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GM Ben Cherington on what Red Sox still have to do

01.11.13 at 9:23 am ET

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an interview on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show on Thursday night, said that while the team has not yet resolved its need to add a first baseman given the unresolved nature of negotiations with Mike Napoli, the club is otherwise relatively well defined. The team’s primary focus, aside from concluding its search for a first baseman (with Cherington noting that the team continues to talk with Napoli and is “hopeful” of getting a deal done), mostly appears to be the addition of roster depth.

“Most of the heavy lifting is probably done. We feel pretty good about the options that we have on most parts of the roster,” said Cherington. “We feel pretty good about where we are. We’€™ve tried to improve as many parts of the roster as we can this offseason. I would expect that there would be some additions to major league camp. Whether that’€™s roster or non-roster remains to be seen, but I would expect we’€™d add some competition to major league camp before we get to Fort Myers, guys who are not with us right now.”

One area where the Sox might look to add more competition is in starting rotation depth options. Right now, the rotation in Triple-A Pawtucket looks set to feature prospects with limited big league experience. Of the four starters who appear almost certain to open the year in Triple-A, right-hander Rubby De La Rosa has spent just a few months in the big leagues with the Dodgers, while right-handers Allen Webster and Steven Wright and left-hander Chris Hernandez have never pitched in the big leagues. (Left-hander Drake Britton, whose performance in the spring will determine whether he starts the year in Double-A or Triple-A, also has never pitched in the big leagues.)

Thus, the Sox may look to find a veteran starter to complement the ensemble of prospects in the Pawtucket rotation.

“That’€™s an area we’€™ll look at between now and spring training and perhaps even during spring training. If we can add some depth, we’€™ll do so. We’€™re considering some things there. Nothing imminent,” said Cherington. “It’€™s one of those things you have to keep looking at even when you get to spring training. We’€™ll see. There’€™s still some guys out there. We’€™d like to add some depth in that area. We do think we’€™re quite a bit ahead of where we were 12 months ago from the internal guys you mentioned (De La Rosa, Webster, Wright, Hernandez), and not just the guys you mentioned but some others that we’€™re pushing. We think we’€™ll have some better options that will emerge and be ready to be viable starting rotation depth, if not at the very beginning of the season than in the early season. If we can add to that with someone a little more experience in some way, we may try to do that.”

Some other notes from Cherington:

On the status of talks with Napoli: ‘€œThere’€™s nothing to update. We’€™re, I think as everyone knows, one of our goals this offseason was to add offense at first base. We haven’€™t been unable to really do that officially yet. We’€™re still talking and when you’€™re talking, there’€™s hope for a resolution. But nothing to report right now. … We’€™ve had dialogue. It’€™s one of those situations, out of respect to Mike and the process, I’€™m not going to get into detail. Whenever we’€™re talking and there’€™s dialogue, it means we’€™re hopeful of being able to do something but we just don’€™t know yet. We’€™ll see how it plays out.’€

On alternatives to Napoli, at a time when players like Adam LaRoche and Lance Berkman have already signed elsewhere: “Until something is done, you have to consider other options so we’€™ve had to do that and we’€™ve continued to consider other ways to improve the team, whether it’€™s at first base, or elsewhere. At this point, we just haven’€™t found anything that made sense to us in the sort of big picture. So that’€™s where we are. There’€™s no one particular player that’€™s available or not available that would have changed the course of our offseason. We’€™re just examining and evaluating things as they come. Certainly when you have a position you’€™re trying to improve on, until it’€™s improved upon, you have to continue to consider other options. It’€™s fair to say as you sort of get deeper into the winter, the free agents start to go off the board. You can look at trades and other ways to do things. It remains a focus. We’€™re still hopeful we can do something to improve ourselves in that area before we get to Fort Myers.’€

On whether the team has any players on the 40-man roster who represent first-base alternatives besides Mauro Gomez: “Gomez can play there. We’€™ve talked about, even sort of outside of this conversation, about Napoli, we’€™ve talked about looking at some other guys at that position and different ways to look at that position. Gomez is a guy we believe in. We believe in the bat, we believe he can help us and no matter what we do, he’€™ll be in spring training and getting at-bats at first base and we’€™ll see what he can do.’€ (Cherington declined to specify which players on the 40-man roster might work at first base this spring.)

On the health of the roster, including players like David Ortiz who are returning from injury: “Anybody who was in any way limited at the end of the season, we have kept a very close eye on this offseason. … We don’€™t have any plans [to bring anyone along slower], David included.” (Cherington did note that the team would re-evaluate that outlook constantly throughout the spring, particularly when players report to Fort Myers.)

On how advanced talks with free agent Josh Hamilton became before he signed a five-year, $125 million deal: “We did meet with him. We had, I guess, a handful of conversations. He’€™s a terrific talent, certainly. When you’€™re talking about a player of that caliber, it’€™s a question of fit ‘€“ whether it’€™s a fit for the player and the team, and then it’€™s a question of contract, dollars. In that particular one, it just didn’€™t quite line up. All the stars didn’€™t align for us on that. We felt like it was worth going through the exercise and enjoyed getting to know Josh and had a couple good conversations, but ultimately, he found the right fit for him and that was out in Anaheim.”

Read More: ben cherington, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, mauro gomez
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