LAS VEGAS — Day 2 at baseball’s Winter Meetings saw a new narrative involving the Red Sox, one that reportedly has them wanting to shed some payroll before the start of the 2019 season.
The scuttlebutt has them putting Jackie Bradley Jr. and/or Rick Porcello on the trade market as a way to take care of Chris Sale and Mookie Betts, in particular, with long-term contracts.
Would the Red Sox trade either Porcello or Bradley before they begin defense of their 2018 World Series championship? Would those moves shift the balance of power in the AL East back to the Yankees? It’s interesting fodder, but it does have some substance.
Think about it: After 2019, would the Red Sox try to re-sign Porcello, who will make $21.125 million in 2019? And Bradley, who is arbitration eligible this offseason, could see his salary go from $6 million in 2018 to the $8 million to $9 million range.
The Arizona Diamondbacks love Bradley and view him as a potential replacement for free agent A.J. Pollock. Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen drafted Bradley and manager Torey Lovullo had him on his Pawtucket club when he managed there. Whether Boston would entertain a trade is another story, but a major league source indicated the Red Sox would be open if the return was attractive.
Teams also have asked about Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award winner. Clubs that lose out on free agents J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton are likely to turn to trade candidates such as Porcello, Zack Greinke, and Corey Kluber. The downside to Porcello is that he’s in the final year of his deal with the Red Sox.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was certainly aware of the storyline that had developed Tuesday.
“You always listen to anything,” Dombrowski said. “You can always get better. We’re not going to be able to sign all of our players, and that brings on conversations of teams asking you about various things. But I would say our primary focus is to win a championship in 2019.”
Dombrowski has repeatedly said the club can’t sign everyone.
“We have a good club and we’d love to keep them together,” he said. “We’re not looking to move anybody. We’re not driven to move anybody, but I think you always keep an open mind. People come to you with different thought processes. That’s what the meetings bring about. That’s why I always enjoy the meetings.”
At the meetings, Dombrowski sends his senior staff members out to speak to agents and teams about possible scenarios. He also works the floor. At the end of the day, the group gathers and potential deals are discussed. Dombrowski takes it from there, filing away the information for reference.
Dombrowski always forms his words carefully when speaking about potential deals. When asked if he had initiated any deals, Dombrowski took the word “initiated” and turned that into “keeping an open mind” on things that were discussed.
He pretty much has said the team will deal one of its three catchers. Blake Swihart will draw interest from National League teams because he’s a switch-hitter and can play multiple positions.
There’s also interest in Brock Holt again this offseason. However, Holt remains the Red Sox’ backup plan at second base in case Dustin Pedroia can’t return from knee injuries that limited him to just three games in 2018.
It’s obvious the Red Sox still need relievers. Dealing Bradley or Porcello could bring a reliever in return or would free salary space with which to restock the bullpen. However, without Bradley, J.D. Martinez would have to play right field full time with Betts moving to center and Andrew Benintendi remaining in left.
In that respect, dealing Bradley seems farfetched. The Sox, as currently constructed, seem poised to make another long playoff run. Why not just see it through now and make adjustments after 2019?
I get the feeling that while Dombrowski fields inquiries about his players, he’ll let this all play out. The projected $240 million payroll will see major fines coming Boston’s way as the club crushes two levels of the luxury-tax threshold. But you pay a price for success.
The temptation of trying to fit superstars Sale and Betts into the future by messing with this team’s composition and chemistry simply doesn’t make sense unless the return makes the Red Sox better.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.