Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington checked in with Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning to discuss the state of the Red Sox as the July 31 trade deadline nears and to look back at some of the offseason decisions that were made. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the trade deadline just over a week away and the Red Sox currently sitting 11 games below .500 and 11 games out in the AL East, it’s clear the team will be looking for ways to get better for 2016 and it will begin with the trade deadline.
“I think we need to continue to find ways to improve our pitching and defense. Let our position player group continue to grow,” Cherington said. “I see that happening. It certainly hasn’t happened as quickly as we thought or hoped it would this year. The results haven’t been nearly good enough. We’re responsible for that and we have to get better quickly.”
The general manager was asked if there have been any internal discussions of firing manager John Farrell. Cherington firmly denied that has taken place and said he and the organization believe he’s the right man to lead the team moving forward.
“I believe he has the qualities that will allow him to be a really good manager in Boston for a long time,” Cherington said. “And I think if you look at the record the last two years, and like I said before it’s not acceptable, I feel responsible for that, I take responsibility for that, but I think that, and despite that there are still things going on in our major league clubhouse, around our team, that are productive. There’s still work happening that’s pushing guys forward, there’s still a work ethic and an effort being put forth that is important and so I think that that is a credit to John and his staff that there are still those things going on. Look, we all need to be better, everybody in uniform, everybody in the front office, everybody involved needs to be better, it’s not one person’s job to make it better, it’s all of our jobs to make it better.”
One of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason was pitcher Rick Porcello, who the team got in the Yoenis Cespedes trade with the Tigers. The 26-year-old had one year left on his current contract, but prior to his first start in a Red Sox uniform the team extended him to a four-year, $82.5 million deal.
The results haven’t been there so far, as he’s 5-10 with a 5.79 ERA. Cherington explained what went into the extension.
“We made the trade and at the time we made the trade we thought the arrow might continue to go up because of his age and his skills and his health and all that,” he said. “We thought his last two years in Detroit were plenty good enough. … We felt like he was one of the top 25-30 starters in the American League the previous two years and we were getting a guy in his prime. Once we got him, we got to know him over the winter, spring training — got to know what he was about personally, his health, his makeup, his work ethic, his sense of accountability — we felt like this was a guy we wanted to keep. Knowing how free agency works with pitching and his unique position he’d be in as a really young starting pitcher on the market, we felt our best shot to keep him was to do an extension prior to the season and then it was a unique deal because of his age and it ended up being what it was and was focused on the shorter-term and total amount of money that made it work.
“The results haven’t been what Rick wants and what we want, and that’s clear. I still believe in Rick Porcello and I believe we’ll see a better pitcher going forward. I can tell you that there’s nobody on our team that cares more than he does and wants to be good. He’s fully committed to being good and fully committed to being good with the Red Sox.”
Along with Porcello, the organization signed two of the best hitters on the free agent market in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Cherington confirmed it was he who recommended signing those players and it wasn’t anyone above him in ownership.
“We clearly recommended those deals — I recommended those deals,” he said. “There were reasons for it and I still believe those guys will be a part of our team when we’re winning a lot more games. I think on the one hand when we haven’t delivered results over the last few years, which clearly we haven’t, we need to be accountable. I certainly feel responsible for that. We look at the total results, they’re not good enough. I think once you start dicing up individual decision, specific player transactions, in time of course you find out which ones work and which ones don’t, but we also know that in any particular deal it might look one way now and might look another way six months from now. It might look another way two years from now. What’s clear and what is irrefutable is we’re not winning enough games and we have to find a way to win more games and that’s what we’re focused on. The decisions, the acquisitions were recommended by me and I still believe in those guys.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.
On what makes Farrell good in Boston: “First of all, I think he’s got a lot of respect within the organization. He’s got the skills to do the job, I think he’s got the ability to communicate to different types of people in and out of the clubhouse. I think he’s an incredibly hard-worker, resilient and tough. If you wrote down on a piece of paper the qualities you look for in a manager, I think he has many, many of them so it’s just not something that’s even in my mind at all but we all have to be better and that’s again, the players, the front office, the staff, everyone.”
On if there are untouchables on roster: “There are guys on the roster that I can’t envision a deal for. I mean, you learn never to say never but I can’t envision a deal for certain guys on our team. Look, whatever happens, internally, the fans of Boston and our ownership deserve to have a winning team soon and I believe that’s going to happen and I believe that’s going to happen in large part because of many of the players that are on the team now and their continued growth and obviously we’ve got to try to get more out of others and we’ve go to try to add to that group and all that but we got to keep moving forward and i think a major way to do that is to continue building on the group that we have.”
