NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Red Sox manager Alex Cora has made it a point to stay in the know with his players this offseason. He traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., recently to see Chris Sale lead a workout alongside roughly six teammates, including Kutter Crawford, Reese McGuire, and Connor Wong.
That evening, Sale and Cora had dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and got a special visit from the eccentric Triston Casas, who made the two-and-a-half hour drive from his home in Miami just for a meal.
“I haven’t seen a guy demolish Tomahawk steak the way [Casas] did that day. It was amazing,” said Cora.
Cora also has met with Rafael Devers in the Dominican Republic and will return next week with members of the coaching staff to check in with Devers as well as Pablo Reyes, Brayan Bello, Enmanuel Valdez, Wilyer Abreu, and likely, Ceddane Rafaela at the Dominican Academy.
The biggest offseason get together, however, might come in early January when Trevor Story hosts his infield camp for younger players in the organization (minors and majors) in Texas. It’s a tone-setter for Story, an elder statesmen on the roster who is looking to become more of a leader and bounce back from two rough seasons marred by injuries.
“He’s in a good spot,” said Cora Tuesday on Day 2 of Winter Meetings. “Healthy. He’s very structured with his workouts, with his team that helps him out. It’s going to be a good opportunity for some kids to go there, work with him.”
When Story returned from elbow surgery in August, he immediately proved he could handle shortstop, his original position. Known as one of the better defensive — and overall — shortstops in the baseball during his time with the Rockies, Story reclaimed that status on the defensive side. He was tied for seventh in the majors in defensive runs saved despite playing just 36 games at shortstop.
“We were a lot better with Trevor at short,” said Cora. “With 40 or 50 more games, hands-down he was the best defender in the league in that position.”
Story struggled offensively, though, batting .203 in 168 plate appearances. Still, Cora is confident the lack of success at the dish was a byproduct of a lack of reps in addition to the elbow injury.
“It’s just a matter of consistency,” said Cora. “I gave him a mulligan last year because of the at-bats he missed, the elbow. We always talk about the throwing part. How about the swinging part? I expect him to have a great offseason. So far it’s been good, and just go out there and impact the game the right way.”
Casas will be at Story’s infield camp in January, too, and not just to eat steaks.
Don’t count out Dalbec
Bobby Dalbec is still a part of the mix with the Sox. In fact, Cora went out his way to mention Dalbec when asked who could be a righthanded bat that could back up Casas.
“I think there’s a great opportunity for Bobby to be part of this,” said Cora. “He can play first. He can play third. He played the outfield towards the end of the season. He’s been able to hit lefties. In the situation we’re in right now, it makes sense for him.”
The Sox need righthanded hitters with power, but have put that on the backburner as they search for starting pitching. Dalbec hit 33 homers for Triple A Worcester last season, but was never in the mix at first in the majors.
The Red Sox kept Dalbec at the trade deadline last season, but chief baseball officer Craig Breslow intimated that trading Dalbec, or most players for that matter, is a possibility if it makes the Sox better.
But Breslow had this to offer.
“He hits the ball really, really hard,” said Breslow. “He has had a track record of success in the minor leagues and typically, you know, really strong upper-level minor league performance is indicative of major league performance. We have to figure out the runway. Teams are in tune with some of those underlying metrics that make him really valuable. I also don’t want to discount the possibility that the change of scenery is Fenway Park.”
Work in progress
Members of the training staff visited outfielder Masataka Yoshida in Japan. Yoshida recently started swinging and is looking to get stronger so he can better manage the workload of a big-league season. Yoshida’s defense is still a concern, but the Sox said their data suggests he improved toward the latter part of the season. Cora wouldn’t commit to Yoshida getting more reps at the DH spot. Nor would Breslow. “There’s a ton of value in being able to play in the field,” said Breslow … Josh Winckowski is building up as a starter. Breslow seemed bullish on the reliever, believing he could serve in multiple roles. If not as a starter, as a multi-inning reliever given his pitch characteristics … Breslow said upgrading at second base will more likely be via trade than free agency … Breslow is comfortable with his catchers, namely Wong. Yet if he sees a chance for the club to significantly improve, he will upgrade. ESPN reported Tuesday that the Sox have interest in veteran catcher Martin Maldonaldo … The draft lottery was held Tuesday and the Red Sox will pick sixth. The Rule 5 Draft will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m., bringing an end to the Winter Meetings.