FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox principal owner (and Globe owner) John Henry and chairman Tom Werner, in their annual spring media session to discuss the state of the team, said that the club has been negotiating with Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts (both eligible for free agency after 2019) about long-term extensions, and that the team would like to keep those two and Mookie Betts in a Red Sox uniform for years to come.
“Conversations have been had, but I don’t really want to get into everything . . . These are great players. We’d love them to be Red Sox for the rest of their careers,” Werner said in response to a question about contract talks with Sale and Bogaerts. “We’d love to be able to have long-term contracts with [Sale, Bogaerts, and Betts]. But our conversations with them, which are ongoing, are private. I think that’s the best way to consummate a deal.”
Henry said that even though the Red Sox are likely to have the largest payroll in the majors for a second straight year, the team “won’t be able to keep all of” its crop of free agents. Nonetheless, the team maintains an interest in retaining as many core players as possible.
Sale, as a pitcher who navigated injury issues (shoulder tendinitis) last season, represents the biggest risk. But Henry described Sale as “healthy . . . He hasn’t had any significant shoulder issues.” He also made clear that Sale represents an “outlier,” making him an appealing player for the Red Sox to retain. Henry also noted Sale’s importance off the field, citing his dugout speech during the World Series as evidence of the player’s impact.
“Something could happen,” said Henry. “We would love to be able to sign him. I think he would like to as well. But there are the realities of the marketplace.”
Other takeaways from the session Henry and Werner had with reporters:
■ The last time that the Red Sox had an ace in his 30s who was entering his final year before free agency, the team failed to sign Jon Lester prior to the 2014 season. Henry said that the Sox “blew it” in the spring training efforts to start a negotiation with Lester.
■ Werner said it’s “extremely unlikely” that the Red Sox re-sign Craig Kimbrel.
■ Henry said that he would like to avoid having president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski (whose deal runs through 2020) enter the final year of his contract without a deal. He expressed optimism that Dombrowski’s contract would be addressed during the coming season.
■ Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright recently brought up the possibility of a midseason player strike. Henry, who is on the negotiating committee for MLB, described such a notion as “crazy.” He said that player dissatisfaction with the current free agent market fails to recognize the fact that markets are not static, and sometimes do not produce precisely the outcome that players want.
■ Both Henry and Werner plan to go to the White House.
Sox chairman Tom Werner said there have been contract talks with pending free agents Xander Bogaerts and Chris Sale.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) February 18, 2019
Tom Werner: ‘we’d love to be able to have long term contracts with (Betts, Sale, Bogaerts).’ Says there have been conversations with the players, but says details will remain private.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
John Henry: ‘we’ll do everything we can to keep this team together... But free agency is what it is.’— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
Henry: ‘we won’t be able to keep all of them. We may have the largest payroll in baseball,’ but that still can’t guarantee keeping young core players.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
John Henry said that while the Sox want to keep this team together, free agency is what it is and it’s not realistic to keep everybody.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) February 18, 2019
Henry: ‘Maybe with the state of free agency, you’ll see more (extensions) happening.’— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
Henry on Sale: ‘We would love to be able to sign him. I think he would like to as well. But there are the realities of the marketplace. ... Something could happen.’— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
Henry on Sale: ‘He’s healthy... He hasn’t had any significant shoulder issues.’— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
Henry: ‘I think we blew the signing (of Jon Lester) in spring training.’— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019
Tom Werner said re-signing Craig Kimbrel is “extremely unlikely.”— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) February 18, 2019
Henry on Dombrowski (whose contract runs through 2020): In this day and age, it probably doesn’t make sense to have your general manager go into his last year without a new contract. Expects team should address it sometime during the season this year.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) February 18, 2019