On trade talks with other teams: “We certainly have, obviously there are younger players that everybody wants and we’re not looking to move, but there’s other players that we have that are of interest and I think last year we had an unfortunate sort of perfect storm of team not playing well but some really good pitching that were contracts were up and so once we went down that road last year, we knew that there was going to be a ton of interest in some of our pitching and we were in a position where we weren’t playing well and we didn’t have a heck of a lot of confidence that we’d be able to sign those guys so we had to do what we felt we had to do at that time. This year’s different, we don’t have that kind of player, but we have players that are valuable that clearly would help a winning team and we’re getting calls on those players.”
On if team is becoming sellers: “We’ve got to look at ways to get better quickly and obviously we haven’t played well in the last 10 days and so the math is not as good for us now as it was 10 days ago so that can influence our approach to specific types of deals but I think there’s less, in today’s game, there’s just less of the black and white,veteran rental for prospect deal that still happens, but there’s more and more deals that you’re talking about, whatever your record is, you’re talking about need for need or you’re talking about finding matches with teams that somehow you think will help you move forward and whether they involve veteran players, young players, whatever, it’s just the time of year where every team is talking, it sometimes allows you to find opportunities that you didn’t even know were there so. It also happens that you have a million conversations in the next 10 days and sometimes it doesn’t lead to anything but sometimes you learn a lot about what teams are looking to do or how teams value players, it helps you set something up for the offseason so that’s what we’ll be doing and it will all be with a mind towards improving the team’s situation as soon as we can.”
On Ramirez possibly playing first base this season: “I just think, getting back to this transition thing, I just feel we look at Hanley and we knew there was some risk we were taking in signing him and moving him to a new position is something he wanted to do, he wanted to be here, so we took that risk, we went into it with open eyes and we’ve seen, I think, some signs that he’s sort of getting over the transition. If you dice it up, home and road, he’s, in my eyes, looks fine on the road. He doesn’t have to be a gold glove left fielder to be a good player if he’s hitting the way he’s capable of hitting. At home there’s been some challenges, and we’re trying to still get him more comfortable at home but I think we need to give this some more time and I said yesterday, Hanley’s capable of playing, I’m sure if it would help the team, and if it was the right thing for the team, he’s capable of playing another position at some point, but right now he’s our left fielder and we’re focused on that.”
On why Brian Johnson was called up vs. Yankees: “I think in a perfect world we would have, but we haven’t been living in a perfect world so we’re in that series, our pitching has been strapped at different times in the season, as you guys know, we’re in a very important weekend that series prior to the All-Star break and we’re facing a team with a bunch of good left-handed hitters so we felt like we needed to get the best team on the field that we could for that weekend and because of the situation with our staff, we needed another arm in the pen and we believed Brian was the best guy to fill that role. In a perfect world if everything is humming along well and you’re pitching well and everything’s rested, then we probably would have left him and let him start but we haven’t been living in a perfect world.”
On how changes will be made: “[It’s] basically the same people, including ownership, including most of the baseball ops that have been here 15-18 years and won three World Series. We have a pretty strong farm system, we have young talent at the big league level, there are a lot of good people here. Look, we haven’t delivered at the major league level for the last two years. That’s clear and I feel responsible for that. I feel I should be more responsible than anyone for that. We have to find ways to get better and there have been a lot of internal discussions, self reviews, about what has happened to try and learn from what has happened. We’re focused on trying to make it better. It wouldn’t help us to talk what those things are publicly, but there’s certainly been a lot of analysis and self review going on.”
On his discussions with John Henry and his own job status: “Every internal conversation has been 100 percent about trying to find solutions, trying to find ways to get better, trying to identify things that are going well, the things that aren’t going well. Specifically, you’re trying to fix the areas that need fixing and avoid throwing the baby out of the bath water. That’s all we’ve been talking about. I haven’t heard anything other than that in our conversations. Look, I understand when in a place like Boston, with the investment we’re making in the team, the expectations and when you don’t deliver over time there are implications for that. I really don’t spend any time thinking about it. I spend all my time thinking about how to make the current situation better.”
Judy Cohen contributed to this report.