Club hopes to extend Sale’s success next year
RED SOX NOTEBOOK
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Red Sox are not in the market for an ace and are not looking to trade the one they already have, but the club has discussed tweaking the way Chris Sale is used next season.
“We’ve talked about it,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said during yesterday’s second session of the general managers meetings. “We haven’t sat down and talked to Chris about it as of yet. I think it’s something we’re looking at from an internal perspective, but realistically, it’s a challenge. It’s something we need to do, but it wasn’t something we weren’t cognizant of last year.”
Sale led the majors in innings pitched in 2017, and that workload seemed to take its toll as the left-hander struggled through the month of September and pitched to an 8.38 ERA in his two playoff appearances in the AL Division Series against Houston.
That rocky final month might cost him when the Cy Young Award is announced tonight. Sale led the league in strikeouts but finished second to the Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber in ERA, WHIP and opponents’ batting average. The Sox ace led Kluber in each of those categories before the All-Star break.
“We never brought him back on short rest,” Dombrowski said. “Anytime we (had the option to give) him a sixth day, we gave him a sixth day. He threw 215 innings, it’s not like he threw 250. I mean, 215 innings is a lot, but it’s the fewest ever that’s led Major League Baseball in a particular year, the number of innings pitched. But I think we still need to explore all those things.”
MLB is adding scheduled off days next season.
“I think we at least have to be aware that those off days early can pay off for us later on,” Dombrowski said. “So, we talked about that, but we really haven’t gotten more specific.”
Brentz in line to help
After two years with Sox, veteran outfielder Chris Young is a free agent, and the team isn’t necessarily in the market for a replacement as a backup right-handed hitter. Dombrowski is leaning toward Bryce Brentz, who hit 31 home runs at Triple A last season and was added to the 40-man roster earlier this month.
“(Brentz) has a leg up,” Dombrowski said. “We’re not really looking to go sign somebody at this time. Could somebody later on, if they’re a person that can add some roster depth, somebody so good that they fall to you, would you be open to that? Sure. But right now, we like (Brentz).”
Although he hit right-handers quite well in the minors, Brentz, 28, was especially potent against Triple-A lefties and had a .957 OPS against them. The 2010 firstround pick has big league experience, but this was a breakout year, and he currently leads the Mexican winter league in homers . ...
Brentz isn’t the only Red Sox first-round pick with an opportunity play a role in 2018. The team also is looking for 2011 firstrounder Blake Swihart to compete for a utility role as a catcher who can also play first base and the outfield corners.
The switch-hitter is out of options, so he’ll have to make the team out of spring training or be exposed to waivers. He was the regular catcher for a while in 2015.
“We like him a great deal,” Dombrowski said. “We think he can hit. So ideally, we have to find a spot somehow. ”
Otani a hot topic
There’s still plenty of talk around the meetings about Japanese standout Shohei Otani. Though he hasn’t been posted yet, the pitcher/slugger is expected to be available, with most teams preparing some sort of sales pitch.
“The way we’re situated, we’re very open to any type of cultural background,” Dombrowski said. “We have a lot of individuals that speak Spanish. We have a lot of individuals that speak Japanese. We have somebody who speaks Korean. Within our system, Taiwanese. So, you try and create as much flexibility as you can there to try and be open.”