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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington: ‘Don’t feel like we need’ to make a move

01.25.12 at 5:40 pm ET
By

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington (AP)

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an interview on The Big Show, said that the Red Sox face a budget but not a mandate to stay under the $178 million luxury tax threshold for 2012, explained the rationale for the trade of Marco Scutaro to the Rockies and suggested that, while the Sox are exploring options (including starting pitching options) to reinforce their roster, that he is comfortable with where the team stands with its pitching.

Cherington suggested that the team is weighing whether there is more to be gained by using their available resources to sign players now or whether the team might be better served to maintain financial flexibility for potential deals either during spring training or leading up to the trade deadline.

“We would be content going [into spring training] with the pitching staff we have right now. Again, any decision you make, when it comes to acquiring a player, whether a free agent or a trade, there’s that decision and then there’s the opportunity cost of doing that. There’s something, by doing that, that you may not be able to do. Those are the things we weigh,” said Cherington. “If there’s something that helps the team now, that we think makes sense and is the right value, then we’ll do that. If not, we’ll keep our doors open, remain flexible and consider things during spring training and during the year.

“Teams evolve,” he continued. “Teams very seldom look the same way in July or at the end of the year that they do in spring training. In large part, that’s because baseball is such a difficult sport. It’s such a grind, it’s such a long season. It’s hard to predict exactly what you’re going to need. It’s hard to predict how players are going to react or respond. Sometimes flexibility can be a good thing.

“The Cardinals, in spring training last year, were getting beat up because they hadn’t extended Pujols and they lost Wainwright in spring training. Things worked out pretty well. That’s not to suggest it’s always going to happen that way, but things change a lot in baseball. We need to stay nimble and be prepared to react to things that we think make sense. If that’s next week, then it’s next week. If it’s a month from now, then it’s a month from now. If it’s July, then it’s July. We’ll just take every opportunity as it comes.”

As for reports that the Sox have made a contract offer to Roy Oswalt (and reportedly have also made an offer to Edwin Jackson), Cherington spoke in generalities.

“There’s a lot out there. If we acquired every player we are rumored to be on, we’d need, like, an 80-man roster. I’d never comment on a negotiation, specifically,” said Cherington. “We’re talking to a few different guys, we’re considering different things. If there’s a way to make our team better, whether it’s the rotation of the pitching staff or whether it’s another part of the team between now and spring training, we’ll do that.

“We don’t feel like we need to do that. We feel like we’re in a good position. If spring training started today, we like the mix that we have and we’ll have plenty of contenders for the end of the rotation and the last couple bullpen spots.”

To listen to the compete interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page. Here is a transcript of other highlights of the interview:

Are the Red Sox under orders to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $178 million in 2012?

No. We’ve been over it in the past. When there’s a compelling reason to go over it, we’ve gone over it. That could be the case this year. I don’t want to talk specifically about our payroll, but there’s no orders, necessarily, to stay under it. We’re going to look at every deal as it comes and make a decision on the merits about whether it puts us in a better position to do what we need to do for 2012.

Is there an advantage to staying under the threshold in 2012, the first year of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

That’s essentially always been the case. There’s always a benefit to staying under, because if you’re staying under, you’re not taxed.
We have been over in some previous years, not by much, but we have been over in some previous years. Again, there’s no mandate to be under this year, but we’ll continue to look at our payroll in the context of deals we may or may not make, and just do what we feel puts us in the best position to win this year and be flexible.

Was the trade of Marco Scutaro financially motivated?

To some degree, because when you have that kind of money opening up, in addition to whatever other resources you have, it allows you to do other things with the team. With that move, what we felt is we had a couple guys in [Mike] Aviles and [Nick] Punto who we thought could help us get close to giving us what Marco did. Marco was a good player here, and I expect him to be a good player in Colorado, but we felt like we had some options there and then we could reallocate that money elsewhere.

We did part of that with Cody Ross. As you guys know, we’ve wanted to add a right-handed bat this offseason. With [Carl Crawford's] injury [torn wrist cartilage that recently required surgery], we felt that protecting our outfield mix a little bit was important.

We’ll see what happens from here. If there are opportunities to make the team better before we get to spring training, then we’ll consider those if we get the right value. If not, we’ll go into spring training or even go into the season and just know we have a little bit of flexibility and be able to be nimble to make moves as we feel they’re appropriate, and the ones we feel are the best values.

Is prospect Jose Iglesias a consideration at shortstop?

We really like Iggy as a long-term option for us. He’s a really good defensive player. Right now, you never say never, but right now we feel like he may benefit from more time in Triple-A. But certainly he’s part of the long-term picture of the Red Sox.

Punto has been a very good utility player. He has played more than that at times in his career. Certainly, when he’s out there, whatever time he is out there, he’s done a good job.

