LAS VEGAS (CBS) — The Baseball Winter Meetings have concluded, so here are some random thoughts and notes as we head towards a holiday break:

-Dave Dombrowski is either playing poker or is really content without a proven closer to start 2019. He continues to say that Matt Barnes and/or Ryan Brasier can be the guy for the 2019 Red Sox, which is fine. However, I think the Sox would be better off either re-signing Craig Kimbrel or, if the money gets really ridiculous for him, signing a Zach Britton, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, or Adam Ottavino. That way you have a proven vet and you have Barnes and Brasier as 6-8 inning options.

– I’m buying that Chris Sale will be fine to start the 2019 season. Why? Because there’s no way the Sox medical staff would have let Sale pitch as much as he did in the postseason if he was badly hurt. Had to be a bout with tendinitis or something similar.

“We think he’s fine. And I would tell you; I would not lie,” Dombrowski said of his ace in Vegas. “That’s just the way he is. We feel comfortable he’ll be ready to go in Spring Training. Our training staff, our doctors have cleared him 100 percent.”

Dombrowski, Alex Cora and Dana LeVangie would not let Sale pitch if there were any issues. Period.

– Some “raise the eyebrows” stuff when Dombrowski was asked if it would be a huge leap to envision Blake Swihart as the starting catcher?

His answer: “I don’t think so… We definitely think he’s capable of being a starter.”

Swihart has been getting rave reviews for how quickly he’s developed as a big league catcher even though he’s only started 100 games over his first four Major League seasons, including 78 in his first year. His ability to block balls, throw out runners, and call a game has improved. He’s athletic and the more at-bats he gets the better and better he should hit.

It sounds like Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez will get traded. Vazquez would have been the most likely one but he got into real good shape post-injury last year and was fantastic catching in the postseason. Tough one though because Leon, who didn’t hit at all, was great with the pitching staff.

– Alex Cora made quite the announcement at his media presser at Mandalay Bay when he said Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi will flip-flop in the Sox lineup in 2019.

As for the numbers,here they are:

2018 Benintendi

Vs. RHP: .387 OBP, .877 OPS
Vs. LHP: .301 OBP, .694 OPS
Leadoff (21 games): .381 OBP, .979 OPS
Batting 2nd (120 games): .364 OBP, .809 OPS

2018 Betts

Vs. RHP: .427 OBP, 1.037 OPS
Vs. LHP: .471 OBP, 1.207 OPS
Leadoff: .439 OBP, 1.083 OPS
No games batting 2nd

Career Benintendi

Leadoff (21 games): .381 OBP, .979 OPS
Batting 2nd (186 games): .353 OBP, .794 OPS

Career Betts

Leadoff (461 games): .373 OBP, .912 OPS
Batting 2nd (33 games): .360 OBP, .790 OPS

Looking at these numbers makes you realize just how special last season was for AL MVP Mookie Betts. A look at the career numbers show that Benintendi could excel in the leadoff spot, while Alex Cora says Betts should get more RBI opportunities in the two-hole.

-Reports surfaced during the meetings that the Sox may be willing to trade players such Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rick Porcello. That day here are a few phrases that Dave Dombrowski threw out at his media scrum:

“I always listen to everything. You can always get better. I know long-term, we’re not going to be able to sign all of our players, but our main focus is 2019 trying to repeat.”

“We’re not looking to move anybody, or driven to move anybody, but you’ll always listen.”

“[The Winter Meetings] bring a lot of conversations around. I’m not closing the door on not doing anything, I’m always open to new ideas.”

Does he feel like he has to bring in new faces? “Just for sake of that? I don’t feel compelled to shake things up just to shake things up.”

-Dombrowski and Cora are hoping Dustin Pedroia will be good to go as the team’s starting second baseman to open the 2019 season. They’ll know more in January when he begins to run. The biggest obstacle for Pedroia will be all the movement a second baseman makes. He’s the first MLB player to have this kind of surgery. NBA players have had it and came back from it, but his movement with the knee is different.

I’m rooting for a guy that gets a bad rap. He’s as good a guy in the clubhouse as you’ll find. Loves the game, shows up early and wants to compete. He was also constantly communicating with Cora throughout the regular and postseason. They talk all the time which is why Pedroia could make a good coach/ manager some day.

– Sign me up with those that are saying Major League Baseball needs to have a deadline for deals and signings so that the Winter Meetings are fun. Look at the NFL, NHL, and NBA and the craziness of the first few days of free agency. I like Mike Lowell’s idea of a deadline where if a player is not signed then they can only sign a one year deal with a player-only option for another year. There should be some free agency deadlines in place too. That way, as Dave Dombrowski noted, all these Baseball folks get some time off.

– As we hit the holiday season, keep in mind that we are roughly two months away from Red Sox pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers.


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