Sox Bullpen Still a Work in Progress
By Michael Silverman
LAS VEGAS -- They came, they gathered, they left.
So went the Red Sox’ 2018 Winter Meetings experience, an exercise in texts, phone calls, smoke-filled hallways, lobby stalking and maybe a few games of blackjack and a beverage.
And as the meetings wound up with multiple reports that their own Joe Kelly was on the verge of a three-year $25 million deal with the Dodgers, Dave Dombrowski said before heading to the airport to fly home that the Red Sox were no closer to finding an outside solution to the hole that will be left behind by Kelly and, presumably, Craig Kimbrel later this offseason.
“I don’t think we’re any different than before arriving in Nevada,” said Dombrowski. “Even though (the free agent market for relievers) has started to move, there’s still a long way to go with a lot of people. We have our ears to the ground to see what’s going on but philosophically our approach isn’t changing at this time.”
The philosophy Dombrowski referenced has to do with his statement on day one of these meetings on Monday that the ballclub would not make a significant expenditure, in either dollars or years, for a new reliever.
That strategy is based on two thoughts, one factual, the other more wish-based.
The free agent market is currently flush with arms, making it a buyer’s market, meaning that the Red Sox are willing to wait for the market to come to them.
It’s been reported that Adam Ottavino and Dave Robertson and perhaps Zach Britton are high on their list of targets, but it’s hard to imagine any of those three will have much trouble getting a team more needy or aggressive than the Red Sox are posturing themselves to make a significant expenditure on them.
“I think at this time of year, if you’re going to sign somebody, you’re going to be aggressive and try to make it happen with probably big dollars and we’re not at that point right now,” said Dombrowski.
The other tenet in play is that the Red Sox still wish to appear as content as possible with their remaining relievers. That’s why Dombrowski has mentioned Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier with enough frequency and admiration to make them sound like the Nasty Boys reincarnated. It’s going to come as a major surprise to one and all if the Red Sox do begin play in Seattle next spring with the same set of relievers they have now.
“We like Barnes and Brasier as the possibility of pitching at the back end, Steven Wright is a wildcard as far as the back end is concerned but he’s a good arm, so we have guys,” said Dombrowski. “Would we be open-minded to adding people? Yes, but we’re comfortable that they can do it.”
In the Rule 5 draft that occurred Thursday morning, the Red Sox did select two right-handed relievers in the minor-league phase of the draft, Anyelo Gomez from the Yankees’ system and Andrew Schwaab from Detroit.
For now, Dombrowski said that the Red Sox’ wait for the market to come to them could extend into next month.
“Again I don’t really know if the team will wait through January,” said Dombrowski. “The possibility exists but I don’t really know. It wouldn’t surprise me because there’s so many names out there but I don’t know that. That’s why you’re always prepared, you’ve always got your cellphone whenever you travel. We’re out of state at the holidays. You’re always prepared for those things.”
Dombrowski would not comment specifically on the Red Sox’ imminent loss of Kelly, whose three-year tenure with the Red Sox was marked by streaks of dominance, especially this past October, and then erratic and hittable stretches.
“I would just say, anything that’s taken place, we’re not caught by surprise,” said Dombrowski.
Dombrowski said he expects more signings of free agent relievers to happen in the near-future, based on conversations he has had at the Mandalay Bay.
“There’s still a long ways to go as far as a lot of names out there, but it at least has started to move in that regard,” said Dombrowski.
And with regard to that market and these meetings as it relates to the Red Sox, Dombrowski could not say that the team made tangible progress since arriving on Sunday.
“I don’t know really, I just don’t know that answer -- one hour you think you’re making progress, the next hour you’re not,” said Dombrowski. “I really can’t say that we’re any closer to doing anything. But I can’t tell you that phone won’t ring at 7, I’ll be on an airplane, but it could ring tomorrow and all of a sudden something happens.
“Any time when you’re together with your baseball people and you’re conversing, it’s productive. We didn’t make any additions to our club but we don’t have a lot of additions to make to our club at this point. So, we did Eovaldi beforehand, we did (Steve) Pearce before we came here, so we didn’t anticipate that we would make a lot of movement.”