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Ben Cherington on D&C: Red Sox did not come close to dealing for Cliff Lee, trading away Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. in July

08.01.13 at 11:35 am ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

With the dust settling following Wednesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning, saying that even though the team made only one acquisition — that of Jake Peavy — his phone was much, much busier.

“Any starting pitcher that was moved at the deadline, or was even potentially available, we talked about,” Cherington said. “But I think the issue is really — we really felt for a variety of reasons that Peavy was the best fit: the combination of what we gave up, the control we have over him next year and our comfort with him as a person and how he fits into the rotation and clubhouse and all those things. That’s what we were most focused on.”

Cherington explained that there were a number of factors that permanently shifted the team’s focus from Phillies ace Cliff Lee to Peavy, including Lee’s big contract and Philadelphia’s large asking price. Also making a difference was that Lee was scratched from his start last weekend.

Despite Peavy’s injury history, the Red Sox aren’t worried about his ability to pitch down the stretch. He couldn’t say the same about Lee.

“When you’re making a deal in July, it’s a little bit about next year, but it’s a lot about this year,” Cherington said. “You want to make a trade for players who are going to walk in, be active and help your team from Day 1. If there’s any question about that whatsoever, even if it looks like a guy is going to be fine, it’s a hard thing to do. Peavy’s last two outings we’ve been at, we’ve seen him, he’s pitched, he looks healthy, he looks strong. He’ll step right into the rotation and help us this weekend.”

No matter who Cherington was after, the organization stuck to its philosophy of valuing and keeping its top prospects, particularly Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. He would not go as far to say that they were untouchable, but he did give further indication of just how much the team expects the pair to play a significant role in future years.

“I don’t think you say, ‘never, never, never’ to anything, but obviously the more convicted you are of a player and more important that player is to you long-term, the higher the bar is,” Cherington said. “In talking about trading, the truth is we never got anywhere near considering them in a deal this July. There wasn’t one presented that would have made sense. But I don’t think you say ‘never, never.’ Who knows what comes down the pipe?”

Cherington expects the Peavy piece to provide the Red Sox with further depth as it makes its run at a division title, and possibly more, the next few months. It’s a run that the front office didn’t entirely expect the Red Sox to be making in 2013.

As the calendar turned to the summer months July, Cherington and his crew realized this could be more than a transitional or bridge year. He admitted that the Red Sox are “a tick ahead of” their pre-season projections in terms of win total.

“As we got into June and July, the team is doing well and you have to live in the reality and adjust to the circumstances,” Cherington said. “We have, and it’s a good thing. We were able to make a trade … without getting into the core of our best minor league talent.

“The truth is … the main thing that came out of [pre-season projections] was the AL East looked like it was going to be very tight and very competitive, and indeed it is. In fact, the whole division is a bit better than the way we saw it, but still tight and very competitive, and that’s what we expected. It looks like it’s going to be that way the last two months.”

One of the biggest reasons for that surprise is closer Koji Uehara.

“I’m surprised at the guy pitching in the ninth inning recently,” Cherington said. “we obviously liked Uehara for a while — he’s been a really good pitcher in the American League — and when we signed him we were hoping to add depth in the seventh and eight innings with a guy that could be trusted, a strike-thrower, all those things. But he’s been outstanding all year, and especially since he’s moved into the ninth inning. We really benefited from not just the performance, but it just seems like there’s a sense of calm when he comes into the game. He’s such a strike-thrower, he controls the game. He’s in command when he’s out there despite the fact that he’s not flashy with velocity and things like that.”

The following are more highlights from the conversation. To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

On Clay Buchholz’ injury: I’m not frustrated with his effort whatsoever. He’s worked extremely hard, doing everything he can every day to get back out there as soon as he can in a safe way. He had a real injury — that’s not a serious, long-term injury, but it was a real injury — and when it’s a real injury to a shoulder to a pitcher, you have to do it right. You have to take care of it. You don’t know exactly when it’s going to turn a corner, so for him when it first happened and we got the initial diagnosis, we felt confident he could recover from it.

“It’s safe to say we hope it would be quicker, but that doesn’t mean — that’s not a reflection of how Clay is going about it. He’s busting his tail. He wants to pitch. Nobody has as good a year as he was having and doesn’t want to be out there. … We’re confident he’ll be back in there before the season’s out, and we’ll be that much better when we get him.”

On Jacoby Ellsbury’s pending free agency: Jacoby is a huge part of the team, comfortable at the top of our lineup. I think he’s locked in on playing and helping us win games. Those conversations [about a new contract] happen over the course of time — they happen over the offseason, they happen in spring training — but right now … he’s focused on winning, we’re focused on winning, and I think we’ll pick that up at the end of the season. I think Jacoby would feel the same way.

On why Will Middlebrooks is not playing third base in the big leagues right now: “Up until yesterday or two days ago, we had [Jose] Iglesias playing mostly at third and he had been doing a really good job, so we weren’t looking to shuffle the deck. At the same time, when we sent Will down, there were things that he was going to go down to Pawtucket and work at, and he’s done that. He’s worked on everything we’ve asked him to work on.

“There’s a large [pool] of good players in the major leagues, and most of them had some kind of speed bump in their career. Sometimes it’s an injury, sometimes you get sent back down to Triple-A, sometimes it’s just a period of underperformance or whatever. Will had that this year. It’s not really that atypical. He’s a very talented kid. He’s a good kid, he cares. He’s going to be a good major league player. …

“We know he’s going to be a very good player in the major leagues and for the Red Sox again. We don’t know exactly when that’s going to be, but he’s doing what he needs to do to put himself in that position.”

Read More: ben cherington, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee, jackie bradley jr.
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