Red Sox lay groundwork at GM Meetings

Dombrowski pleased with progress as Boston looks to land an ace

Red Sox lay groundwork at GM Meetings

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Red Sox didn't make any deals at the General Managers Meetings, but they've set themselves up for a productive Hot Stove season.

"It really didn't slow down at all yesterday -- went until late last night again," said Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski before heading back to Boston. "And it's still early in the winter. We're making some progress with some conversations. We've had many conversations with free agents. We've had conversations on the trade front. … We'll see what happens."

In a winter the Red Sox need to make some impact additions to their pitching staff, the active market rich in starters should work in their favor.

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By the time the Winter Meetings begin on Dec. 7 in Nashville, Tenn., Dombrowski hopes to already have a new pitcher or two in the fold.

"We've had many more conversations at these meetings then we've ever had. That is unequivocal," Dombrowski said. "As far as what comes from here, you never can tell. A lot of times you think you're close and you're knocking on the door, and it doesn't happen right away. There's still a long way to go.

"The potential is there. I don't get any sense that people are saying, 'I'm just going to wait until the Winter Meetings and see how this goes.'"

Free agency could be the way for the Boston to go when it comes to finding that ace. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann are on the open market, and their agents are in the process of lining up suitors.

Dombrowski was coy when asked if there are certain factors he uses to identify which starting pitchers are the ones worthy of the long-term investment.

"Sure. And I would not disclose it," Dombrowski said. "In reality, yeah, there are things that we feel about that and there are some characteristics that we feel some guys have a better chance of holding up. I don't know the fool-proof method by any means. But sure there is. … We do a lot of work on that from a scouting perspective and from an analytics perspective."

When he was with the Tigers, Dombrowski re-signed Justin Verlander to a seven-year, $180 million contract in March 2013. The Red Sox avoided that type of commitment with Jon Lester in the spring of '14.

"Well, I think any time you're given that type of long-time commitment to a pitcher, it's never an easy decision," Dombrowski said. "I also think if you're going to sign him, [a long-term deal] is a necessity. You would prefer less years guaranteed -- we would have at that time [with Verlander]. But it wasn't going to get done unless we went there.

"We felt that that risk at that point of doing what we did from an extra basis was worth it. We felt he'd age well. He learned how to pitch, even though he had the good fastball. He had secondary pitches that were plusses. I think you started to see in the second half of last year with how that settled in and how he made those adjustments."

There's a strong chance Dombrowski will similarly invest in a pitcher this winter. It's just a matter of which one.

If acquiring an ace is Dombrowski's top goal, bringing in a power reliever or two is a close second. The free-agent market is thin on relievers, so the Red Sox might be more likely to find one in a trade.

Boston has Major League-ready pieces it could trade -- Jackie Bradley Jr. is one player multiple teams have asked about -- and a strong crop of prospects. Dombrowski can only construe it as a good sign that so many other teams are asking about the Red Sox's assets.

"We have a lot of players that people are asking about," Dombrowski said. "We have a lot of Major League and Minor League players they ask about. Again, at some point, we're going to most likely do something that is painful one way or the other. But if you're trying to get quality talent, you're going to have to do that at some point."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.