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Winning by waiting? Examining Red Sox’ approach to John Farrell talks with Blue Jays

10.20.12 at 12:06 am ET
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Sure, the Red Sox could have contacted the Blue Jays to start talking about John Farrell on the day they fired Bobby Valentine. But what sense would that have made?

The discussion of compensation between the two teams inevitably was going to represent an exercise in leverage. At the beginning of the offseason, the Red Sox had none and the Blue Jays had plenty.

After all, if the Red Sox had decided that they wanted Farrell and initiated talks without an alternative, then the Jays could name the ransom for their manager. Moreover, in the early days of the offseason, the Jays were in a position where they could move on from Farrell and still have plenty of time to conduct a managerial search of their own for his replacement. And so, even if they had decided that they wanted to move on from Farrell, they could have proceeded in negotiations as if that was not the case. Additionally, had the Sox pursued Farrell at the start of the offseason, all of the candidates whom they interviewed would have looked like nothing more than a backup plan to the guy that they really wanted.

But as days and weeks elapse, the pendulum swings further in the Red Sox’ direction. The Sox, after all, have interviewed a solid group of four candidates — Tim Wallach, Tony Pena, Brad Ausmus and DeMarlo Hale. They have a list of credible alternatives to Farrell. The Jays, at least publicly, do not.

If the Jays try to shoot the moon in their compensation request, the Sox can say thanks but no thanks, suggesting that they like Farrell, but not so much more than they like the candidates with whom they’ve talked. And, if that means not making a deal, then the Sox can say when introducing any of the other four managers that they were so impressed that it limited their desire to bring back their former pitching coach. Even if compensation talks hit an impasse, the Sox comfortably can move on and get another manager in place with reasonable alacrity — likely before the end of the month, and possibly before the start of the World Series.

Meanwhile, if the dynamic between Farrell and the Jays has become sufficiently frosty that Toronto is comfortable letting him walk, then the urgency increasingly will fall upon the Blue Jays to conclude any negotiations with the Sox in order to get something of value in return for their manager. Toronto, after all, will need to conduct its own search for Farrell’s replacement if they do end up parting with him. And so, if they want to avoid finding themselves in the same uncomfortable position that the Sox occupied last offseason, when the pursuit of a manager limited the amount of time that the team had to form its coaching staff and to execute its offseason plan, the Jays will be eager to resolve Farrell’s situation as early as possible so that they can have a thorough search for their next manager without impairing the rest of their offseason.

All of that being the case, the fact that the Sox got their managerial search underway before they initiated serious conversations with the Jays about Farrell would seem to have done nothing to diminish their hand in negotiations for the manager and, if anything, strengthened it. Whether that actually results in Farrell being named the Red Sox’ manager remains to be seen.

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