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Ben Cherington on D&C: John Lackey ‘did a lot for the Red Sox, and I think he’s happy where he is now’

08.07.14 at 9:51 am ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to discuss the state of the team and the fallout from the trade deadline fire sale. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

There has been some speculation that John Lackey pushed for a trade because he was not happy in Boston, upset with his contract that calls for him to be paid the major league minimum next year. The pitcher was sent the Cardinals last Thursday.

“Mostly what led to [the trade] is that he’s a really good pitcher and he’s on a unique contract, and that made him valuable to a team like the Cardinals, who understand that value, understand that having a guy who’s capable of pitching like that and making the minimum next year is a valuable guy to have,” Cherington said. “So they were willing to give up — we wouldn’t have traded both [Jon] Lester and Lackey without getting a) major league talent back and b) at least one major league starter back. That was sort of the standard.

“We’re all getting new information, and you get new information every day. I think John is happy where he is, and we wish him well. He did great things for us, certainly towards the end of the deal. He was on the mound for the clinching World Series game. I certainly hope that Red Sox fans and everyone around Boston’s sort of lasting memory of John Lackey is helping us win a World Series. That will be what mine is.”

Asked directly if Lackey wanted to leave, Cherington replied: “Look, I’m not going to get into every conversation I had with John Lackey. He did a lot for the Red Sox, and I think he’s happy where he is now.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney was on Middays with MFB on Wednesday and said the Red Sox told Lester they were willing to offer him a Homer Bailey-type deal (six years, $105 million) but Lester’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, said they were looking for something in the neighborhood of what the Phillies gave Cole Hamels (six years, $144 million).

“I’m not going to get into the details of every conversation we had,” Cherington said. “I talked to Seth a lot, not just about Jon Lester, about a lot of other things. We talked throughout the year. We had a lot of conversations and I think there’s an understanding. We both understood a lot of things, and that was that, ‘Look, we have a lot of respect for Jon and we’re interested to try to find a way to keep him in Boston.’ Jon, as he said publicly, did not want to talk about it during the season. So we chose to respect his desire on that. And we knew — I spoke to Jon three weeks before the deadline — that given that, and given where the team was, it would lead to a possibility that we were going to get phone calls on him. I just wanted to be prepared for that, I wanted him to be prepared for that.

“When information has leaked, I think the problem with that has been that it didn’t fully capture the total conversation. I’m not going to add to that issue. Besides that fact, he’s an Oakland A. He’s wearing their uniform, he’s trying to help them win games. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say much more about him right now.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On the lack of a true ace on the pitching staff: “We’re trying to build the best team we can. I think if you set out to do that in one particular way or go after one particular thing, you can get sort of locked into one path and be sort of blinded to other opportunities. Of course any team would benefit from having a true No. 1 starter at the top of the rotation. We would, any team would. That’s a desirable thing. But I just don’t think you can set out to only pursue that. We have to build a 25-man team that wins games.

“The other thing I would say is that you look across baseball and sort of pick out the starting pitchers who are performing like that this year. Certainly there are some who have been doing it for a little while and are recognizable names. Then there are others who weren’t recognizable names a couple of years ago, or even a year ago. We don’t always know where those aces come from. And who knows? Maybe we have one of those guys in the organization somewhere. I think time will tell.”

On Allen Craig’s foot injury: “Obviously when we did the trade, as with any trade, we have access to the medical file, and we went through that. We knew exactly what we were dealing with when we made the trade. And we knew it was something he had dealt with and had managed and probably would require some additional management.

“And then he just happened — the first game he played with us — he happened to hit the bag funny, first base funny, and kind of tweaked it. So, because of that, and because of the history, we’re just taking a very cautious approach. But the long-term prognosis is very good. There’s nothing that happened with his foot, either last September or last Friday, that should be an issue for him in the long term. We’re just trying to make sure we get this right now, given the history. … It’s not something that we’re worried will bother him in the long term.”

On getting younger players more playing time the rest of the season: “We do want to find some things out about a number of guys. … It’s just more like, let’s make sure we have enough playing time for the guys that need to play and that we need to watch. And if we don’t for some reason, then we need to figure out a way to create that. So, those conversations happen. But [John Farrell] instigates a lot of those. He’s thinking along the same lines. … Yeah, we are trying to learn some things as we go through.”

On minor league pitcher Henry Owens: “We haven’t had any conversations about him pitching in the big leagues this year. He’s not on the [40-man] roster yet. He’s just getting to Triple-A. I think the Triple-A season, or the minor league season, and that date that that ends, will sort of be a natural governor on his innings. As you know, when we’re in it and we’re trying to win and have a chance to win and get into October, then some of the sort of cautionary rules are lifted when it comes to the young players, because it has to become all about winning. Maybe we’ll make a miraculous run, but if we’re not in that position, then we’re less likely to consider that kind of thing.”

On Tom Werner‘s candidacy for MLB commissioner: “I can’t pretend to know all that goes into that job, because I don’t think any of us can who haven’t even come close to doing it. But I do know, look, what hasn’t he done? He’s been highly successful in everything he’s done, from obviously his TV career to baseball, to being part of the ownership group in two very different places, being a huge part of our success for 12, 13 years, however long it’s been, three World Series, preservation of Fenway Park, all the philanthropic stuff he’s been involved in …”

Read More: Allen Craig, ben cherington, henry owens, john lackey
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