Do the Red Sox plan on extending Chris Sale and Mookie Betts before the season starts? If so, could that be the reason they haven't re-signed Craig Kimbrel?
-- Tylor B., Amarillo, Texas
A decision like that is a two-way street between the club and the player, so I don't think you can plan on it. It takes two to make a deal. However, you also make a great point. I do think a big reason the Red Sox haven't made a big expenditure for a closer this winter is because they know how many important contract decisions they have coming up.
Sale, Xander Bogaerts and Rick Porcello are eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. can be free agents after 2020. J.D. Martinez has an opt-out clause after each of the next two seasons. There are a lot of big decisions to be made in the near future, and the Red Sox know they need to retain some of these players.
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What do you think about Michael Chavis moving from third base to second base as a depth option or even as a future regular?
-- J.T., Caracas, Venezuela
I think Chavis projects more as a corner guy and has the body of a corner guy. The only way I could see your scenario unfolding is if Dustin Pedroia has a major setback and the Red Sox need a creative way to get more production in the lineup.
Will Alex Cora's World Series-winning coaching staff return this season?
-- John P., Columbus, Ohio
Good news on that front. The entire staff is back. That isn't always the case for a team that wins the World Series. Oftentimes, other clubs try to hire coaches from successful organizations as managers. The coaching staff was an underrated part of the team last year. They all developed a strong rapport with their positional group. Veteran Ron Roenicke is the bench coach. Tim Hyers (hitting coach) and Andy Barkett (assistant hitting coach) run the offense. Dana LeVangie (pitching coach), Brian Bannister (assistant coach) and Craig Bjornson (bullpen coach) handle the pitchers. Tom Goodwin is the first-base coach and outfield instructor, while Carlos Febles coaches third and the infielders.
How come there's no pursuit for Kimbrel? Or at least a bullpen arm? They passed on Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, etc.
-- Alexander P., Gainesville, Va.
As president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has put it many times this offseason, you have to decide how you are going to allocate your payroll. The Red Sox have a lot of money invested in the starting rotation, and also the outfield and Martinez. The payroll is already projected to be the highest in MLB without a proven closer. It is interesting that Kimbrel remains unsigned. I suppose if his price -- and length of deal -- comes down enough, there's still a chance he could be back.
As the free-agent market continues to be slow for another year, especially for the big stars, do you think this will make it less likely for Martinez to opt out of his contract assuming he has another year like last year? Obviously a down year would play a factor.
-- Adam K., Clarkston, Mich.
I think Martinez is going to do what he thinks is right and isn't going to be afraid of the market. Remember, Martinez waited until the second week of Spring Training to sign last year. But the situation should be closely monitored, and it will have a lot to do with how healthy and productive Martinez is in 2019. If he has another year like last year, I'd have to think he would either renegotiate with the Red Sox or go back on the market.
Betts clearly did a phenomenal job in the leadoff spot in 2018. What is your take on moving him to the No. 2 spot and having Andrew Benintendi take over the leadoff role?
-- Sam SV, Victoria, British Columbia
I'll admit being a little surprised when Cora announced that switch at the Winter Meetings. Cora was so adamant last year that Betts would be his leadoff man for the entire season and he never wavered from that. By now, though, nothing should surprise you about Cora. He is always thinking about ways he can get more out of the team. The overriding factor is that Betts should get many more RBI opportunities batting second instead of first.
Last year, Benintendi was comfortable at leadoff when Betts was injured. And hitting in that spot should enable Benintendi to just focus on getting on base and not worry about the home run drought he had the last couple of months of last season.
What's the best-case scenario for Rusney Castillo at this point?
-- Naman M., North Attleboro, Mass.
Castillo is due to make $11 million in 2019 and $13.5 million in 2020. As long as he is with the Red Sox, he is going to be stuck at Triple-A because of the luxury-tax implications that would come with putting him back on the 40-man roster. Interestingly, he has an opt-out after the season. Even though exercising that opt-out could get him into the Major Leagues somewhere, Castillo wouldn't be able to touch that $13.5 million figure anywhere else. I'm guessing he rides it out for two more years in the Minors and latches on somewhere after that, perhaps as a fourth outfielder with a chance to earn more playing time if he can perform. Castillo will be 33 years old at the end of the '20 season.