BOSTON -- With the annual winter meetings set to begin Monday in Nashville, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with the media on Saturday to address a host of issues his team is facing.
In past offseasons the Sox have added big-name players, including recent years when they acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. What is the likelihood the Sox will add a marquis-name player this offseason?
CHERINGTON; I dont know. I cant handicap it. You cant rule it out. I certainly wouldn't rule it in. I think if theres a deal that we feel really makes us, the organization, stronger short and long term, well pursue it. And some of those might end up being, can fit into that category. But I cant handicap it right now. Were still working on so many things that were trying to get the right things to land for usI think our fans want a winning team, and they want a winning team year after year. They want a team they can root for and can get behind and can believe in. They want to see players they can get behind and believe in and root for. And they want to see a direction. They want to see a sort of reason for things, see a team that plays the right way. So there are different ways to get to that. Sometimes bigger deals help you do that. Sometimes smaller deals help you do that. So well explore everything. Couldnt rule it out or rule it in.
Is he more likely to add to the team by way of trades or free agency?
CHERINGTON: Ive always thought its hard to answer that until you get to the winter meetings because a lot of these dominoes start to fall and until they do you dont really know the cost of different things. Up until the winter meetings it seems a lot of teams and agents are playing this dance of what it might cost, what you might be willing to pay but not really committing. And then teams start to commit or players start to commit and that sort of sets a price and then everything else, sometimes other things fall from that. So I think well have a better idea maybe later this week or into the next week on that question of whether we can more easily fill holes through free agency or trades.
Is he close to any additional acquisitions now?
CHERINGTON: Well theres things we know we could do right now, things were not ready to do right now, or things were choosing not to do right now. So it think its still, I still see the weekend before the winter meetings as pretty early in the offseason. Theres a lot of time before pitchers and catchers report and plenty of time to do stuff. The waters kind of moving down the river but it hasnt gotten to the waterfall yet. The winter meetings are usually when the water starts getting a little quicker and then things start falling. And sometimes theres a domino effect to these things. So well see how it plays out. Were actively engaged on a number of fronts, trade market, free agent market, and there will be ways to improve the team. We just got to see how it plays out.
The August trade with the Dodgers took more than 250 million off the Sox books, giving them much more financial flexibility than they have had in recent offseasons. How does Cherington decide what to do with that money?
CHERINGTON: Its not difficult to find things to spend it on. Its difficult to find the right things to spend it on, and that's what were trying to do. Theres plenty of players out there, either free agents or through trades that we know would help the team and help the team a lot. So were focused on that to try and find the combination of players that will help us and make our team a lot better next year.
Would the Sox consider adding a starting pitcher, such as free agents Zach Greinke or Anibal Sanchez?
CHERINGTON: I think certainly we have more flexibility this offseason, so it allows you to consider things that we probably couldnt have last year. I think with every guy, we go through the exercise in drawing the line on where we would go. And many times, that line is below where it ends up going. So, that sort of instructs us. So I wouldnt rule anything out categorically. We just want to find ways to improve the team, the rotation. Were working on a lot of ways to do that. Generally, I think every team would say they prefer shorter-term deals to longer-term deals. And thats any teams preference. The guys that have been the most consistent performers and healthiest and have done that, have earned a fair amount of leverage and have earned the right to get significant guaranteed dollars. So if you want to add that kind of talent to your team, then sometimes you have to step up and do that. So its just case by case, and were still going through the process of trying to find who the right fits are for us.
Has he noticed a common theme in his talks with other teams in what they might be looking for in return in a possible trade?
CHERINGTON: Yeah, I think the common thread, and this goes back a while, is just the value of young, controllable players is really, really high. And understandably so. So when youre talking about acquiring maybe a proven major leaguer but maybe one that you dont control as long, the cost typically is good young controllable players and those are valued highly and the same is true in reverse. So I think thats going back a while. Other than that nothing specific stands out.
The Sox are in need of a starting pitcher. But has he considered a deal that would dispatch one of his current starters?
CHERINGTON: Anything is possible, but certainly it gets harder to improve the team, to subtract somebody from the rotation.
