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Final thoughts from baseball’s Winter Meetings

After the worst season of his career, <b>Rick Porcello </b>played it smart in signing with the Mets for one year and $10 million.FILE/TONY GUTIERREZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS/Associated Press

Things jotted down in the notebook during four days of traipsing around the hallways and lobbies at the Winter Meetings:

■  New Cubs manager David Ross believes Mike Napoli is an important addition to his coaching staff.

Napoli, 38, will be the quality assurance coach, a fancy title for somebody who will be involved in all aspects of the team.

“He checks a lot of boxes,” Ross said. “He was a catcher. He converted to an infielder. One of the best base runners I have been around, and he was a big hitter in a big market protecting a superstar like David Ortiz.


“He does a lot for our group and touching a lot of areas, so as much as it seems pitching and catching heavy, Napoli is going to be that guy that’s kind of going to push more to what he’s comfortable with. But I see him gravitating toward the hitters.”

Napoli has been retired for two seasons and was looking to get back into the game. Working with Ross, a close friend from their days with the Red Sox, is a perfect fit.

The players ultimately set the tone in any clubhouse. But Napoli will be good to have around to help guide that. He was a big part of the spirit that drove the 2013 Red Sox to a championship.

■  In deciding to be a manager, Ross leaned heavily on Alex Cora and Yankees manager Aaron Boone for advice. Ross played with Cora with the Dodgers from 2002-04 and with the Red Sox in 2008.

Ross also jumped from ESPN to the dugout, as Boone and Cora did.

“There is definitely a lot of communication with those guys and there is a lot of respect for those guys,” Ross said. “I know they’re going to want to win and kick my butt on the other side of it, as well as I want to beat them, but there is a respect there that is mutual.”


The Sox play the Cubs in Chicago June 19-21. The Cubs play the Yankees in New York June 26-28.

■  Rick Porcello played it smart in signing with the Mets for one year and $10 million. After the worst season of his career, he can reestablish his value and go back into the market heading into his age-32 season.

Porcello had a 5.52 ERA last season, but he allowed four or fewer earned runs 22 times. He also had a 6.32 ERA in the first inning, which seemed to be at least partially a product of the Red Sox field staff and analytics department not always being in synch when it came to game-planning.

A new league, some bigger parks, and a chance to manage lineups without a DH should help Porcello. Beyond his reliability — Porcello hasn’t missed a start since 2015 — the Mets will get leadership and a guy with a little edge. They could use that.

Porcello was worth every dime of the $95 million the Sox paid him over five seasons. He led the American League with 159 starts during that time and was second with 964 innings. The Sox were 94-65 in games he started.

■  Oakland executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray on his fantasy football team. The Athletics took Murray in the first round of the 2018 draft and signed him to a $4.66 million bonus. But Murray won the Heisman Trophy for Oklahoma that fall and never played for Oakland.


“I texted him,” Beane said. “I said, ‘I got you again.’ ”

■  One of the behind-the-scenes traditions with the Winter Meetings is that the hotel suites are assigned based on the seniority of each team’s general manager or president of baseball operations.

So the Red Sox and rookie chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom had the smallest and least luxurious suite in the Grand Hyatt. It was on the seventh floor, so there wasn’t much of a view, and the furnishings were a bit drab.

■  Padres general manager A.J. Preller, who’s under pressure to produce a winner after four consecutive seasons of 91 or more losses, loves the back end of his bullpen with Drew Pomeranz and Kirby Yates.

“We can point to that every single night as a real competitive advantage every night with our club,” Preller said. “I think the way Drew pitched at the end of last season, what Kirby’s done the last three years and especially last year, we feel really good about the back part of our bullpen.

“If that ends up being something that plays out for us over the course of Drew’s four years, and we have lights out back of the bullpen, that would be ideal honestly.”

■  It’s not official yet, but commissioner Rob Manfred said the proposed rules changes for next season would be put in place. All pitchers will be required to face three batters or finish a half-inning. Injuries, obviously, would be an exception. Rosters also will expand to 26 players.


