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Ben Cherington on deadline: ‘I was hoping to do more’

07.31.12 at 9:10 pm ET
By

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington (AP)

In the end, the Red Sox made just modest tweaks to their team at the trade deadline. There is, of course, the potential for the acquisition of Craig Breslow to become a significant move, particularly if it frees Franklin Morales to show anything like the flashes he displayed in the rotation earlier this summer. But for now, even by the Sox’ admission, the activity level was modest.

“I was hoping to do more and do other things to help the team, but in the end, we’d prefer to not do things rather than make decisions that end up hurting us in the long run,” said Sox GM Ben Cherington. “We did feel empowered to do something bold. We just didn’t find something bold that made sense for us. We explored a lot of things that were bold and even maybe got close to a couple of things, but we just didn’t feel like there was anything of the big, bold variety that made sense for us right now.”

The team feels that it achieved at least a modest upgrade in the acquisition of Breslow. The Sox acquired Breslow in exchange for right-handed reliever Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik.

Podsednik, who performed brilliantly in a call-up earlier in the summer, was redundant given the wealth of Red Sox outfielders, particularly those who are either left-handed (Ryan Kalish) or better from the left than right side (Daniel Nava). And, with Andrew Bailey now starting a rehab assignment, Daniel Bard (five straight scoreless appearances) showing progress and Alex Wilson likewise getting closer to big league readiness, the Sox had comfort with their right-handed relief options, thus making Albers expendable.

And so, Breslow will either give the Sox a third left hander or he will confer upon the team the freedom to move Franklin Morales back from the bullpen to the rotation while keeping two southpaw relievers (Breslow, Andrew Miller). Note: Josh Beckett left Tuesday’s game with an injury, with Morales entering almost immediately afterwards, so it would appear that he stands a good chance of slotting into Beckett’s spot in the rotation.)

“We’ve been looking for another lefty. We felt like earlier in the year when we had three lefties in the pen, it was when our pen was really rolling the best,” said Cherington. “It gives [manager Bobby Valentine] a chance to match up and use all three guys and then certainly it also gives Bobby some flexibility for the rest of the year if we need to use Morales as a starter. Sort of, hopefully, a couple of benefits to the move. We felt like Albers has done a great job for us. We felt like we had enough other right-handed options that we could afford to flip the righty for the lefty.”

The Red Sox were caught somewhat in between their desire to upgrade and the reality of their standing in a crowded American League wild card race at the trade deadline. With five teams ahead of them in the race for the second and final wild card spot, the Sox tempered their ambitions for an upgrade, recognizing the potential to do considerable damage to the team’s long-term outlook in pursuit of short-term gain that might have been fruitless.

“We worked on a lot of things, bigger concepts, smaller concepts. We got close to a couple things. In the end, we just didn’t feel it was right for us, factoring everything in. This is the direction we went. We’ll move forward,” said Cherington. “It was an unfamiliar position, going back to late last week. You’re trying to balance the desire to make the team better and give the guys in the clubhouse every chance with the reality of where we are. As good as we feel about the group of our players that we have, you need to do the math and figure out the cluster of teams ahead of you, and what you have to do to pass all of them. We have to weight that against the desire to make the team better.

“It was an additional layer in the decision-making process this year as opposed to the past, where it’s been more, we’ve been clearly buyers. But we pursued a lot of different things, some small things, some bigger things, but in the end, this is what we did.”

The Sox likely had the prospects in the system to make a deal had they chosen to do so. However, the team wanted to keep intact its best minor leaguers — players like Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Henry Owens – and so that necessarily rendered the club’s trade ambitions more modest.

“There’s a core group in our farm system that we really didn’t want to touch, that we feel represents the next generation of core impact players and we know how important those guys are going to be,” said Cherington. “We know, on our best teams, the ’07 and ’08 teams, that’s been a big part of those teams, is bringing core impact players into it and we want to protect that opportunity.

“We started to do that a little bit this year with [Will] Middlebrooks and [Felix] Doubront and we need that to continue. There were a core group that we wanted to protect. I wouldn’t say that protecting our farm system got in the way of a deal. I think we’ve always tried to protect the farm system. It was just really, the opportunities this year that we explored, things that we could have done, just didn’t feel like it was quite right.”

Ultimately, the Sox felt that the right course was to stay the course with its pre-deadline club largely intact. The team has maintained for most of the year that, if performing to its potential, the 2012 Red Sox are capable of a run that will carry them into a far better position for the playoff stretch. Cherington and the front office embraced that notion at the trade deadline, refusing to sacrifice the present by removing pieces from the big league roster, but at the same time, mindful of the very real possibility that an upgrade would by pyrrhic, and so refusing to sacrifice key pieces of the future.

Ultimately, the team’s fortunes will be determined less by what happened at the deadline and instead on the roster that the Red Sox constructed during the offseason but that has only rarely been together on the field.

“We’re happy with what we did, and most importantly, we’re happy with the guys we have here. It’s really more of a reflection on them,” said Cherington. “We believe in the group. We feel like we have a as good a chance as any of these teams, in this cluster of teams in the wild card to go on a run and win a lot of games in the next two months.”

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