Bruins

Cherington previews winter meetings

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Cherington previews winter meetings

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.

Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

#FridayBag: The difference between Kraft and Jones

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#FridayBag: The difference between Kraft and Jones

Each week, Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi answer your Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or FridayBag as they call it. Got a question for the trio? Tweet at them using the hashtag #FridayBag. Now, on to this week's submissions:


 

TC: Hey Bryan,
No, I haven’t asked directly but there are a few reasons Kraft wouldn’t fall in line with Jones. First, by “on this” I’m not sure if you mean the compensation package or the Elliott investigation/suspension mess. Jones, of course, has been using the compensation package as a front to attack Goodell’s competency in general which he now bemoans because A) Elliott got suspended and B) Jones assured everyone Elliott wouldn’t be suspended. Kraft wouldn’t support Jones on Elliott because the accusations against him revolve around violence against women. Even if some accusations seem conflated, unsubstantiated or have a whiff of retribution, Kraft isn’t going to rally for Elliott on this. No upside to it. And if it’s an over-the-top penalty levied by the league in an effort to “make up” for past domestic violence investigations the league’s butchered, well, Kraft knows a thing or two about being on the receiving end of an agenda-laden punishment handed down by 345 Park Avenue. Kraft didn’t exactly suck it up and take the punishment. In fact, his reaction in August of 2015 and the organization’s continued effort to chastise the NFL with the Wells Report in Context website are in stark contrast to Kraft’s May 2015 pledge to stand down on Deflategate for the good of the league. Kraft gave plenty of pushback. But he stopped short of putting Goodell on the spit because he believes it hurts the overall brand and he’s more conciliator than divider. The feeling in Foxboro has been – and I’m sure continues to be – that the problem isn’t Goodell but his minions. The league needs an enema.



TC: Rich, they are running out of options. He is their White Whale. How hysterical would it be if – at the end of it all – he signs a one-day contract to retire as a Patriot? Gotta make this happen.https://twitter.com/MrQuindazzi/status/931295571264131072

TC: Great question, Q. Of all the guys running the option routes, Burkhead seems to be the most sudden in his cuts while also being able to gain quick and wide separation out of them. It’s lateral quickness and explosiveness that makes Edelman a unique cover for any defense. All the wideouts are quick, but being able to disguise the route, set up the move and then – when making the cut – cover a lot of ground with the first steps is what sets Edelman apart as evidenced by his short-shuttle time. I agree with you.

PP: Jeff is a CHRONIC Quick Slants the Podcast listener, and we thank him for that. He's right in that the Patriots took advantage of Denver on a couple of occasions when they tried to substitute last weekend, and that's something they'll pounce on every week if they could. We highlighted just how good they've gotten at that whole operation here. When it comes to the Raiders, I think you'll see the Patriots exploit their linebackers in coverage as often as possible. (You'll remember, they did that against the Broncos, too.) Oakland is one of the worst teams in the league at defending tight ends and running backs in the passing game, and the Patriots will have no problem recycling their offensive game plan from Mile High for Mexico City.

PP: Mike, I'll mention the classics here even if you've already thumbed through them more than once: David Halberstam's The Education of a Coach and Michael Holley's Patriot Reign are both very good looks at Belichick and how he came to run his operation the way he does. But you already knew that. When it comes to one book specific to Belichick, specific to his leadership style? May have to wait on that one. For now, though, watch this. Good interview with CNBC's Suzy Welch from last offseason. Belichick discusses the tenants of his leadership style, the value of surrounding yourself with dependable people, and why he doesn't like social media (it's not just because he's 65). I'd also suggest this podcast that Belichick recorded with lacrosse buddy Paul Rabil. Interesting back-and-forth on why Belichick likes to keep the numbers on his coaching staff small, team culture, short-term focus and frequency of organizational meetings. 

PP: It could, Riz. Precision is paramount in the red zone. Space is at a premium. Accuracy is critical. And having big targets who don't need all that much room to create room for themselves -- like Gronkowski, Bennett or Dwayne Allen, who scored while well-covered in Denver -- makes life that much easier. 