We have a number of players that teams like. I think were in perhaps a different situation than we have been in the past coming off the year we did. Maybe in light of that, teams not surprisingly are inquiring about things that maybe they wouldnt have in the past. Because look, we have to be open-minded. We lost 93 games. But were still, our primary focus is to build the best team we can for 2013 and one that doesnt in any way get in the way of a great team for a long time. So thats our focus, and that will guide us over the next several weeks. But youve got to be open-minded when you have a year like this, and were trying to build a team that will sustain a level of success over a long period of time.
Is it more important to add to the front or the back of the rotation?
CHERINGTON: I think just generally it needs to improve. The performance of the rotation wasnt good enough last year. So I think we need to get improved performance out of them. And as I said before I think that will mostly come from the guys that are already here. Thats going to make a bigger difference than anyone else we add, likely. In terms of the order, once I guess the way I see it once the season starts and you get into the schedule, someones taking the ball every day and Im not sure the order matters as much. Were looking for guys, we need guys who every time they take the ball give us a chance to win. And that didnt happen enough in 2012.
We have guys in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz who we think can pitch like top of the rotation starters. They have in the past and have done that for consistent periods of time in the past and were counting on them to do that going forward.
With the addition of Jonny Gomes, Cherington cited the outfielders clubhouse presence and personality. Is that becoming of more importance to the GM as he looks to add players?
CHERINGTON: Its always been a focus. I think we know that coming off a 93-loss season, weve got a lot to prove. More than anything we need talent. Talent wins games more than anything. But we know that in a place like this when were trying to build something and coming off a very disappointing year, theres going to be scrutiny. Theres going to be attention. I think having guys that have an ability to handle that and are tough enough to get through that and still perform and be who they are, theres some level of importance to that. And certainly manager John Farrell and the coaching staff have something to do with that. But the guys and the players in the clubhouse, the players in the clubhouse have a bigger impact on the clubhouse than anyone else.
The Red Sox opted not to tender contract by the Friday deadline to pitchers Scott Atchison and Rich Hill, and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.
CHERINGTON: All three guys have done really good things for us while they were here and certainly Atchisons been a really good performer and hes a great teammate. Hes a guy wed like to continue to talk to and see if theres a way to bring back. Same with Rich Hill. Rich has missed a lot of time the last couple years with injuries but hes a proven left-handed pitcher and certainly capable of helping a major league bullpen. Sweeney came in, did a really good job for the first two months here, then got hurt and was playing hurt for a while. And unfortunately his season ended. So its just sort of the nature of the arbitration process. sometimes all the stars dont align when youre factoring in playing time, what theyve done, or what they might make for arbitration. It just didnt add up right now when we need to make the decision. But well keep the door open with all three guys and keep talking to them.
The non-tenders, along with the acquisition of outfielder Jonny Gomes, gives the Sox two open spots on their 40-man roster.
CHERINGTON: Were still looking to add in the outfield, pitching staff, still working on some options at first base. So well see what the next week unfolds. We know when we get to Nashville there will be lots of activity. Doesnt mean that well necessarily land things but theres still lots of work to do this offseason. We know that.
I dont really have a timeline on it. We know what wed like to do. We know what wed like to execute. Well execute as much as we can. Im not sure theres a date by which we need to do things. Well see. If we can get things done in Nashville, we will. If not, well keep working at it. Theres a lot more time in the offseason.
The Sox could potentially have a heavily right-handed lineup in 2013.
CHERINGTON: Building some balance into the lineup and the team is important, generally speaking. Were not going to be sort of a prisoner of that and force balance by trying to force players onto the team that arent really the right fit. So its a little bit of a, theres different ways to attack it. But, generally speaking, yeah, wed like to have some balance in the lineup and balance on the team. But more importantly we just want good players, the right players, the right personalities, and those are the types of guys we're going after right now.
What will be the role of right-hander Rubby De La Rosa, who was acquired in the Dodgers trade and had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 9, 2011, and will he be counted on to contribute in 2013?
CHERINGTON: Hell be in a starters role in spring training and well bring him along. Obviously coming off a year where he didnt pitch a lot, well probably take it a little bit slow. Hes out in Arizona working out. A couple guys saw him working out last week. Hes getting into really good shape. Hes a guy that is a big part of our future. We want to make sure we handle the first few weeks and first few months of our experience with him the right way, bring him along the right way. But we envision him as a starter and thats the way hell be treated in spring training.
I dont know when hell be in the rotation. Those things will be determined later on, in spring training or during the season, but hes a guy that we could certainly see helping us in 2013.