Aviles has been an everyday player. He came up and was an everyday player for Kansas City and did a really good job. He got hurt. While he got hurt and was making their way back from that, they acquired a shortstop in the Greinke deal and he was sort of supplanted to some degree, and we picked him up in a trade, as you know, last summer. We need to get him into spring training and watch him, but he’s certainly capable of being an everyday player. We feel he has done that in the past, has done that at the big league level. We feel he’s an important part of the mix. We’ll keep our eyes out. If there are further ways to protect the shortstop position, we’ll consider that.

I understand the timing of these things. We haven’t made moves like this so much in the past, so close to spring training, where you’re moving a player, but we felt like in this case it put us in a better position to do what we needed to do both now and in spring training and perhaps during the year for 2012.

It is unusual that the Sox are making choices between a starting shortstop and, for instance, signing a free agent starter.

First of all, Marco was a good player here, a very good player. He was a great addition to the team. When we picked up his option, we felt like the number on his option, the salary on his option, was a reasonable amount, so we picked it up. We had every intention of him being on the team. We got to the point in the offseason, it happened to be after the [Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Associaton of America annual dinner, when Cherington said that picking up Scutaro's option represented a significant offseason move for the Sox], and we felt like there was an opportunity to reallocate that money in a more efficient way, for the team. We may not use all of it now, but over time, whether it’s now or spring training or during the season, we feel like, given the options we had at shortstop, we feel like we can use that money.

There’s a difference between saying we have gone over the luxury threshold and that there’s no mandate not to do that this year, there’s a difference between saying that and saying we don’t have a budget. We do have a budget. They’re two different things. They’re not unrelated to each other, but they’re not the same thing.

Is the Red Sox’ budget for 2012 under the luxury tax threshold?

I’m not going to tell you what our budget is. I just told you there is no mandate not to go over the luxury tax threshold. And we have gone over it in past years.

The Scutaro deal at least creates the perception of a mandate on the luxury tax.

You’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about the luxury tax threshold and budget. Those are two different things. I understand the timing of the Scutaro deal grabbing peoples’ attention. … The bottom line is, we have, we made a deal that we felt put us in a better position to do what we needed to do to address needs, whether it be now, during spring training, during the season, putting us in a better position to do what we need to do for 2012.

Winding back the clock a bit, what we have to remember is that our ownership has made incredible commitments to this team. We made two very significant commitments [the signing of Crawford and trade for Adrian Gonzalez, who signed a seven-year, $154 million extension] last offseason, and have made significant commitments in successive offseasons going back two years, that have put us in position to be very competitive, to be an incredibly talented team, to be a team that we feel is going to be very competitive in 2012, but with a substantial payroll.

At some point, you have to start making choices as to how you allocate the resources you have. It is not to suggest that our ownership is not willing to go over the tax threshold, because they have in the past and there’s no mandate not to do that this year. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a budget – just as every team has a budget. We’re working within that budget, and that budget is significant. It’s plenty to put a very good team on the field. We’re going to be a very good team. We’ll keep working at it. We have the means to do things, whether it’s now or in spring training or during the season. We’ve got to wait and let those things come to us and find the value that makes sense for us and for the team.

What is the status of compensation talks with the Cubs about Theo Epstein? Was it difficult to negotiate with Theo, thus resulting in the matter being put in the Commissioner’s hands?

Without commenting specifically on the issue in terms of what the status is now, I think it is more challenging to figure out and isolate what the value of an executive is, especially given these circumstances, than it would be for a player. You trade players all the time. That’s our job, to assign a value to a player. We’re constantly examining that. In this case, it’s different. It’s harder to assign a value.

Obviously, we feel there are certain things, and our ownership feels there are things, that indicate we should get a certain level of value for giving the Cubs the right to hire Theo. Theo and the Cubs have a different perspective. It’s not atypical for reasonable people to disagree. In this particular case, because we’re not talking about a direct trade of players, it is a little bit more challenging to narrow in on what the fair value is, so perhaps in this case we’ll get some help with it.

How do you make the case to the Commissioner’s Office? Do you produce a book along the lines of what one that agent Scott Boras might produce for one of his clients in praise of Epstein?

It hasn’t gotten to that point yet. If it gets to that point, I’m sure both the Cubs and Red Sox would have a chance to express their point of view and be heard. It’s not something that I’m spending a lot of time on these days.

Is a multi-year deal still a possibility for David Ortiz?

When he accepted arbitration, that sort of focuses the conversation much more on a one-year deal. That’s what we’re focused on right now. In this case, you hear the word arbitration, and sometimes that can carry an adversarial connotation to it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. In this case, we have a guy we care about a lot, who’s a great player, has been a great player, a great hitter, who we believe in moving forward. Obviously we wanted him back. That’s why we offered him arbitration. So really it’s a matter of figuring out what’s a fair number for 2012. One way or another, he’s going to be on our team, in the middle of our lineup. We’re really glad he’s here, and hope he’s here for a while.

Read More: ben cherington, David Ortiz, edwin jackson, luxury tax Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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