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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington on Mike Napoli’s fit, balanced lineup and where Sox offseason goes now

12.03.12 at 8:31 pm ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — So it appears that players will accept the Red Sox‘ money. Mike Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal on Monday, as the Sox secured one of the top offensive options on the open market. If there had been any misgivings about whether or not the Sox would have a hard time convincing players to join them after a 69-93 season, that no longer seems like a limitation.

“It has been a question that’s been asked, but it hasn’t been that hard to answer,” said Cherington. “I think players and agents understand that, you know, despite what happened this year Boston is Boston. We’re committed to having a winning team. We have a history of having a winning team. Sure, they ask the question to make sure that they understand the direction we’€™re headed, but it hasn’€™t been an obstacle from what I can tell.”

More highlights from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington‘s Monday evening media session:

— While he said that Mike Napoli‘s agreement with the team could not yet be announced, he did talk about how Napoli might fit into the team.

“We’€™ve made some progress and he’€™s a guy who is getting on base, has power, could be a good fit for our  ballpark,” said Cherington. “We knew when we made the dodgers trade, and moved [Adrian] Gonzalez, we were going to have to try to find a way to replace that offense and as we got into the offseason, we understood that that was probably going to have to come from a combination of guys and maybe not one guy. So that’€™s part of what we’€™ve been trying to do this offseason is add offense at a number of spots on the roster so we’€™re hopeful we can continue to do that. … He could catch, he can play first. If he’€™s here, we imagine he’€™d do some of both but that would be up to our manager to figure out.”

— Thus far this offseason, the Sox have added three right-handed hitters in Napoli (pending his physical), David Ross and Jonny Gomes. Cherington said that, ideally, he’d like to add a left-handed hitter (or, presumably, a switch-hitter) to the mix.
“We would like to find some balance,” he said. “I’€™d rather have the right players then just add a left-handed hitter just to say we added a left-handed hitter. So I guess it’€™s a balancing act. We’€™d be hopeful that we can find some ways to add a left-handed bat somewhere to complement the current crew.’€

— The Sox have a notable stockpile of catchers, including Ross, Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway, along with 40-man roster members in the minors in Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez. Still, despite the fact that six of the team’s 40-man spots are committed to the position, Cherington said that the Sox aren’t in a position where they have to trade a catcher.

There’€™s certainly a very viable scenario where all the guys that are here are here in spring training and we figure out opening day based on the guys that are here,” he said.

Lavarnway, Butler and Vazquez all have minor league options.

— The Sox still have to find an outfielder. Cherington couldn’t say whether the team was close to addressing such a need.

I’€™m not sure I can classify the progress but we’€™re working on it. we’€™re working on free agent alternatives, trade alternatives, different flavors of ice cream. We’€™d like to add in that area, no doubt,” he said.

He said the same was true of the team’s effort to add a starting pitcher. He noted that the cost for starters — especially ones who come with team control — is considerable.

“If a team is going to move someone, especially if there’€™s any length of control, asking for a lot, as we would if we were talking about someone,” said Cherington. “It’€™s steep and I think teams, and I put us in this category, are trying to balance that vs, the free agent options. The free agent options, some of them might cost a little more money but require less talent, so we’€™re just trying to balance those options, and weigh those options.’€

— Cherington said that the Sox wouldn’t rule out signing a free agent who would cost the team a draft pick, especially considering that the team’s first-round pick (No. 7 overall) is protected. If the team signed a player such as Nick Swisher who requires draft-pick compensation, the Sox would lose their second-round selection (No. 44 overall).

“It’€™s a factor. It’€™s not the only factor. For the right guy, whether it’€™s this offseason or a future offseason, we factor that in but it’€™s not a roadblock,” said Cherington. “[But] we’€™ve done well in that area of the draft, the second round, so we don’€™t take that lightly. You’€™re still giving up value at that point.”

— The Red Sox have compromised some of their run-prevention emphasis from a couple years ago in order to add offense in the form of players like Napoli and Gomes. But, Cherington noted, the team does have a need to improve its offense after scoring 4.53 runs per game in 2012, a mark that ranked fifth in the American League.

“It’s important to be strong defensively at certain spots on the field, certainly up the middle more than anywhere. And at Fenway, as you guys know, right field is pretty important, too. Just trying to strike that balance,” he said. “It would be great, we’d love to have nine guys who are Triple Crown winners and Gold Glove winners, but it doesn’t work that way. We want to prevent runs, but we want to score runs, too, and we didn’t do that as well last year, certainly relative to what our standard has been. We didn’t do things in our lineup that we’ve done in the past with getting on base as much and wearing out pitchers as much. We’re trying to do that, too, as much as we’re trying to prevent runs.”

— Cherington said that he couldn’t say if the team was more likely to add a shortstop via trade, free agency or neither. The team feels that, in the right lineup, Jose Iglesias could be ready to be a meaningful contributor in the big leagues, but that won’t stop the team from pursuing upgrades.

“Jose is at a point we think where he can help a major-league team because the defense has a chance to be good enough, if the rest of the lineup is strong enough, that he can be a part of a good team. If he’€™s given that opportunity, he’€™s going to have to earn it in spring training,” said Cherington. We’€™ll see, if there’€™s a clear way to get better at that position and help our team overall this offseason, we’€™ll pursue that. I don’t think we’€™re wed to one particular direction or the other.”

Read More: 2012 Hot Stove, ben cherington, jose iglesias, mike napoli
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