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Signing David Price early gives Red Sox time to make trades

It's not about having too many pitchers. If Dave Dombrowski makes a trade now, it's because he has the time to do so, and the insurance of having a completed team if they can't pull anything off.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It's that time of year again: the days are short, the warm weather has fled, and baseball executives are ready to gather next week somewhere warmer to assemble their teams. For Dave Dombrowski, it's his first proving ground as a member of the Red Sox, where he will have his chance to make or, indeed, break the 2016--

Wait, what? He's done already?


Alright, so "done" is going a bit far. But Dave Dombrowski had a few specific items on his to-do list this offseason: bring in an ace, fix the bullpen, and pick up a fourth outfielder that can provide insurance for risks in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo without relying on Brock Holt to back up every position on the field. A couple days ago, it seemed like he had plenty of work left to do. Now Chris Young and David Price are signed, and the rest of the offseason seems to be reserved for tinkering, and exploring some unlikely-but-hopeful trade possibilities.

Here's where we stand now:

SP: David Price
SP: Clay Buchholz
SP: Eduardo Rodriguez
SP: Rick Porcello
SP: Wade Miley

RP: Craig Kimbrel
RP: Koji Uehara
RP: Junichi Tazawa
RP: Robbie Ross Jr.
RP: Joe Kelly
RP: Tommy Layne

C: Blake Swihart
C: Ryan Hanigan
1B: Hanley Ramirez
1B: Travis Shaw
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Pablo Sandoval
SS: Xander Bogaerts
LF: Rusney Castillo
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.
RF: Mookie Betts
DH: David Ortiz
OF: Chris Young
Util: Brock Holt

The Red Sox could call it there. There's plenty of pitchers they could move into that final bullpen spot. Hell, if they still want to pursue the Joe Kelly starting pitcher dream, they can ship him to Triple-A and pick two of their rag-tag bunch of 40-man relievers. Roman Mendez, Steven Wright, Edwin Escobar, Matt's not hard to find bodies for those roles, and the back-end is strong enough to justify some gambles.

Still, if you're looking for a place to improve, the bullpen is the obvious choice. Nobody can really claim to know how high the Red Sox are willing to go in terms of payroll in the wake of the David Price signing--clearly their Luxury Tax soft cap is a thing of the past--so the possibility certainly exists that Dave Dombrowski is still in active pursuit even with $31 million more off the top. Another $5 or $6 million for another solid option certainly doesn't seem like much in the face of Price's deal.

There's probably about a 45% chance that's the biggest play left to the Red Sox. And probably about a 45% chance that there's nothing even that big left. But then there's the 10% left over. That's the fun/scary percent.

In that small part, the Red Sox do something hard. They go in search of Pablo Sandoval takers and actually find one. They pull off some unexpected rotation mix-up to get one of the less reliable (Clay Buchholz) or less impressive (Wade Miley) bodies out of the mix for one of the #2 types that have had their name floating around the trade market since last summer. They could even change up the outfield significantly if interest in Jackie Bradley Jr. proves too great to resist.

These are low-percentage investments for the Red Sox to make in terms of time and effort. You can't really plan around making one of these deals, and for many teams that would be a big problem. If they spend the winter meetings pursuing these unlikely scenarios while other teams snap up their fallback plans one-by-one, it's easy to wind up scrambling and desperate for answers at the end of the day. Not going to happen with the Red Sox. If Dave Dombrowski leaves the winter meetings having done nothing, he also leaves with a baseball team.

And that's the benefit of getting done early. There's plenty of upside to exploring these roads less traveled, and no real downside. Obviously Dombrowski shouldn't make any bad moves just for the sake of doing something, but if the right one is out there, he'll have the time to find it, and make the arrangements necessary to fill in any holes it might open up. The Red Sox may seem to be done early. You may think that the rest of the offseason will prove a little boring. And maybe it will. But if Dave Dombrowski has been painting by numbers to check all the boxes he needed to check, that's only freed him up to go a little bit crazy in the time remaining.