
"Rick is amazing," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Whenever I have to send a message about traveling or clubhouse stuff or dress codes, it goes through Rick, Chris and David [Price]. The emotion [Porcello] showed when we won, I mean, he told me the other day, he hasn't stopped crying. He is a good athlete who gives you innings, fields his position and is very accountable."
As much as the Red Sox value Porcello's durability and leadership, they are that bullish on Bradley's elite defense in center field. And Cora is excited to see the left-handed hitter who was named the AL Championship Series MVP -- notorious for his streaks in the past -- build on his solid second half and postseason.
When Cora was asked on Tuesday which player he thought was most likely to take a step forward, he mentioned Bradley.
"Looking forward to Jackie the whole season. That's going to be cool. We had a conversation at Christian [Vazquez's] wedding, and that's when he said he's going to go to L.A. [to train]," said Cora. "I told [my girlfriend] Angelica, 'This is going to be good.' He felt it and he understands who he is now and I don't think the whole roller coaster Jackie Bradley will happen again. He understands who he is. And with that offensive approach over 162 games, we'll see what happens."
As for Bogaerts, who is entering the final year of his contract, his production at shortstop would be tough to replace.
Have the Red Sox initiated trade talks with some of their key players?
"I wouldn't say initiate, but I think that you'll always say that you're open minded to ideas," Dombrowski said.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.