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Red Sox roundup: Sox await Ortiz decision; trade candidates; the shifting pitching plans

12.07.11 at 6:52 pm ET
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DALLAS — It is the last night of the winter meetings in Dallas. A year ago, the Red Sox swore that things were going to remain quiet on the way out of the annual gathering in Orlando, only to reach agreement with Carl Crawford on his seven-year, $142 million contract hours after GM Theo Epstein suggested that he was putting the final touches on a relatively boring meetings.

This year, perhaps there will be another bolt from the blue. But certainly, GM Ben Cherington did not give that impression in his meeting with the media. Instead, he suggested that the past four days in Dallas have been more or less an information-gathering exercise that will lay the groundwork for future activity on the pitching front.

The details of his daily session with the media:

David Ortiz and his agent, Fernando Cuza, have not told the Sox whether or not he will accept salary arbitration, despite numerous reports suggesting that the DH will do so. Reliever Dan Wheeler has informed the Sox that he will decline arbitration.

–Cherington said that the team has made some headway in terms of its understanding of the market for pitching, but said that, as expected, the winter meetings have been more of an exercise in information-gathering than acquisition.

“We’ve made progress, we’ve certainly made progress as far as understanding more what it’s going to take to acquire pitching of all sorts of flavors and I think we felt like that’s what this was going to be about for all of us. It was going to be more information gathering than execution, most likely, these days in Dallas,” said Cherington. “It’s been good in that regard. We’ve got a good feel for what’s out there, what it might take and we’ve just got to keep balancing the options and figure out one or more than one that makes sense. … We have a good sense of what’s out there and what it would it take to acquire pitching in all different varieties.”

Cherington said that there have been some unexpected names that have emerged and added to the pool of available players.

–Cherington said that the presence of versatile pitchers such as Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront on the roster was quite helpful in the team’s pursuit of pitching options. That said, he also noted that there are challenges as the Sox contemplate the possibility of moving multiple pitchers who had limited innings loads last year (Bard through 73 innings; Aceves logged 114 in the majors and eight more in the minors; Miller tossed 65 in the minors and 65 more in the majors; Doubront had 77 in the minors and 10 in the majors) into the rotation.

“It’s part of the calculus, certainly, figuring out how the pitching staff works, not just can they do it from a talent standpoint, but here are the innings we have to fill over the course of a 162-game season and do we have enough to fill it?” said Cherington. “There are guys that have done it. C.J. Wilson did it. Texas has done that a couple times now. There’s other guys that have done it. We think those two guys would have a chance to do it because they keep themselves in really good shape and prepare well and they’re talented. But it’s certainly a factor.”

The Sox are having Bard and Aceves (as well as Doubront and Miller) train for starters’ workloads this offseason so that all will be in position physically to help the team either out of the rotation or bullpen.

–The Red Sox appear to have some potential surplus of versatile infielders in Marco Scutaro (currently the anticipated everyday shortstop), Jed Lowrie and Mike Aviles. Scutaro and Aviles are both right-handed; Lowrie is a switch-hitter with superior splits while batting right-handed.

That, in turn, has led all three into the rumor mill as potential trade candidates for the Sox. However, while Cherington noted that there might be a perceived surplus, he felt no compulsion to deal any of the three players.

“We definitely think they can all be on the team and have important roles,” said Cherington. “Scut, certainly going into the year, is our everyday shortstop based on what he’s done. The other two guys are really capable guys and have played on an everyday basis at different points in their careers. Good offensive players, some versatility – both play third, they can play second. We sent Aviles to Puerto Rico to play some right field the last couple weeks. I suppose that will add a little bit more.

“We like all three guys and right now plan on all of them being on the team. There’s interest in a lot of our players. Typically, when you have a little bit of surplus going in, that’s where teams focus their attention.”

–The Sox did not engage in substantive discussions with left-hander Erik Bedard before he signed a free-agent contract with the Pirates. The 32-year-old was 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA in eight starts for the Sox, averaging fewer than five innings an outing. He made just three ineffective starts in September (5.25 ERA, 12 innings), and his lack of reliability contributed to the Sox’ collapse.

–Cherington and Valentine both praised the dialogue that is taking place inside of the Red Sox’ suite at the winter meetings. Cherington lauded Valentine not just for his baseball acumen but also for his open-mindedness, a trait that the GM said would be important as the Sox work to build a pitching staff with some potentially creative solutions, such as the conversion of relievers like Bard and/or Aceves to the rotation.

–As much as the Sox would like to pursue pitchers who come without flaws (particularly from the durability standpoint), the team recognizes that, given its financial limitations this winter, it’s more likely to pursue pitchers who come with some imperfections and hope to capitalize on someone outperforming any perceived limitations.

“Guys that have some imperfections, whether it’s a skill or durability or whatever reason, those guys cost less,” said Cherington. “We need to, as I’ve said before, certainly on the pitching side of things, we need to find some guys that look like they have a couple hickeys but we could do something with and help them be better.”

Read More: alfredo aceves, ben cherington, Daniel Bard, David Ortiz
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