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John Farrell discusses offseason on Salk & Holley: Red Sox ‘jolted’ by Jacoby Ellsbury deal

12.04.13 at 10:47 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell, in an appearance on WEEI’s Salk & Holley show, acknowledged that Red Sox players were “jolted” by the news of Jacoby Ellsbury‘s seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees, particularly given that word of Ellsbury’s signing came on the same day that the Red Sox elected to sign A.J. Pierzynski, thus opening the door for the departure of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins on Tuesday.

Farrell said that he heard from a number of players — he estimated about a half-dozen — who were curious about the developments.

“Because Jacoby and Salty hit the airwaves that they both signed, it was, OK, are we bringing any guys back? That was part of the question,” said Farrell. “I said, ‘Absolutely, we’re in the works. We’re in the process.’ … That’s where [GM Ben Cherington] is doing the best he can with the two remaining guys, with [Mike Napoli] and [Stephen Drew], we’re going to do anything we can to bring both guys back.”

Farrell touched on a number of offseason topics facing the Sox. To listen to the complete interview, click here. Some highlights:

On learning about Ellsbury’s deal: “I did get a text message last night saying, hey, he’s heading in for a physical, it sounds like it’s done. Then the news broke on the numbers and, my gosh, congratulations to Jacoby. We’ll miss him. He’s a very good player, had a great run here, granted, missed some time because of some serious injuries he went through. But he played through a lot last year for us. The foot breaking. The left thumb that was in a lot of pain towards the end of the year. But you know what? He deserved the right to see what his market was, and obviously it’s a big one.”

On the challenge of replacing Ellsbury: “Losing Jacoby Ellsbury, those players don’t come along very often, evident by the contract he got in New York. … To say how much we’ll miss him will be dependent on what we do with the roster before next spring training — whether we stay internal and look at our overall team, what we’re capable of, that’s probably the answer — not specifically one player compared to Jacoby. …“We set about last offseason to produce a well above-average offense. We ended up leading all of baseball in runs scored. That will be our approach again. It’s not a matter of who’s going to come in and replace Jacoby. It’s, how are we built as a team to achieve the same level of performance.”

On whether the team can replace Ellsbury with players on the roster: “We have a center fielder in Jackie Bradley. … Personally, this is me speaking, this isn’t the organization speaking or [Cherington] speaking, [Bradley] fits as we continue to fill out the other areas on our club. I think our overall goal is to have no less than a top five offensive team. So if you’ve got a guy who’s still int he transition and somewhat projection, you’ve got to have more competent and reliable offensive performers who are out there. We know that Mike Napoli is still out there, our guy who we want to be sure to do everything we can to bring him back or get a performer at first base who will give us well above average performance. All of these things are in the equation. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”

More on the Ellsbury deal: “It’s impossible to say that the approach to Jacoby, while you look at every player individually, you’re going to take on those experiences you went through, and sometimes those contracts don’t work for the best. … Ben has created so much flexibility to create as deep a roster as possible. We tapped into that so many times this year where I think the depth of the roster was the difference between us winning the division and not. … You need above-average players, you need All-Star caliber players, but when you concentrate all your resources in one or two main spots, that lessens the flexibility to have a deep roster. … The market’s going to take guys away from you. In this case, it did.”

On Saltalamacchia’s departure, and replacing him with Pierzynski: “We feel like [Saltalamacchia] came so far this year. … I thought he became a better receiver. His offensive side of the game took a huge step forward. … He became a much more complete hitter, using the whole field, evident by 40-plus doubles. … He did a very good job of handling our pitchers. He showed to be durable.

“Bringing A.J. in probably speaks to more, one, the need. We need another left-handed hitter. A.J. fits the mold because we needed that balance from the left side of the plate. But what I think we’re looking at is a short-term status, a short-term situation, that really points towards [Christian Vazquez] and [Blake Swihart], who are coming. That doesn’t mean by 2015 Vazquez is a starter, but it gives us the flexibility that if he makes another good step in the minors next year, it gives us the flexibility that he could step in.

“A.J., he has a perception or reputation across the field for not being the best guy. … The multiple conversations with A.J. prior to signing, we laid out our expectations, we laid out what our clubhouse was about. He was great about it. He was on board with everything. The bottom line is he wants to do nothing more than one thing, which is to win.”

On gaining familiarity with Pierzynski during the postseason, when he was part of the Fox broadcast team: “The Fox would crew would come in and have the pregame scrum. They would leave. He’d always be the last one out of the room, almost like making a point that, hey, I know the situation that is going on here and this would be a good place to come. He did a good job of kind of making that point known. We feel like he’s going to fit in. If he helps stir the drink a little bit, all the more power to him. I feel like we’ve got a very close knit group here. He’ll fit in.”

On Pierzynski’s game-calling: “He’s prepared. He executes. He gets a good feel for what a pitcher’s capabilities are. We feel like we got an above-average game-caller coming in. Look at the track record. He’s handled young starters. He’s handled veteran starters. He’s been on pitching staffs that have been in the top 4-5 in team ERA for a number of years. The catcher is a vital component to that.”

On whether Shane Victorino would be considered for center field: “If we can address the position, and again, it could be Jackie Bradley, if we can address the vacancy that Jacoby left behind by keeping Shane Victorino in right field ‘€¦ that would give us a very good outfield defense. Shane Victorino was hand’s down the Gold Glove winner. I think he gets better routes on balls that are at an angle to him rather than straight at him. He’s a center fielder in our spacious right field. What I was most surprised at was how quick he got rid of the ball and how strong his arm is. We’ve got to keep him from running into walls.”

On whether Xander Bogaerts is ready to be an everyday player next year: “If we were in a situation where he was our Opening Day left side infielder, we’d be comfortable with that. We feel like he’s ready. Typically with young guys like that, you saw it with Jackie, bottom third of the order. Xander, we’ll probably look to do the same. What he showed us, the patience and the strike zone understanding and the discipline at the plate, he’s a special-looking player.”

On players Farrell is looking forward to seeing in spring training: “[Garin Cecchini] is a guy, he’s had such a good run offensively through the mid-levels of the minor leagues. He reads well through scouting reports. You talk to player development staff who speak very highly of him. Henry Owens, I had a chance to walk over on an off-day in spring training last year and had a chance to pitch five innings where he struck out 13.

“There are six arms that are close to coming to the big leagues, in the big leagues and close: [Brandon] Workman, [Drake] Britton, [Anthony] Ranaudo, [Matt] Barnes, Owens, [Allen] Webster and [Rubby] De La Rosa. There’s a large group of major league talent and it’s just dependent upon the timing. We’re in a great place from a pitching standpoint.”

On whether Workman is a starter or reliever next year: “When you think that he started last year in Double-A and think that he pitched the eighth inning of the World Series, pretty remarkable progression. Given where we are with six competent and established major league starters, he probably sees himself and we see him in the bullpen right now. He’s unique in that he can do both. I still see him, because of the physical presence and the durability, you project him as a starter. But still, he’s contributing out of the bullpen. If that’s the case for the first part of the year or throughout next year, we know we’ve got a very good pitcher on our hands.”

Read More: A.J. Pierzynski, Brandon Workman, jackie bradley jr., Jacoby Ellsbury
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