In his first offseason as president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski opted not to wait for the Winter Meetings to make dramatic improvements to his roster.
Elite closer Craig Kimbrel was acquired from the Padres before Thanksgiving. Ace David Price agreed to terms on a record-setting contract (seven years, $231 million) with Boston on Tuesday. Chris Young signed a two-year deal to mash lefties and provide depth all over the outfield.
This gives Dombrowski the luxury of picking and choosing ways to shore up the club during the Meetings, which start Monday in Nashville, Tenn.
"I think our positional players are basically set. You can always get better," said Dombrowski. "We'll be open minded going into the Winter Meetings. We're in a position that I think our major moves are done. But when you go to the Winter Meetings, you can never tell what happens."
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 11 a.m. and the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 10 at 10 a.m.
Bullpen: Though Kimbrel is the perfect centerpiece to what should be a much-improved bullpen, recent history has demonstrated that a collection of power arms late in games is a key ingredient to winning championships. Dombrowski will continue to survey the landscape of relievers, both via free agency or trade.
Solidifying the rotation: Price is the new ace for a team that didn't have one. But how does the rotation shape up after that? Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley and Henry Owens are all under contract with the Red Sox. Will Dombrowski try to off-load one of his starters to help fill another need on the club? Will he consider converting Kelly to the bullpen? Will the Red Sox try to acquire another upper-echelon starter to team with Price? These are the types of questions that could be answered in Nashville.
Who they can trade if necessary
RHP Buchholz: The toughest part of Buchholz's 2015 season is that he was pitching lights-out baseball at the time he suffered an elbow injury just before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, in some ways, that has been the story of Buchholz's career. Just when something starts to go in a positive direction, there is a downturn. The righty will earn $13 million in 2016, and the Red Sox hold an option on him for that same price in '17. He could become appealing for a team that can't acquire one of the big-name starters in free agency or trade.
LHP Miley: An innings-eater with a club-friendly contract, Miley should generate decent interest on the trade market if the Red Sox decide they don't want three lefties in their rotation.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr.: The Red Sox consider Bradley perhaps the best defensive outfielder in baseball. However, they still aren't sure what type of production he will give them over a full season. Bradley is also the type of chip who could land the Red Sox another impact arm if they decide they need one.
Even after the Red Sox sent four prospects to the Padres for Kimbrel, they still have a farm system with many players other teams covet.
MLB.com ranks Yoan Moncada (infielder), Rafael Devers (infielder), Brian Johnson (lefty starter), Andrew Benintendi (outfielder) and Michael Kopech (right) as the top five prospects in the system. It's highly doubtful Dombrowski would part with Moncada or Benintendi. Anderson Espinoza (righty), Deven Marrero (shortstop), Michael Chavis (third base) and Sam Travis (first base) are other players the Red Sox are very high on.
Rule 5 Draft
The Red Sox already face stiff competition at most spots on their 25-man roster, so it's hard to see the upside of making a Rule 5 Draft selection.
Big contracts they might unload
Sure, the Red Sox would trade Hanley Ramirez if the right opportunity came along. The slugger struggled offensively, defensively and with his health in his first year with the club and now faces another position switch. But those reasons also represent why it will be hard to get much value for a player who is owed $66 million over the next three seasons.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval also struggled in Year One after signing a big free-agent deal (five years, $95 million) to come to Boston. Much like with Ramirez, the Red Sox would certainly be willing to discuss Sandoval in trade talk. If they traded him, Brock Holt could become the third baseman.
With Price's $31-million-per-season salary coming on the books, Dombrowski might not mind sending Buchholz's $13 million figure to another team. But the Red Sox would probably only do that if they got another pitcher to replace him.
For the first time in their history, the Red Sox are on pace to have a payroll north of $200 million. With the addition of Price, the Red Sox have just over $180 million committed to 13 players. This speaks of ownership's strong desire to rebound from consecutive last-place finishes in the American League East. It will be interesting to see if Dombrowski tries to shed some payroll before Opening Day. Or better yet, whether he's willing to bring in another significant salary to upgrade the club.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.