BOSTON -- Just a day after the World Series parade, the Red Sox had no choice but to start looking ahead to next season. The pace of the offseason dictates that.
One thing the Red Sox do expect is that ace Chris Sale will be fully healthy for 2019. The lanky lefty, who closed out the World Series with a wicked slider to strike out Manny Machado, isn't expected to need surgery this winter to fix the left shoulder that sent him to the disabled list twice in the second half of the season.
"We anticipate him to come to Spring Training and be 100 percent," said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "At this point, without any surgical procedures. We think everything that will take care of it is just rest. So that's really where we are. But we don't anticipate anything from a surgical procedure, whatsoever."
Things aren't quite as certain regarding second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who played in just three games this year due to major surgery on his left knee.
Is second base a position of need?
"I can't answer that until I find out really what Pedey's situation is," Dombrowski said. "I don't really have that answer yet. There will be timeframes … It'll be something we'll have to focus in on over the next time period. I know he's hopeful, we're hopeful."
And if Pedroia can make it back for Opening Day, he will be the first Red Sox player to take an at-bat in 2019.
"I still expect him to contribute," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Like I told him, you guys can go ahead and write it, if he's ready to go, that's the only game he's going to lead off next year. He'll lead off Opening Day in Seattle. I told him that a few months ago because he deserves it. Mookie [Betts] won't lead off one game next year. That's the goal."
Here were some other items of interest discussed by Dombrowski and Cora in their season-ending sessions with the media on Thursday.
Qualifying offers, free agents
The Red Sox have until 5 p.m. ET on Friday to extend $17.9 million qualifying offers to any of their free agents who weren't acquired in the middle of the season. This list includes closer Craig Kimbrel, setup man Joe Kelly and lefty Thomas Pomeranz.
Kimbrel is the only one of those three who would likely be under consideration to receive a qualifying offer. Making a qualifying offer allows the Red Sox to receive Draft compensation should Kimbrel sign elsewhere.
Postseason heroes Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce are among the other Red Sox players eligible for free agency. Dombrowski has interest in retaining both of them, in addition to Kimbrel and Kelly.
"We know how hard that is to repeat, but I think efforts will be made to keep as many players together as we can ideally," said Dombrowski. "But I also know baseball rules, finances, make it difficult because sometimes your guys become free agents and receive offers they can't refuse. But if you told me today we could bring the same club back together totally and fit in everything, we'd be thrilled with that."
If Kimbrel leaves, Dombrowski said that Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier are two internal candidates who could have a chance to be upgraded to closer.
The Red Sox went over the luxury tax threshold last season, and Dombrowski said ownership has given no indication yet that he'll have to get under it for '19.
The Red Sox were in the rare position of carrying three catchers for almost all of last season and into the postseason. But it's a plan that might not be sustainable going forward. With Christian Vazquez establishing himself as the team's primary catcher in October after signing a contract extension in March, that would leave the club to decide between Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart as the backup.
Leon is the best pure defender of the catching crew, but his offensive skills are limited. Swihart is a switch-hitter who can also play corner infield and outfield. This means that he is valuable to the Red Sox but could also be a trade chip that could help the Red Sox fill another need.
"We like them all, that's why we haven't made any moves in the past. We like all three of them," said Dombrowski. "I'd say it's unlikely but not impossible that you have three guys. They all have their strengths, but I'm not really sure where that's going to take us at this point. If you only take two of them, there's only three ways you could go, and I'm not sure which way we'd go. It would just depend upon if we had discussions with other clubs where that would take us. We're not looking to trade anybody per se, but sometimes it could be a position of strength."
Next trip for trophy: Puerto Rico
The World Series trophy will be taking a field trip this weekend to Cora's hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico. Vazquez and lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will also join in on the celebration, which will take place on Saturday.
"We're just going over the details. But it should be fun," said Cora. "They're expecting a lot of people. Treat these guys with a lot of food and beverages and just show the people from back home that they're part of it. So it should be a cool day. To be able to wear shorts and T-shirts again, yeah, that'll be great."
Cora said he will try to get the trophy to San Juan at some point this offseason as well.