SAN DIEGO — There’s a world in which the Red Sox need to prepare for life without Xander Bogaerts. Manager Alex Cora acknowledged that Monday afternoon during his Winter Meetings news conference.
Certainly, Cora would like to have his shortstop back. The Sox brass led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom reiterated Monday that Bogaerts still remains their priority despite the Sox reportedly not putting together a competitive offer.
But the Sox have other issues they must tend to. One of the many? Pitching. Particularly, starting pitching.
The Red Sox have too many question marks with a current list of starters that includes Chris Sale, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Whitlock, and, potentially, Tanner Houck.
Justin Verlander is off the board. Jacob deGrom, too, though the Red Sox weren’t in on either. Who is it that the Red Sox want?
“With the progression of our group, we do have guys who are ready to step in and give us innings at the back of the rotation,” Bloom said. “So what we’re looking for will be upside, consistency, and leadership that we can provide for the group.”
Upside entails a number of different qualities, which Bloom went on to explain.
“I think we’d like to have guys where we see a level of ability,” he said. “Either something that they’ve demonstrated or something that we see in there that would be someone that you’d be really proud to have them out there for a playoff game.”
Bloom said the team would entertain a reunion with both Nate Eovaldi and Michael Wacha, but according to an industry source as of Sunday night, they had made no headway with Eovaldi since he declined a one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer last month.
As for relievers, according to multiple industry sources, righthander Tommy Kahnle has drawn Sox interest. Though he missed four months with a bone bruise in his elbow and was limited to 13 appearances after missing nearly all of 2020 and 2021 following Tommy John surgery, Kahnle finished the year with the Dodgers by allowing one run over 8⅔ innings with nine strikeouts and one walk.
Casas’s work cut out for him
The Red Sox see first baseman Eric Hosmer as a veteran who can put together good at-bats. Even though he’s a lefthanded hitter like Triston Casas, Hosmer could serve as an insurance policy if Casas, who will be 23 next year, struggles or can’t stay healthy.
The latter might be a bit of a concern. Casas dealt with an ankle injury last season with the WooSox that kept him out of action for more than two months. He played in just three winter ball games this offseason in the Dominican Republic before being shut down with knee issues. Casas, listed at 6-foot-4, 252 pounds, is a naturally large figure. But lower body injuries are an indication he needs to get in better shape.
“The body is going to change,” Cora said. “We’ve been on top of him, where he was physically. But now there are a few things he needs to do adjustment-wise in the offseason. He’s a good athlete for how good he is. But of course, you know, we want to keep him healthy.”
Abreu too rich for Sox blood
While the Red Sox saw first baseman/designated hitter José Abreu as a great fit — a righthanded run producer in the middle of their order — they didn’t come close to the offer for which he ultimately signed with the Astros.
According to major league sources, the Red Sox did make a three-year offer to Abreu, but one in the low- to mid-$40 million range. Abreu got a three-year, $59.5 million deal from Houston.
Despite a career-low 15 home runs, Abreu remained productive in 2022, hitting .304/.378/.446 with 40 doubles for the White Sox in his age-35 season. With that performance — and a career .292/.354/.506 regular-season line — Abreu represented one of the top bats available on the free-agent market. He was likely the best who will not receive a nine-figure deal, behind Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, and Brandon Nimmo.
The Red Sox are expected to continue to look for corner/DH bats, with righthanded hitters Mitch Haniger, Justin Turner, and Trey Mancini available, as well as lefthanded bats Michael Conforto and Michael Brantley.
Out of town
Though Japanese free agent starter Kodai Senga has reportedly visited a number of major league teams, including the Giants, Mets, Rangers, and Padres, he has not visited Boston according to a major league source. Senga, who features a high-90s fastball and devastating splitter, went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA and 27.5 percent strikeout rate in Japan as a 28-year-old in 2022 . . . The Sox have a goal of adding seven or eight impact players this offseason. They’ve added relievers Joely Rodriguez and Chris Martin to date, though the Martin deal isn’t official yet . . . Rick Porcello announced his retirement Monday. Porcello has not pitched since the 2020 season with the Mets, where he landed in free agency after five years in Boston, which included the 2016 American League Cy Young. “This guy was one of the best competitors and best leaders we’ve had in this clubhouse during this period of the current ownership and I just want to congratulate Rick on an incredible, incredible career,” said general manager Brian O’Halloran.
(Alex Speier of the Globe staff contributed to this report.)