Dave Dombrowski. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
OXON HILL, Md. — As it turned out, the signings of Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran weren’t all that big a deal to the Red Sox, after all.
And that bit of news was just part of the eyebrow-raising that Dave Dombrowski’s meeting with the media elicited Monday evening.
“There were not,” said the Red Sox president of baseball operations when asked if he was engaged with the pair of designated hitter candidates, at the MLB Winter Meetings. “We were aware of everything taking place, but we weren’t engaged in a situation to do that, because I really, [assistant general manager] Brian O’Halloran’s handled a lot of the phone calls. He’s kept me abreast of what’s going on. But we really had made the point that before we got into where we were going to allocate our dollars. We wanted to do that for a setup guy and see where that takes us and then make a decision from there.”
But what about that replacement for David Ortiz?
As turns out, Dombrowski and Co. are all in on finding that lock-down eighth-inning guy, and evidently not all that concerned with bringing in another bat.
The plan right now is to put the majority of the Red Sox’ efforts into finding that late-inning relief pitcher, one, as Red Sox manager John Farrell explained, “I think our main goal is to identify a guy so it’s not so much a matchup situation. Turn it over to one guy in the eighth inning, regardless if he’s facing left-handed or right-handed hitters.”
So, what it means is that the Red Sox will be waiting to see what kind of bat falls into their price range after allocating resources for the reliever. It could even get to the point where no hitter of significance is brought in to fill a role most everybody thought would be a chief priority for the team heading into the offseason.
“I can’t say for sure, but, yeah, perhaps that would happen,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t think so. We’d bring somebody in, I think, but I can’t tell we’re 100 percent sure we’re going to do it because it’s going to be dependent upon who we can find and the dollars they’re looking for at the particular time.”
— Dombrowski spoke to the issue regarding the new luxury tax threshold, and the Red Sox’ perceived desire to not go over for a third straight season.
The new limit stands at $195 million, which the Red Sox stand about $15 million shy of. But with a desire to have some flexibility for in-season acquisitions, that actual budget for offseason moves might be in the vicinity of $8 million.
“No, no. No. I don’t want to use the word ‘mandated,’ because that’s wrong” said the president when asked if ownership has instructed him not to go over the limit. “But I have an awareness of the penalties. I mean, I got the memorandum of understanding and the summary on Saturday night. Here they are if anybody has five minutes that you want to spend reading. It’s 133 pages of memorandum of understanding that is very difficult. I have read through it. I have skimmed through it, though, I don’t know that with a fine-tooth comb. I did make notes on it that I thought were very important so I understand going into the meetings where we stand. Obviously the basic agreement still has to be ratified. That doesn’t take place until December 15. But I think there’s an awareness that I wanted to have, and I think when you look at it. But I can’t tell you that last year that we went into the winter meetings I would’ve preferred to be below the CBT, too, but we just went above it because we thought that was the best way to win a championship at the time.”
— Dombrowski said the Red Sox aren’t locked into acquiring just a lefty hitter, or even a player who solely plays the infield.
That conversation led to one of the continued focal point for the Red Sox’ offseason: Getting production out of Pablo Sandoval.
“I think we’ll always strive to have a balance,” Farrell said. “I think the one thing that we ran into this past year was the three right-handers at the top of the order. We also produced the most runs in baseball. I think if you look at the way we stacked the lineup when we got into the postseason, it was a little bit of a mix moving Bogey to the six hole and sliding David up to the three hole. I think for us, one of the things, as I look at the lineup for next year, one of the keys for us is going to be Panda. That’s not to put it all on him, but here’s a left-handed bat who is a proven guy and has every opportunity to make a major impact on our team this year.”
— Dombrowski revealed the list of Red Sox players on the preliminary rosters for the World Baseball Classic.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Hanley Ramirez.
USA: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., David Price, Rick Porcello (who has already said he will not participate)
NETHERLANDS: Xander Bogaerts
VENEZUELA: Eduardo Rodriguez, Sandy Leon
ITALY: Andrew Benintendi
— While Dombrowski wouldn’t comment on the Red Sox’ level of interest in Japanese star Shohei Otani, a 22-year-old who excels at both pitching and hitting and is scheduled to be eligible to play in the major leagues after the 2017 season, the president did offer an interesting comparison.
“I can’t speak specifically for him because I haven’t seen him play enough myself,” he said. “We have reports on him. Do I think a player can be a two-way player? Yeah. It could happen. Is it very difficult? Yes, but i’m not saying there’s not a player out there that can’t do that because some of them are rare, rare guy – Babe Ruth could do it. He was pretty good. It can be done.”