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Tom Werner on The Big Show: 2011 ‘is no bridge year’

11.17.10 at 4:29 pm ET

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, who called into The Big Show from the owners’ meetings in Orlando, Fla., said that he expects the Red Sox to sign a big-name free agent, to acquire a player in a trade and to field a club in 2011 that is better than the 2010 edition that fell short of the playoffs. Werner wanted to make clear that the purchase of the Liverpool Football Club by New England Sports Ventures would not impact the Red Sox, and he said that next season “is no bridge year,” reflecting on comments made by GM Theo Epstein almost one year ago that 2010 was a bridge year in which the club was trying to find players to allow it to compete while waiting for top prospects in the system to mature.

“I want to assure everyone that there is no bridge year here this year. In 2011, we’€™re committed to win,” said Werner. “I think Theo would have been the first to say that he was excited about the prospects we had coming up through our system. I think he made a very rare mistake saying that. After that, we did sign Adrian Beltre. We did sign John Lackey. I think Theo would be the first to say it wasn’€™t his finest Winston Churchill moment.”

Werner said that the organization features a number of strong young players who give cause for hope next year. That said, he also is eager for the team to make an impact in the free agent market.

“I think that we are going to sign, I won’€™t promise, we are going to sign a significant free agent. We are going to make a trade to improve ourselves. There are some very strong players on our squad who are young,” said Werner. “[Ryan] Kalish is strong. We’€™ve already gotten some interest from people who think that Felix Doubront is a frontline pitcher, although I’€™m not saying we’€™re going to trade him. We were hungry to get [Jarrod] Saltalamacchia. I think he’€™s going to have a good year. Jed Lowrie came on at the end of last year and showed that he can play. …

“[But] I can assure everybody who’€™s listening that we’€™re focused on getting back to the World Series this year. … We’€™re going to compete against the Yankees. I think Tampa’€™s going to have a hard time being as strong as they were last year. … We are very competitive. We want to win as much as anybody. We were not happy with the ending of the season. … We’€™ll be stronger this year.”

As for the perception that the purchase of the Liverpool Football Club by NESV might limit what the Sox can do, Werner noted that the Sox had the second highest payroll in baseball in 2010, and that the team is likely to maintain or increase that payout in the coming season.

“First of all, we certainly were not happy with the way last season unfolded. It wasn’€™t a horrible season, but we didn’€™t accomplish our goal of getting to the postseason and eventually winning the World Series. We needed to take a look at how to improve. We’€™re doing that,” said Werner. “We had the second highest payroll in baseball last year. I think there was a sense that somehow because we went after free agents a little bit late in the process that we were somehow cutting back. We are going to continue to have a robust payroll, probably as high as last year if not higher. We are looking for a strong free agent to sign. We’€™ve got our eyes on a couple of people.

“I’€™m concerned about perception,” he added. “Regarding Liverpool, Theo is not involved in Liverpool. … There is a big wall between what Theo is doing and what [CEO Larry Lucchino] is doing and an investment that John Henry and all of us at NESV are making.”

Werner also addressed the team’s decision to bring back David Ortiz by exercising his $12.5 million option for the 2011 season.

“We had a number of conversations with David. We told him how important it was that he remained with the Red Sox. … He’€™s a remarkable individual. We needed him on the team this year,” said Werner. “We hope that at the end of this year we’€™ll make a new deal with David. … I’€™m hoping he’€™s comfortable with [the decision to exercise the option]. It was very important for us that he did come back.”

Read More: bridge year, David Ortiz, gm meetings, Theo Epstein
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