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A Winter Meetings Preview

Next week is the biggest week of the winter

MLB: General Managers Meetings Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, teams will start making their way out to San Diego to convene for this year’s Winter Meetings. This is the biggest baseball event of the offseason, both for teams and people looking for jobs in the sport. I’m not going to focus on that last part because, well, what the hell do I know, but the first part is what interests us here. Traditionally this is where big deals are made, both in terms of trades and free agency. That’s not as true anymore, to be fair. For one thing, the face-to-face aspect was a big part of that in the past, but with texting and IM and whatever else they use for communication today, meeting here doesn’t make as much of a difference. Furthermore, the offseason has generally just been too slow-moving for the Winter Meetings to matter in recent year. The good news on that front is that the pace seems to be picking up this year.

The Red Sox specifically are in a position to be among the most interesting teams in baseball for the next week. That is far from a guarantee, but this is also a team that has a lot of work to do. Chaim Bloom has been relatively busy of late, but he’s been busy like I was busy in school, which is to say he’s just doing work to do work. The substantial stuff is being put off, but eventually you can’t wait anymore. The Red Sox have some positions to fill and some players who will be involved in rumors this week. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a handful of storylines to watch in the coming week.

Mookie Betts

Let’s get this out of the way first. I don’t think a trade is going to happen here, and I’m not even sure we’ll hear more than one or two random rumors from borderline reputable sources. It seems like momentum is moving far away from a deal happening here, and it makes sense. There’s just no way, in today’s MLB economic environment, that a team is going to give up enough for one year of a relatively expensive Mookie Betts to make it worth it for the Red Sox. All of that said, this is still the cloud hanging over the Red Sox right now, and it will be until A) he is extended, B) he is traded or C) they flat-out say he will not be dealt. I don’t see any of that being resolved this week.

Starting Pitcher

The Red Sox certainly have more than one hole right now, but the one that is the most unavoidable is in the rotation. They simply only have four starters right now, and they could open up more holes depending on some potential moves we’ll discuss in a second. Boston obviously isn’t going to be involved in Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, and even guys like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner will be out of the range they’re looking at. That said, the next tier of free agent is in play and I’d expect them to be involved in plenty of trade talks for arms all week as well. If you’re looking for a spot about which you can actually get excited about additions rather than wary of subtractions, this is it.

David Price/Nathan Eovaldi

Well, sort of. There is certainly potential for subtractions from the rotation, and these two will be at the forefront. Chris Sale isn’t going anywhere and neither is Eduardo Rodriguez. Price in particular seems to be coming up in more speculation of late, not that it appears anything is all that close. I think trading him, while understandable given the asinine payroll restrictions, is more complicated than it’s being let on, but I’ll have more on that at a later date. For now, I’ll just say it is very possible one of these guys is dealt while baseball is convening in San Diego, and Price seems more likely at this point. If you’re grading possibilities in terms of likelihood and impact with some arbitrary metric I have not actually created, a Price trade would probably top the list.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Yeah, so if you haven’t figured it out by now this Winter Meetings is going to be dominated by which core players could be traded this week. (Don’t yell about me calling Bradley a core player. I just mean he’s been the starter for a long time.) The Red Sox are looking to cut salary and Bradley is projected to make about $11 million in 2019. Again, I think the impact of a potential Bradley trade is being underrated, but I also get where it’s coming from. The Diamondbacks have been most connected of late, but again there has been no indication anything is close.

Right side of the infield

I’m really interested with what the Red Sox are planning here. I’m assuming part of this — and the starting pitcher search, for that matter — revolves around how much payroll they could potentially shed, but they have to make some sort of decision at some point. There are just so many ways they can go and I don’t have a good sense of which way they’re leaning. Could they put Michael Chavis at second base nearly every day? Do they want to put him anywhere every day? Are the planning on Bobby Dalbec earning a significant role in 2020? I still think the most likely play is that they wait out the second base market for whoever is left without a chair and maybe add a cheap left-handed first baseman (Mitch Moreland again?), but nothing would really shock me. We could get a little clarity this week, at least.

Backup Catcher

Nothing gets the crowd going like some good backup catcher talk. This is not really all that exciting, but the Red Sox need another catcher on the roster. Maybe they’ll add them this week. Maybe they won’t. I’m not really losing much sleep over it either way!

Relief Pitcher

There hasn’t really been any indication at all that the Red Sox are interested in adding to their bullpen, but as we’ve talked about plenty of times there’s always room for more relievers. I wouldn’t be surprised by a minor trade this week that brings back a Colten Brewer type that Bloom and company think they can unlock.

Rule 5 Draft

As is the case every year, the Meetings end with the Rule 5 Draft. Generally, the Red Sox are not very active here, but they have holes to fill and open spots on their 40-man. This could be the rare year in which they actually add someone. When the draft gets closer we’ll look at some of the possibilities. Even if they don’t draft anyone, they could lose a couple of players, so this draft is worth monitoring. Eduard Bazardo is the most likely to be swept, but a team could also see Josh Ockimey as a more palatable option with the extra roster spot with which to work in 2020.