It’s Tuesday, which means we have just three more practice-only days before games begin down in Florida. There are still things happening before the games, though, and Monday in particular brought a few interesting pieces of news.
Extension talks are beginning with Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts
We didn’t get many details, which is unsurprising, but Tom Werner and John Henry met with the media on Monday and the biggest news to come from those conversations was that the team was indeed holding conversations with both Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts regarding potential extensions. Both players are set to hit free agency at the end of the year and both are expected to command two of the biggest contracts of any player next winter if they do indeed hit the open market. The Red Sox would, of course, not like for that to happen. With Sale in particular, it does sort of go against their philosophies for holding pitchers into their thirties. If there is any pitcher for whom you make an exception, though, it’s Sale. Ownership talked about their mistakes in the Jon Lester negotiations, heavily implying they don’t want to make that same mistake this time around.
We already talked about the Bogaerts extension and the difficulty in finding some middle ground between paying for his 2018 and the previous years of his career. Motivation is obviously required on both sides. As for Sale, there will be arguments against potential extensions. Those largely revolve around the injury risk and the fact that he hasn’t finished strongly in any season of his career. That’s no small thing, and a fair argument! That being said, Sale is still one of the three-to-five best pitchers in the game. You can’t let that walk without a fight, especially in an organization that has not been able to develop starting pitchers. If you can’t develop pitchers then you have to sign them or trade for them. The Red Sox don’t have prospects to trade, which means they’d have to sign them. If you’re going to sign someone, it might as well be a future Hall of Famer who has already pitched for you.
Craig Kimbrel signing “extremely unlikely”
This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it was reiterated on Monday in the interviews with Tom Werner. The Red Sox ownership partner told the media that a reunion with future Hall of Fame closer Craig Kimbrel is “extremely unlikely.” Obviously that leaves a slight possibility available for them to sign him, but they are going out of their way at every level of the organization to say they aren’t going to sign him. We’ve talked about this before and my feelings are clear. I think it’s wild that they are going to go into this season with this bullpen. They didn’t necessarily have to sign Kimbrel (though he was always the best option), but they should have signed someone. Even if they don’t, though, I don’t understand the logic of continuing to shut the door on the possibility. There’s no benefit here. Just say you don’t know what’s going to happen.
Dave Dombrowski’s contract likely to be extended
We don’t get the same information on contracts for managers and front office personnel as we do for players, but we do know that Dave Dombrowski’s contract will expire after the 2020 season. As John Henry pointed out to the media on Monday, people in Dombrowski’s position generally don’t head into the final year of their contract without an extension. Lame duck years just don’t make sense for his job. The Red Sox would obviously like to keep him around, as Dombrowski has built three division champions in his time here. There’s no guarantee he would like to stay as well, but it would be surprising if he didn’t. Although he’s a bit on the older end among modern GMs/Presidents, there’s no indication he’s ready to hang it up. As long as he’s sticking around in the game, he might as well stay with the organization with whom he’s had so much success. Expect to hear something about an extension at some point this season.
Rick Porcello learning from Eduardo Rodriguez
Tom Caron wrote an interesting story on Tuesday that kind of fits the traditional spring training optimism. We all make fun of “Best Shape of their Lives” stories every year, and pitchers learning new pitches fit in a similar category. It can be brushed off much of the time, but there are instances where the development is legitimate. Hopefully this is one of those times. According to Caron’s story, Porcello is learning a new changeup grip from Rodriguez. Porcello admits that he constantly needs to evolve to be the best he can be, and Rodriguez has one of the best changeups in the game when it’s really on. If Porcello can get his offspeed offering to that level, it could be a huge boost for 2019.