Red Sox bullpen again the focus as baseball's Winter Meetings begin


LAS VEGAS -- Oh look, more bullpen talk.

For almost a year now, stretching all the way to last offseason amidst the J.D. Martinez-Giancarlo Stanton hoopla, the Red Sox ‘pen has been there for you. Baseball’s 2018 winter meetings, which begin in full on Monday, will bring more of the same -- if the Sox follow the script, anyway. 

A return to the usual discussion is only natural, in part because Dave Dombrowski checked off a huge part of his wishlist when he re-signed Nate Eovaldi. Dombrowski, Eovaldi and Alex Cora are set to offer some remarks to the media on Monday morning, giving a Red Sox flavor to the meetings’ beginning.

What’s left afterward for the Sox? Same as it ever was.

Bullpen fatigue may be setting in. Yet, when examining the defending champs, there’s no area of need that stands out the same way. The braintrust is monitoring relievers in both the trade market and free agency.

The relievers looked like they needed an addition midseason in ‘18. And before the season. Of course, they wound up performing marvelously in the playoffs en route to a title. Now, with Craig Kimbrel’s free agency perhaps holding up the market, there is reason to be curious: How will the Sox fill his shoes at closer if he leaves? Doesn’t it make sense for all involved to bring back Joe Kelly for one of the late innings?

One matter does seem certain: At some point, there will be a new face or two joining the Sox’ relief corps for 2018. Even if Kimbrel goes and Kelly stays, one has to assume the Sox will add someone. 

But the Sox can also wait with the market saturated with ‘pen arms, thereby dragging out -- once again -- the evergreen discussion of who will be warming for the eighth.

There is offseason life in other areas for the Sox, and that’s not only in regard to monitoring the Yankees. Perhaps at the meetings the Sox will make progress toward an extension for one of their stars rapidly approaching their own free agency. Or, maybe Dombrowski pulls out a blockbuster that actually sets up the Sox better for the future.

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