Ben Cherington and John Farrell get back to work for 2014
|11.04.13 at 4:43 pm ET|
For front offices, the schedule of the baseball calendar is typically relentless. There’s little time to sit back and reflect. Something else always looms on the horizon.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell, five days removed from celebrating their World Series triumph, are now fully invested in offseason planning, trying to amass the team that can prove a worthy successor to the 2013 championship club. They had, by Farrell’s sort-of-joking account, about half a day to enjoy the fruits of their labors from the past season (with Farrell receiving a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama on Monday afternoon). The offseason is now well underway, with teams already able to call free agents and teams having to decide whether to make one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offers to free agents in hopes of either retaining them or, should they leave, getting a draft pick as compensation for their departures.
“The game doesn’t stop. The baseball calendar doesn’t stop just because we played till nearly Halloween,” said Farrell. “I think we take on this next challenge and look to address it the best we can, and that is, assemble the best team possible, continue to know that we have good young players coming and in time, we’re definitely going to be eager to get on the field in Fort Myers again. The day after we finished the World Series here, walked into the coaches room and [third-base coach Brian Butterfield] and [bench coach Torey Lovullo] and the other guys were in there and were like, ‘What do we do now?’ You know what we do? We go back to the drawing board. That means we don’t skip any steps along the way. That’s what we’re doing right now with Ben’s work and constructing the roster. But that will be no different when we take the field in Fort Myers. It’s not to rest on our laurels. It’s not to say that we’ve already accomplished something. We have to get back to the mindset we took to the field Day 1 with this year and look to build that through the entire season next year.”
Cherington and Farrell addressed some of what lies ahead in a 35-minute media session. Among the details:
— Cherington confirmed that the Red Sox would make one-year qualifying offers to free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. If any of those three accept, they would be under contract to the Red Sox for $14.1 million in 2014. If they reject the qualifying offer, they will be free to negotiate with all 30 teams, including the Sox.
— Cherington said that the Sox have degrees of interest in bringing back each of those three players as well as the team’s other three free agents (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John McDonald and Joel Hanrahan), though what becomes of that interest remains to be seen.
“Really with all of our free agents, there’s interest in every one of them. I also think it’s unlikely that every one of them will be back, just because that’s the nature of the game. It’s difficult to do that,” said Cherington. “There’s all sorts of permutations and combinations that could work and we’re going to have to, again, keep a conversation going with all of them and also with alternatives and see how the market shapes up for them and ultimately see what makes sense for us. … In a vacuum, we’d like to have all of them back. We’ll just have to see how it goes and we’ll continue to talk to all of them and see how the market shapes out.”
— The Sox’ most obvious needs are defined by that pool of free agents. The team doesn’t yet have defined solutions for next year at catcher, first base, shortstop or center field. Internally, the team has options at all four positions, with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, Xander Bogaerts a candidate at shortstop, Ryan Lavarnway at catcher (with Christian Vazquez having reached Triple-A at the end of the year) and internal options like Daniel Nava, Mike Carp and Will Middlebrooks for first base.
Cherington said that the team wouldn’t want to go with prospect solutions at all of those positions.
“Obviously the four position players free agents we mentioned played key roles, we’re going to continue to talk to, and all four of those spots have to be determined in some way,” said Cherington. “In a lot of those spots, we have, we think, very strong, viable alternatives in the organization, younger player. I think there will be — there’s probably a preference on our part not to commit to being young at all four of those spots. Maybe there’s a combination somewhere in there. We’ll just have to see. But those four, the free agents and then those respective positions are things we have to work on. We have a number of guys returning to the bullpen, the makings of a good bullpen but we’ll probably look to add to that group somehow. Not sure yet how or what sort of roles and what flavors, but we’ll try to look to add to that group. And then really just be opportunistic, be prepared for opportunities to come our way, to seek opportunities if we can find ways to give us a better chance to improve in an area, even if it’s not obvious, we want to be prepared to do that.”
— The team views Bogaerts as being big league-ready. That’s not quite the same as saying he will be in the big leagues on Opening Day in 2014, but it’s close to it.
“He certainly looks like he’s ready to play in the big leagues,” said Cherington. “We’ve obviously thought very highly of him for a long time. You don’t know exactly when the stage is going to arrive, but he looked very comfortable on it when he got on it. We’ll see. Very early in the offseason, and there’s plenty of time this offseason and in spring training to figure it all out. We’re glad he’s on our side.”
— Farrell was slightly more reserved in his assessment of Bradley in center, suggesting that he’s answered any questions about his defensive readiness while characterizing his offense as having improved.
“I think defensively, he’s an everyday major leaguer now,” said Farrell. “I think we all recognize that the first year for most players, particularly position players, there’s a transition he’s going to go through, and along the way comes some bumps in the road. I think Jackie went through those. The one thing we did see was, as pitchers attacked him a certain way, it wasn’t as evident as it was when he first came up. So, he’s a better player today for what he’s gone through this year. You know, the overall evaluation of him has not changed from the time he entered the organization. We just know this is kind of a natural progression that he has to go through and feel like he’s very capable of being an everyday guy.”
— Should Ellsbury depart, the Sox could consider using Shane Victorino in center, where he won three Gold Gloves with the Phillies. But Cherington portrayed such a possibility as something of a last resort.
“It’s certainly one possibility and as we look at alternatives in the outfield, we have to be open-minded. That would be one possibility,” said Cherington. “I think I speak for John that we both recognize just how good he was in right field this year and how valuable his defense was in right field. So I guess we’d have to be compelled to move him. It would have to be a pretty compelling opportunity, but you can’t rule that out. He’s capable of doing it. ”
— Cherington described the depth of the rotation as a “position of strength.” The team has six veteran big league starters — Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster — under contract for 2014, along with Brandon Workman as a pitcher who looks ready to contribute in the big leagues and others (Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes) who pitched in Triple-A or the majors by the end of 2014. While that would appear to give the Sox something of a surplus, Cherington said that as the Sox are currently situated, they’re inclined to bring back all six of the starters under contract for next year.
“We could certainly envision a scenario where every one that’s currently under contract in Fort Myers and in fact, at this point, that’s what I would expect,” said Cherington. “We’ll see what the offseason brings.”
— Farrell suggested the Sox are comfortable with David Ross being able to handle a 60-70 game workload, but that the team views catcher as a “tandem position,” meaning that there would be a need to account for 90-100 games if Saltalamacchia leaves as a free agent.
— Cherington said that the team has no immediate plans to explore Middlebrooks at first base.
“You’re talking about a young player who, 15 months ago, was sort of taking the league by storm. A lot of people including us were talking about him as one of the better young third basemen in the league. I don’t think that changes just because he has a bit of a down period,” said Cherington. “He went through some lumps this year. He went back to Triple-A as a lot of good young players have had to do in their careers. He came back and played very well down the stretch, played much better. We got into the playoffs and we had another young player who was hot and so earned playing time. We’re happy we have both of them. Having a young third baseman with Will’s ability, power, athleticism, ability on both sides of the ball is a really important thing for the organization. I think you only consider moving someone like that off a spot if it’s driven by the need of the team. We’re not there yet. We see Will as a third baseman, and that’s what he’ll be focused on this offseason.”
— As of now, suggested Cherington, no teams have requested to interview any members of the Red Sox coaching staff for other positions.
“Right now, our expectation, our hope and our expectation is the coaching staff is back,” said Cherington. “There have been no requests for permission on any of the major league coaches.”
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