By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
With spring training a little over a month away, the Red Sox still do not know who will be closing games for them in 2019.
But if you believe President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, the team doesn’t sound ready to spend big money on a closer.
Are you listening, Craig Kimbrel?
Dombrowski told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Sox haven’t planned on making a significant investment at the back end of their bullpen. The club had the highest payroll in baseball last year, went well over the luxury tax threshold, and will likely enter 2019 with the game’s most expensive team again.
“Craig did a great job for us, he’s a Hall of Fame reliever,’’ Dombrowski said of Kimbrel, “but we have not anticipated having a large expenditure for a closer.’’
It remains to be seen if the Red Sox plan to stick with that approach. Kimbrel’s free agency activity seems quiet, and Dombrowski could wait the market out and try to re-sign Kimbrel below his asking price.
But the Sox seem reluctant to spend at this time with major free agency decisions on the horizon in the next two years. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all eligible to hit the market by the end of 2020, and J.D. Martinez can opt-out of his contract after next season.
Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this week in The Athletic that the Red Sox would like to keep Kimbrel, but are wary of what handing out another big-money contract could mean for them.
“The Red Sox still want Kimbrel, but their desire to retain him is complicated by luxury-tax concerns and the pending free agencies of several star players,” Rosenthal wrote.
Dombrowski seemed to echo those sentiments to Nightengale.
“We can’t keep them all. We’re going to have to make some hard decisions,’’ he said.
So for now, the checkbook is closed for the Red Sox. We’ll see if they stick to that plan.