The defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox entered this week’s MLB Winter Meetings in Las Vegas in a pretty favorable position.
Prior to even arriving in Vegas, Boston’s front office answered two of the biggest questions this offseason had to offer. The Sox began by re-signing World Series MVP Steve Pearce to a one-year contract for a team friendly $6.25 million, then broke the bank to bring back postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi on a deal worth $67.5 million over the next four seasons — also potentially blocking Eovaldi from going to the Yankees after they missed out on signing Patrick Corbin.
With young players like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts yet to sign the first big deals of their young careers, and Chris Sale on the last year of his contract, the Red Sox are looking at spending a lot of money over the next few years to keep their championship core intact.
Big bat J.D. Martinez is locked in for the long-term after completing the first year of his deal in Boston, while David Price is also not going anywhere in the near future after opting into the back half of his contract. Long story short, almost any team would kill to be in the position the Red Sox are in right now.
It’s a boring take, but if you’re expecting a major move at the Winter Meetings, it’s probably not realistic. Signing a name like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado makes little sense when you consider it would almost certainly comes at the cost of letting the reigning AL MVP in Betts walk when he becomes a free agent. With Sale, Price, Eovaldi and Rick Porcello in the rotation, there’s virtually no room to even add another arm.
The lone weakness on Boston’s roster? The bullpen.
The Red Sox were able to mask their weakness to a degree during the playoffs, as all four of their top end starters accepted bullpen roles when called upon. But Craig Kimbrel’s performance makes it difficult to believe he’ll be back in Boston. The closer posted a 5.91 ERA in 10.2 innings over nine appearances out of the bullpen. On top of the shaky postseason, the 30-year-old is reportedly in search of a historic six-year contract. With the Red Sox interested in locking a closer down on a three-year deal, it’s tough to see both sides finding the middle ground here.
So where will the Red Sox find their closer moving forward?
They could start internally with Joe Kelly, who was tremendous during the playoff run — 0.79 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 11.2 innings pitched. Kelly’s been receiving interest from multiple teams during his time in free agency, but he did confirm on local radio that the Red Sox are one of the teams in the hunt.
If the search for a closer becomes an external one, there are some big names on the market that could be both cheaper and with shorter-term contracts than what Kimbrel’s in search of. I spoke with one National League front office member that said he wouldn’t be surprised if Boston was in the mix with deals for players like Zach Britton, Andrew Miller or Dave Robertson.
So there’s hope that the Red Sox could make on more notable addition to defend their title in 2019, but for the most part, the pieces are already in place.