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Red Sox may not plunge into deep end of free agent pool

11.09.11 at 7:35 pm ET
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After Indians bench coach and Red Sox managerial candidate Sandy Alomar Jr. concluded his media session (more on Alomar’s candidacy and the status of the Sox’ manager search in a bit), Red Sox GM Ben Cherington offered updates on a number of fronts regarding matters related to the team. Among them:

–Cherington suggested that the Red Sox had no plans to make elaborate pitches to woo free agents. While some players may enjoy the red carpet treatment, Cherington suggested that given the composition of the club, he did not foresee the Sox pursuing the sort of high-profile free agents who would demand that sort of courting gesture.

“Some of the higher-profile free agents have come to expect that sort of treatment, and we’€™ve done it in the past with guys. This offseason, as I mentioned, is going to be more about fixing what’€™s under the hood than it is about buying a new car,” said Cherington. “We’€™re going to make moves and we’€™re going to build pitching depth and we’€™re going to be active, but I’€™m not sure that right now is the time to go through that exercise given the kind of targets we’€™re going to have.”

–In terms of the targets whom the Sox are considering, Cherington suggested that the team is examining the market broadly for ways to improve, rather than limiting itself to its most obvious areas of need (starting pitching, bullpen, right-handed outfielder).

‘€œAcross the board,” Cherington said of the scope of the team’s free agent explorations. “It’€™s really early. There have been a couple of quick strikes, but mostly, it seems mostly to be guys going where there is a clear personal preference to be in one spot, and they’€™ve gone and done it and not had to worry about it anymore. The vast majority of the market is going to see what’€™s out there and that process unfolds over time and it’€™s still very, very early in the offseason.”

–Cherington said that he has traded messages with David Ortiz and that he has spoken with the designated hitter’s agent on multiple occasions, and that he has also been in touch with the agents for closer Jonathan Papelbon since the expiration of the period of exclusivity to talk to a club’s own free agents. Cherington suggested that, because Ortiz has a smaller pool of clubs with whom he can talk (since there is no DH in the National League), the conversations with the slugger have been more specific than the ones with Papelbon.

“With David, [there has been] continued dialogue with his agent. I’ve actuality traded messages with David but I’ve spoken with his agent a couple times,” said Cherington. “I think with David, I think it’s in some ways a little bit more clear in terms of what his market could be. It’s a little easier to have the conversations earlier in the offseason and start to get into what we might be able to, so we’re starting to do that. I still don’t know when there will be a resolution, but there’s been more dialogue because I think it’s a little bit easier to frame what the market probably is.”

In contrast, since 30 clubs could theoretically have interest in Papelbon, conversations with the 30-year-old are at a less advanced stage. That, in turn, has made the conversations about the right-hander somewhat less substantive than the talks about re-signing Ortiz.

“With Pap, it’s a little bit more difficult, because more options in terms of the National League, more unknown about what’s out there,” said Cherington. “So [there's been] less dialogue with him, but keep the door open certainly and we’ll talk again I’m sure next week.”

Cherington dismissed the idea that the Sox expected a courtesy call or right of refusal on Papelbon if he is close to an agreement with another club.

“Those things can happen fast sometimes,” said Cherington. “He doesn’t owe us a call. I don’t think we expect that. We expect we’ll keep the door open and keep talking. But if he gets something that he really wants and there’s a deadline on it he can take it.”

Cherington said that he has not been in direct contact with Papelbon, but he thought it likely that he would reach out to the pitcher at some point. The GM said that he has traded messages with free agents Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, but hadn’t connected with either to talk yet.

–Cherington said that he continues to talk with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about the compensation that the Sox will receive for the departure of their former GM. He suggested that the two will see if they might be able to sort it out by or during the GM Meetings, which will take place next week in Milwaukee.

“Theo and I have spoken a couple of times since [last week]. We traded some ideas and don’t have anything to report yet, but there’s at least been a couple more conversations,” said Cherington. “The Commissioner’s Office is giving us some leeway on it if we feel like there’s progress being made. I think we’ll give ourselves until next week. We’ll see each other in person next week. At least give ourselves until then to see if there’s something we can’t figure out.”

–The team will soon announce the restructuring of its front office (chiefly promotions, as members of the Sox’ baseball operations group move up the ladder under Cherington) as well as some hires to the organization. Cherington said that one such hire was former Royals pitching coach Bob McClure, who will help the team in a hybrid role of pro scout and special assistant to player development. In the latter capacity, McClure will work with Sox minor league pitchers.

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