SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In May and again in late August, Dustin Pedroia acknowledged the very real possibility that he’d played his last baseball games in a Red Sox uniform.
After he underwent a joint preservation procedure in August, he spoke of his hope to ensure the quality of his life after baseball while offering candor about the fact that such a time might be coming sooner rather than later.
But over time, that outlook has changed.
Though his catastrophic knee cartilage injury and the difficult recovery from multiple surgeries to address it limited him to six games in 2019 and nine over the last two seasons, Pedroia feels differently now than he did when he shut down his efforts to return to the field last season.
“Every indication I’ve gotten is that he’s feeling good and intending on playing,” said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. “I know he’s working pretty hard to make sure he’s in as good a shape as possible.”
How did the 36-year-old’s outlook shift so drastically from where it stood when he seemed almost resigned to the end of his career just a few months ago?
“I think just perhaps how he feels about things has changed since it was pretty raw at that point [during the season],” said Red Sox GM Brian O’Halloran. “He’s been working out and doing well by his own account, and we’re going to talk to him and learn more. I don’t think that anything specifically changed. I think it’s more that time has passed and he’s been feeling better.”
The Red Sox recognize that, after two years in which Pedroia proved unable to remain on the field, they can’t bank on his availability for the start of 2020 — or, in all likelihood, for any other point. That said, so long as he remains convinced that there is a chance for him to return to the field and make a contribution, the team welcomes it.
“I would never think of it as a problem to have Dustin Pedroia on our 40-man roster and be concerned about planning around him,” O’Halloran said. “It’s good to have him on our roster, and hopefully he continues to progress and is in the mix.”
Bloom said that he and other members of the Red Sox front office ran into the agents for Mookie Betts on Monday, and that the team planned to check in with them — and numerous other agents — again during the GM meetings. While Betts’s willingness (or, potentially, the lack thereof) to discuss a long-term deal one year before he becomes eligible for free agency would appear a significant factor in identifying the path to sustainability, Bloom said that Betts’s interest in an extension wasn’t necessarily a key factor in roster construction.
“The more clarity you have on that the better off you are, but I don’t think it’s an end-all-be-all, especially at this time of the offseason,” Bloom said.
Mitch Moreland led the Red Sox in games played (85) at first base last year, and Brock Holt led the team in games played (59) at second. Both are now free agents. Rookie Michael Chavis ranked second on the team in playing time at both positions (48 games at first, 44 at second), but barring a decision to employ a three-man infield seems unlikely to occupy both positions simultaneously next year. Likewise, with Rick Porcello on the market, the team is without a fifth starter.
But at this point in the offseason, with three months till spring training, the Sox are taking a broad, fluid view of their roster. They do not view it as necessary to slot specific players in as identified options to address positions or areas of the roster that lack a clear big league option.
“At this early stage at areas where there isn’t an obvious incumbent, I don’t think we’re really thinking about [the specific players in the organization who would address a hole] in mid-November,” Bloom said. “I would say to look at it in terms of Need A, Need B, and Need C might be a little limiting for us. To zoom out, we know our objective is to prioritize sustainability, prioritize competitiveness, not just this coming year but also in the long-term. To think of things through that lens rather than trying to arrange an order of needs is how we’re approaching it, and it should open up more options for us.”
Bloom, at his first GM Meetings with the Red Sox, made clear that he isn’t taking a needs-based look at the team’s offseason (get a first baseman, second baseman, and starting pitcher) so much as he’s considering a broad array of possibilities to reshape the roster. Given that approach, he said that the team doesn’t have a specific priority list or desired order for its offseason plans.
Red Sox prospect C.J. Chatham, who has spent his pro career at second and short, started taking fly balls in the outfield this offseason with an eye toward increasing his versatility. However, the timetable for his outfield debut got accelerated Monday in the Premier12 international tournament, when an injury resulted in Chatham moving to left for the eighth inning. Chatham, a 2016 second-rounder who is almost certain to be added to the 40-man roster later this month, hit .298/.333/.408 with Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket this year . . . Sox righty Tanner Houck will start for Team USA against Japan on Tuesday in the Premier12 Super Round . . . Chih-Jung Liu, a 20-year-old righthanded pitcher out of Taiwan whose fastball has cracked triple digits, passed his physical, making his deal with the Red Sox official . . . Former Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez, 36, told Enrique Rojas of ESPN that he’s joining the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League in hopes of continuing his career and getting another opportunity in the big leagues.