The holidays are here and we’re feeling the spirit as we look ahead to what the Boston Red Sox should be wishing for going into 2019:

1. Reliable late-innings reliever

The Red Sox don’t necessarily need a closer. Craig Kimbrel’s 5.91 ERA was worst among any postseason pitcher and that didn’t impede the Sox in 2018. But it would be nice for Manager Alex Cora to have another reliable late-inning option for what he considers the most difficult part of managing: calling on the right relievers.

As of Friday, four of the top 10 relievers available in free agency already had agreed to contracts, about as lucrative as expected, with four teams that are expected to contend. Andrew Miller agreed with the Cardinals for two years, $25 million, Joakim Soria agreed with the A’s for two years, $15 million, Jeurys Familia signed with the Mets for three years, $30 million, and Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers for three years, $25 million.

That leaves four of the top dogs still available in Kimbrel, Zach Britton, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino. The Red Sox president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski. said at the winter meetings that the Sox don’t plan to be “overly aggressive with big expenditures, I don’t think, for an elite closer.”

If that means they’re shopping in the bargain bin, Kelvin Herrera, Cody Allen or Brad Brach could be the ticket.

The Sox bullpen would then include one of them plus Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier in the late innings, with Heath Hembree, Steven Wright (if the knee holds up) and Hector Velazquez providing reliability in the middle innings. Not the worst bullpen in the league but certainly nowhere near the best.

Perhaps Dombrowski will rely on his midseason prowess to upgrade what again will look like the weakest part of the team.

2. Contract extension for Chris Sale

This one seems imperative for the Red Sox in order to compete beyond 2019. If Sale walks, a starting rotation of a 35-year-old David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t going to take the Sox to the promised land in 2020. Money must be spent on a starting pitcher at some point; it would be hard to do better than Sale. Time to get it done.

And while we’re at it, here’s wishing Sale’s shoulder issues aren’t nearly as bad as the secretive measures in which he and the team have tried to keep it a mystery would indicate.

3. Eighty games from Dustin Pedroia

Any more than 80 games and we’re being greedy. But ’tis the season for giving, and we’re giving Pedroia the benefit of the doubt that he can bounce back from an ultra-rare knee operation to provide some service at second base in 2019.

We’re projecting at some point he’ll need a breather and could miss a month during the season for rest and maintenance. We’re projecting him to play, at most, four to five times a week. Add it all up and you get 80 to 100 games from the franchise icon, and that’s something the Red Sox would take straight to the bank, especially if he’s anywhere near as productive as he was in his last full season in 2017 (.293 average, .763 OPS).

More importantly, he deserves a better ending to a terrific career than this.

4. A smooth arbitration process with Xander Bogaerts and/or Mookie Betts

The Red Sox say they know which players they prioritize over the others when it comes to contract extensions for those soon to be free agents. Clearly, Betts must be high on the list. Where Bogaerts lands is yet to be seen, but the Sox have no clear replacement at shortstop in the minors.

This being Bogaerts’ last year of arbitration before free agency, let’s hope it’s a smooth one and he’s paid handsomely to create some positive vibes before he has a decision to make at season’s end.

Betts clearly wants to set records as it pertains to his arbitration salaries – and he deserves to. Is it worth a fight from the Sox side to save a few bucks now when he’ll be a free agent after 2020?

5. Some trade value for Blake Swihart

We won’t ask for a lot here. Just something to remind us that the Red Sox once were so protective over Swihart that he became somewhat of an untouchable, back when talks of a Cole Hamels trade to Boston were hot before the 2015 season.

Of course there’s been a transition away from players like Swihart, who at his absolute ceiling is an average defensive catcher and above-average offensive catcher. At his floor he’s below-average defensively and average on offense. Players like that don’t survive long in the majors these days. He needs a chance to play every day to show what exactly he’s going to be.

In 2018, major league catchers posted a .676 OPS, the worst OPS by MLB catchers since 1992. Teams want defense from that position in the modern game. Swihart is known as an avid worker, but it’s been years since he’s caught regularly and it’s unfair to think he’ll suddenly become a defensive stalwart.

He is what he is – a useful utility man who can catch if needed and whose bat still has some upside left to explore with everyday playing time. If he’s staying in Boston, the Sox would be wise to transition him to more of a standard utility role and get him used to playing the infield. Otherwise a rebuilding team ought to take a chance on him, and the Sox need to find someone in return who can really play second base. Or maybe an extra reliever.

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