PP: Thanks, Rich. For anyone who hasn't seen that one, which lays out how Patriots players feel like they have an All-Star special-teams unit, here's the link. I'd say the biggest weakness is still what I thought it was back before the trade deadline: pass-rush. They'll try to scheme up what they can by disguising who's coming and who's dropping into coverage, but at some point, they'll need pass-rushers to win one-on-one battles and disrupt good quarterbacks. I think Trey Flowers can do that. I think Kyle Van Noy can do that from time to time. I think Deatrich Wise has shown he has the potential to do that. After that, I think the Patriots are lacking in that area. They'll need their secondary to be lock-down to help cover-up for any deficiencies they have up front. 

PP: Bilingual Shimon checking in! I believe that says something about bombs to Cooks? Yep. That's in play. The Patriots really should be able to do what they want against this Raiders defense. Their secondary is in shambles as NBC Bay Area's Scott Blair told me on one of our podcasts this week. I still think the Patriots will turn to their backs in the passing game because I'm not sure they'll want to turn Khalil Mack loose on many Tom Brady seven-step drops. But there will be opportunities on all areas of the field -- short, intermediate and deep. 

PP: Interesting question on Gillislee. Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis did nothing the other night that would suggest they'll see their roles diminished in any way, but the injury to Matthew Slater could open up a game-day roster spot for the Patriots to activate five backs in Mexico. Even if Gillislee is active, though, I wouldn't expect a huge role for him so long as Lewis and Burkhead are healthy. Right now he looks like valuable insurance and a potential cold-weather hammer against teams that won't want to tackle a 219-pound back who runs hard. 

PP: Big two-year-old birthday party for my nephew on Saturday, Shy, so it's going to be more of a Mickey Mouse weekend for me. Then on Sunday, of course, we'll be working. You're going to want to watch Pregame Live, coming at you at 2:30 p.m. Then right after the game you'll have an epic Postgame Live and an equally-enjoyable Sports Sunday. See you then. 

MG: The Patriots have been more committed to running the football of late -- 32 rushes versus the Chargers and 26 against the Broncos in a game in which they lost a possession because of excellent special-teams work and had a short field on another. That commitment has revolved heavily around the two players that are running the ball the best right now: Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. James White is still a valuable piece and will have plenty of big moments from here until the end of the season, though I will tell you, he’s still kicking himself for that missed blitz pickup of Justin Simmons down in the red zone Sunday night.

MG: They blew one of their two eligible to return spots on Shea McClellin, who appeared to be ready to return from those concussion symptoms but then had a setback in his final week of practice before he needed to be put on the active roster. That leaves two players for one spot (assuming both are healthy): DT Vincent Valentine or WR Malcolm Mitchell. The Pats' interior defensive line hasn’t been as good as it needs to be, which leads me to think Valentine might be the play; however, depth has really been challenged at wide receiver, and by the end of Sunday’s game in Denver, the Pats had just three healthy wideouts (Cooks, Amendola and Dorsett). Mitchell just began running a few weeks back, though, as he recovered from training camp knee surgery, so who knows how that’s responded to date

MG: Negative, though don’t take that as a bad thing. I think Dorsett has tremendous speed but is still learning the playbook and earning Tom Brady’s trust. He may never have a breakout game this season but when he’s on the field, opposing teams have to respect his ability to go vertical. That can open up stuff underneath or if they flood a zone. He still has a purpose and can be a useful player. 

MG: Pete! I worked out and was so wobbled at the knees I thought I was having the big one (Elizabeth), but a gallon of water cured what ailed me at this high altitude. Anyway, I think you’re already seeing a greater commitment to the run game. The offensive line is blocking it up better, they’re controlling down and distance, and it’s allowed the play-action pass game to thrive (see the 26-yarder to Gronk versus Denver). Belichick said Tuesday they’ll do whatever they have to do to win, but right now, the steady balance is keeping Brady upright and putting opposing defenses in a quandary. 

MG: Landry, I knew you couldn’t quit me . . . Look, I don’t have any Gilislee theories right now, nor have I heard anything on the rumor mill. What I think is that Lewis and Burkhead are just running it better, so why waste a roster spot on Gillislee if he’s just going to get a handful of plays or touches? I wouldn’t say he’s going to be married to the pine the rest of the way. Hell, we know about Lewis and Burkhead’s injury histories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is in street clothes again Sunday.

MG: John Lynch is saying stupid things. Jimmy is the big dog and Lynch knows it. And if he keeps up with this nonsense, I may have to make a pit stop in San Fran and set him straight #FreeJimmyG