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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington: Sox ‘can kind of let the market come to us’

12.16.11 at 5:04 pm ET

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an appearance on “Inside Pitch” on the SiriusXM MLB Network Radio, discussed his efforts to build depth in his pitching staff while dealing with what he characterized as less payroll flexibility than the team had in other recent seasons. As the Sox explore both free agent and trade options, Cherington acknowledged that the Sox have been in contact with a pair of free agents, starter Joe Saunders and closer Ryan Madson.

“We’€™ve had conversations with the agents for both guys as well as several other free agent options. We’€™ll continue dialogue,” said Cherington. “We don’€™t have as much room in our payroll as we’€™ve had in previous years, but we’€™re trying to figure out ways to improve our pitching staff. Maybe we have to be a little more creative this winter in doing that than in some other winters, but we’€™re not ruling out anything. We’€™ll certainly continue dialogue with a handful of free agents and then obviously also the trade front.”

Cherington added that the team recognizes the need to build significant starting depth. It’s efforts this offseason are focused in that direction, rather than on top-of-the-rotation options.

“We’€™re still focused on adding to the pitching staff, looking at free agent options and looking at trade options in order to do that,” said Cherington. “We feel pretty good about where we are at the top of our rotation. We’€™re looking to build depth and quality depth. When you look back at 2011, that’€™s really where our problem ended up being. We just ran out of depth. We were running into situations late in the season where we were just hoping to get into the fifth inning with a starter, and that makes it hard to win. We placed so much of a burden on the bullpen. So that’€™s really been our focus of this offseason.”

That feeling, in turn, underscored why Cherington and the Sox did not feel compelled to involve themselves in an aggressive pursuit of Japanese star Yu Darvish, who was put up for posting by the Nippon Ham Fighters last week.

“In this particular offseason, our focus, with Beckett, Lester and Buchholz in place at the top of the rotation, we don’€™t feel like we’€™re backed into a place where we need to break the door in for a top-of-the-rotation starter. If we can do that and it makes sense for us, then we’€™ll certainly do that. We’€™re always looking for ways to do that. But with Beckett, Lester and Buchholz here in our rotation, we’€™re in good position there and can kind of let the market come to us a little bit,” said Cherington. “So the timing wasn’€™t right for us on Darvish, but we certainly have great respect for him as a pitcher and it looks like he has a chance to be a good one in the big leagues.”

–Cherington reiterated that newly acquired reliever Mark Melancon is viewed as a potential closer for the Sox. That isn’t set in stone as the Sox continue to explore the market, but interestingly, Cherington suggested that it would be Melancon — and not Daniel Bard, who is currently preparing to enter spring training in competition for a starting spot — who would handle the end-of-game duties for the Sox.

“As I told Mark on the phone when I talked to him, we believe he can close. We believe he can close for us,” said Cherington. “There’€™s certainly a scenario where he is our closer. If the season opened tomorrow, that’€™s what he’€™d be doing.”

–Cherington acknowledged that the team has interviewed former Marlins and Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and Rays Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen, while adding that the team has talked with “several” candidates beyond the two that have been publicized. Cherington spoke highly of new manager Bobby Valentine‘s creativity and open-mindedness in the construction of the pitching staff.

–On the subject of the unresolved compensation talks between the Sox and Cubs related to the departure of former Boston GM Theo Epstein, Cherington joked, “I think sometime in the next 15-20 years we should have a resolution. I think at some point this offseason we will put that to bed. … We have a basic understanding of about what the level of compensation should be. We differ by degree. At some point that will be resolved. It’s not really holding up anything else.”

Read More: ben cherington, brad arnsberg, Hot Stove 2011, joe saunders
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