A more impactful change will be that the injured list for pitchers will go to 15 days. Pitchers optioned to the minors will not be eligible to return for 15 days unless they replace a pitcher going on the injured list.

That will cut down on the roster manipulation going on with what were largely phony injured list stints.

In September, rosters will expand only to 28.

■  New Angels manager Joe Maddon on using cameras to steal signs: “I want to believe that MLB will do something to eradicate that. I like a level playing field, period.

“Good old-fashioned sign stealing from your eyeballs, that’s not cheating; it’s just good baseball. When you use electronic cheating, that’s not good. It’s almost tantamount to steroids in regards to an imbalanced playing field.”

Phillies manager Joe Girardi said he’s suspicious about every park.

“The players on the field, it’s their job to guard against the players on the field,” he said. “You can’t guard against technology and players off the field.”

Manfred said MLB has talked to 60 witnesses and reviewed 76,000 e-mails in its investigation of the Astros. There is no timetable for a report but the unofficial goal is before the start of spring training.

Several managers said privately they expect the league to come down hard on the Astros as a warning to every team to knock it off once and for all. The suspicions and paranoia are out of control.



Bogaerts braces for some changes

Xander Bogaerts hit .309 with 33 home runs and 117 RBIs last season.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

When Xander Bogaerts agreed to a six-year, $120 million extension with the Red Sox last March, he said a big part of the reason was how much he enjoyed his teammates.

Now he’s facing the very real possibility of Jackie Bradley Jr. and/or David Price being traded and Mookie Betts going into his free agent year with seemingly little interest in an extension.

“It’s just disappointing, maybe,” Bogaerts said during a stop at the Winter Meetings when he was named to the All-MLB team. “You can’t play together for 20, 25 years. It’s going to be a sad moment if anyone leaves. They have their own lives; they should know what choices are good for them in the future.

“Obviously, the relationships I’ve built with these guys, especially Jackie and Mookie, those are the main guys there’s a lot of talk around. Those are the guys I came up knowing a lot about . . . you feel like they’re your brothers and you hope they’ll be with you forever.”

Bogaerts, who can opt out of his deal after the 2022 season, has been in Arizona working out. The Sox want him to focus on his first-step quickness in the field.

Bogaerts’s twin brother, Jair, was with him. The former Red Sox minor leaguer has left the Beverly Hills Sports Council agency and is working with young players in Aruba.

That one brother was represented by Scott Boras and the other was working for BHSC wasn’t necessarily a problem. But it wasn’t always comfortable, either.

A few other Red Sox observations:

■  Via their Instagram story, the Red Sox released their schedule of promotional giveaways for the coming season.

Maybe this is a stretch, but it seems to reveal something about their in-house expectations.

Of the 12 giveaway days, only four are centered on a current player. There are Bogaerts socks (May 5), a Betts bucket hat (May 26), a Rafael Devers bobblehead (June 26), and a J.D. Martinez backpack and notebook (Aug. 18).

There are four items featuring retired stars David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Pedro Martinez, and four others with just team logos or the mascots.

■  Dave Dombrowski was at the Winter Meetings for two days as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee. After Chaim Bloom was hired, Dombrowski reached out to him via text message to wish him well.

“He was extremely nice,” Bloom said. “He could not have been classier and more gracious. I can’t say I’ve been particularly close with him over the years. But that’s consistent with all my interactions with him.”

Dombrowski has a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox and plans to spend it with his family and traveling. For somebody who has worked in baseball since 1978, it will surely be strange to be away from the game.

■  Coaching staff assistant J.T. Watkins will take on a larger role next season by working more with the hitters. Watkins, 30, has been on the major league staff since 2017 and has a bright future.

■  Brian Johnson is a good guy. The Red Sox outrighted him off the 40-man roster on Nov. 27, but he followed through with a commitment to represent the team at a holiday caravan for two days last week. Johnson, Mike Shawaryn, and Josh Taylor visited children at five hospitals.

