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Peter Abraham | Beat Writer’s Notebook

Red Sox face crucial stretch as baseball’s offseason begins

Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox front office have plenty of roster decisions to make.
Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox front office have plenty of roster decisions to make.AP

The baseball season ended Sunday night when the Royals rallied to beat the Mets. Now starts what could be a franchise-altering few months for the Red Sox.

Within a few days, the Sox will announce a decision on whether they will pick up Clay Buchholz’s $13 million option for 2016. All indications are that they will.

It will be the first of what are sure to be many moves.

The general managers’ meetings start next Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. While deals could be made then, those meetings usually serve as a table-setter for the winter meetings, which start Dec. 7 in Nashville.

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So far, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski hasn’t made many drastic changes to the Sox. He kept most of the front office staff, most of the scouts, and all but one of the coaches.

Do not expect the same amount of forbearance with the roster.

Yes, the Red Sox showed plenty of promise at the end of the season. But this group is 149-175 the last two seasons, with two last-place finishes. Only a handful of players deserve to return.

Lefthanders Craig Breslow and Rich Hill will be free agents and will almost surely be elsewhere. Breslow has not pitched well for two years in a row and Hill believes he can secure a rotation spot, something the Red Sox cannot promise him.

Alexi Ogando, Junichi Tazawa, Anthony Varvaro, Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross Jr., Ryan Cook, and Jean Machi are arbitration-eligible. Teams face a Dec. 2 deadline to offer such players contracts. Tazawa, Kelly, and Ross are the only ones from that group who should be back.

The 40-man roster is loaded with players Dombrowski can easily drop to make room for others: Jonathan Aro, Bryce Brentz, Garin Cecchini, Sean Coyle, Allen Craig, Edwin Escobar, Sandy Leon, Roman Mendez, and Josh Rutledge.

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That makes 15 players on the 40-man roster who are readily expendable and could be gone in a month’s time. And that’s before any major trades or free-agent signings.

So prepare for plenty of transactions. Other teams are saying they expect the Red Sox to be active in the trade market.

A few other notes:

■  Franklin Morales appeared in only three postseason games for the Royals but earned his second World Series ring in three seasons. Morales appeared in 67 games this season, fourth-most in the Kansas City bullpen.

Morales pitched 3⅔ innings in six playoff games for the Sox and Royals and allowed six earned runs on eight hits and three walks. But he’s a two-time champion.

Jonny Gomes wasn’t on the postseason roster for the Royals but was in uniform for the Series and on the bench. He played in only 12 games for Kansas City after being obtained Aug. 31. Nice two months for him.

Christian Colon, who had the go-ahead hit for Kansas City in Game 5, credited Gomes with helping him stay ready. Johnny Gomes Magic sure is something. His teams have been to the playoffs five times in the last six years.

■  The Red Sox were 6-4 against the Royals and Mets this season, outscoring them by 18 runs.

■  David Price, because he has proven he can handle the AL East, makes the most sense in free agency. A 5.12 ERA in 14 postseason games should not be a deterrent. The Red Sox should worry first about getting back in the postseason, and Price is a guy who can help them do that. He’s a legit No. 1 starter.

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A bigger question is whether peace talks would be needed between Price and David Ortiz, who feuded in 2014. Price waited six months before drilling Ortiz with a fastball in retaliation for Big Papi watching a home run longer than Price deemed necessary in the 2013 playoffs.

Ortiz was furious at the time and Price didn’t back down.

■  With Larry Lucchino now focusing his attention on Triple A Pawtucket, the same may be true for Dr. Charles Steinberg.

Steinberg’s career in baseball has largely been tied to Lucchino, and his title was “Executive Vice President, Senior Adviser to the President/CEO.”

Steinberg is best known for orchestrating the pregame ceremonies the Red Sox do so well. But he’s had a large behind-the-scenes influence on improving the fan experience at Fenway, too.

■  Commissioner Rob Manfred has a major problem with baseball’s hiring practices, and it’s something he needs to get ahead of.

The Marlins hired Don Mattingly as manager without considering any minority candidates. Minority candidates did not seem to get much of a shot in San Diego, Seattle, or Washington. The same was true when Philadelphia and Milwaukee elected to keep their interim managers.

Whether it’s Alex Cora or DeMarlo Hale or somebody else, baseball needs to do better and have the decision-making positions reflect the diversity on its rosters. It’s embarrassing, frankly.

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■  You have to admit, Alex Rodriguez was pretty good on Fox.

■  John Farrell recently spoke to reporters about his cancer being in remission. He sounded strong and eager to get back to work.

Several readers emailed after the story came out to say that while they wished Farrell well, they would prefer to have Torey Lovullo manage the Sox.

If you go back and assemble the timeline, you may feel differently.

Farrell stayed in Detroit for the off day on Aug. 10 to have what he thought would be routine hernia surgery. Instead he learned the shocking news from his surgeon that he likely had cancer, pending the results of a biopsy.

If you were in the same position, what would you have done? Farrell very easily could have flown back to Boston and reported to Massachusetts General Hospital to talk to a specialist.

Instead he boarded a commercial flight to Miami, went directly to the ballpark, and managed the game while barely being able to stand up because of the hernia procedure.

Farrell literally had to be helped down the stairs to the dugout and was on painkillers.

Oh, and it was essentially a meaningless game. The Sox were 12 games out of first place. But Farrell decided he had to be with his team.

That is why he deserves another shot. Farrell clearly treasures his job.

That said, let’s not make Farrell out to be a hero because his profession happens to be baseball manager and people know who he is. Plenty of people get terrible news every day and go about their lives as best they can.

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Farrell would be the last person to think he’s more courageous than anybody else because he has a high-profile job.

■  The MLB relievers of the year were Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon. Because, of course.

Melancon was with the Sox in 2012 and was traded to Pittsburgh for the ill-fated Joel Hanrahan. But at least the Sox got All-Star Brock Holt, too.

Miller is the deal that still doesn’t make sense. Fine, he was traded for Eduardo Rodriguez. But Miller wanted to return as a free agent a few months later and the Red Sox let him sign with the Yankees. It was a mistake that has only gotten worse, especially given the poor investments in other, less-proven pitchers.

■  Ben Cherington was offered a job by the Yankees and turned it down. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Yankees were hopeful because Cherington lived in suburban New York with his wife and two daughters when he was with the Red Sox.

Imagine that, the GM of the Red Sox lived in New York.

Given how that job works, it’s not a big deal. GMs travel quite a bit and Cherington probably had a place to stay when he was in Boston. All you really need to do that job is a good wireless signal.

Dombrowski, for what it’s worth, recently purchased a home a few miles from Fenway Park.

■  Dombrowski said after the season that he thought the lineup was set. But does a Rusney Castillo-Jackie Bradley Jr.-Mookie Betts outfield really bring enough offense for a contender?

Betts could be what Carlos Beltran was in his 20s. But Bradley and Castillo are more hope at this point. Can the Sox afford that much hope?

■  Christian Vazquez has started playing for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rico Winter League. Travis Shaw is playing for San Juan and righthanded reliever Pat Light for Caguas.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.