■  Dombrowski traveled with the Sox on almost every road trip during the time he was in charge, which is unusual for a GM or president of baseball operations. The Sox plan to split it up this coming season with Bloom, Brian O’Halloran, and the four assistant GMs taking turns.

■  Chris Sale donated $1 million to the Florida Gulf Coast University athletic department last week. Sale played there for three years before he was a first-round pick.

“That’s really, really cool to see him want to give back like that,” Bloom said. “It deserves to be recognized.”

As for how Sale is feeling, the reports on his elbow are positive after he was shut down for the rest of last season in mid-August.

“Physically he’s in a good spot. Mentally he’s in a good spot,” manager Alex Cora said. “I hate to say he’s on a mission, but obviously he wasn’t happy with the way the season went last year. He was trending up when he got hurt at the end. So hopefully he can bounce back, be ready for spring training, and be ready for the opening series.”

■  The signing of versatile free agent Jose Peraza doesn’t officially close the door on Brock Holt returning to the Red Sox. But it sure looks like a sign the Sox are moving on.

Fans won’t like it much. Holt had a .772 OPS the last two seasons and is beloved by many in Boston for his charitable work. But Peraza is almost six years younger, cheaper, under control for three seasons, and offers defensive versatility and speed on the bases.


Hall has difficult decision on Miller

MLB Players Association Marvin Miller was voted into the Hall of Fame last Sunday.AP File Photo/Associated Press

The Modern Era Committee ended 16 years of petty exclusion when it voted the late Marvin Miller into the Hall of Fame last Sunday.

The longtime head of the MLB Players Association was one of the most impactful figures in baseball history and deserved to be inducted when he was first eligible in 2003.

But he was kept out seven times by committees stocked with owners still spiteful that Miller ended what was essentially feudal control of players by organizing a union and using collective bargaining to gain free agency.

In 2008, an angry Miller told the Globe’s Stan Grossfeld he no longer wanted to be considered for election and vowed to never step foot again in the Hall. He asked his two children to respect those wishes after his death.

Now Miller has been voted in and the Hall of Fame faces a difficult decision as to who will represent him.

The induction ceremony is July 26 and perhaps over time somebody from Miller’s family will elect to take part. Or the MLBPA could ask former executive director Donald Fehr, one of Miller’s top lieutenants, to speak.

Extra bases

Baseball, a sport slow to change, is picking up some speed. The drug policy with the Players Association has been amended to include testing for opioids. Positive tests will result in treatment, not suspension. Major and minor league players also will not be tested for marijuana. Before the change, minor league players were subject to testing. Marijuana abuse will be treated the same way as alcohol-related issues. In another positive step, the amateur draft will move in Omaha so it can be held in conjunction with the College World Series. The draft was previously held at an MLB Network studio in New Jersey. MLB also is working on an off-season awards show, something the NBA and NHL have done with great success . . . The Miami Marlins are an afterthought in the loaded National League East. But at least they’re trying. The Marlins traded for Baltimore second baseman Jonathan Villar, absorbing what is expected to be a $10.4 million salary through arbitration. They also claimed first baseman Jesus Aguilar off waivers from Tampa Bay knowing his salary would be $2.5 million. Aguilar hit 35 home runs for the Brewers in 2018 . . . Happy birthday to Mo Vaughn, who is 52. The Hit Dog played for the Red Sox from 1991-98 and mashed. He had a .936 OPS, 230 home runs, and 752 RBIs. My favorite memory of Mo was playing for Seton Hall in the 1987 Big East baseball tournament at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Conn. Facing UConn pitcher and future big leaguer Charles Nagy in the first round, Vaughn hit a majestic home run that cleared the top of a grove of pine trees in right-center field. Vaughn was a freshman that season and hit .429 with 28 home runs in 53 games. He was, as you can imagine, terrifying with an aluminum bat. The Pirates scored 34 runs in three games and Vaughn was the MVP. Vaughn retired after the 2004 season and went on to a career in trucking, real estate, and other ventures. He has attended several Red Sox games in recent seasons.

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