Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to discuss Boston’s most recent offseason acquisitions. To hear the segment, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Red Sox‘ signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is in a precarious situation. He was acquired in a trade at the non-waiver deadline in July, but he could be on his way out in a trade this offseason because Ramirez is expected to start in his position. Cherington tried to downplay the urgency to move the Cuban outfielder.
Said Cherington: “We acquired him at the deadline in the [Jon] Lester trade because we felt that was the best deal at the time, we still feel that way. He’s in our plans for next year and his versatility and skill in the outfield and gives us the flexibility, could play any of the three positions. We’ll just see what the rest of the offseason brings. We have a long way to go, and as we get to January, closer to spring training, we’ll know more about who’s here and how it all adds up.”
Pablo Sandoval signed a reported five-year, $95 million contract. With the production he’s had over his career and the fact that two other teams were bidding on the third baseman, Cherington said the final contract fell in line with what he thought it be before Sandoval signed.
“It ended up being about in the neighborhood where we thought,” Cherington said. “Again, given his age, his sort of platform and what he’s done in the postseason and everything about him. And then the fact that he’s done it in a major market, he was going to get attention, there was going to be competition and we felt like he would end up in the neighborhood he ended up. It just so happened that the three teams involved in the end were all pretty much in that same neighborhood, and we’re obviously very happy he chose us.”
Before the 2013 World Series run, the Red Sox landed Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino on three-year deals. This time it took two more years to get Sandoval. Cherington said age played a role in the contract differences.
Said Cherington: “First of all, every guy is different, and I think most if not all of the contracts two offseasons ago were with guys past 30. … In Sandoval’s case he’s 28, so the calculus is a little bit different. … The other thing is, the market is changing. Every year for every player in baseball, contracts continue to move, the dollars continue to move. So you have to adjust to that. What was valued three years ago is different. Every year we’re trying to build the best team we can and end up finding the players that fit into that plan.”
Ramirez has been an infielder his entire career, playing either shortstop or third base since 2006. Coming to the Red Sox, he will play the outfield, which makes some people skeptical. Cherington said Ramirez probably won’t have the new position down pat right away, but he does have the open mind to play there.
“I think it’s really a combination of two things: one is his desire to do it and his openness, the willingness to do it in the context that he had opportunities,” said Cherington. “He could’ve gone places and played the infield. He wanted to do it because he wanted to be here. There’s a desire, there’s a willingness to work at it. He’s already agreed to get down to Fort Myers early, we’ll have a dedicated coach with him. The desire was one part, and the other part is we’ve known this guy since he was 17. One of the things that has always stood about him is that he picked up things quicker than anyone else did, whether it was learning English or learning baseball or whatever it was. He was a quick study. You take a guy who’s played shortstop at the major league level who’s that kind of athlete and is a quick study and who wants to do it, I feel confident in time he’ll figure out how to be good. He won’t be perfect on day one, we’re not expecting him to be perfect on day one. We know he’ll get the work in, and in time we’re confident he’ll end up being good out there.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.
On if the current situation would be different if Will Middlebrooks played in winter ball: “I wouldn’t want to ever make sort of conditional decisions like that. … I don’t think that’s right, I don’t think it’s fair. We talked to Will about that because we felt like there might be some benefit. And that’s a conversation you have to have with a player, player has to make a decision for himself.”
On if the Red Sox will acquire a top pitcher via trade or free agency: “We really don’t know yet. We are going to add to the rotation. It seems most likely we’ll do that through different means. We may do that through free agency and trades. And where guys slot in and if you want to put guys in the one through five holes, I don’t know No. 2 comes from, where No. 4 comes from, where No. 5 comes from as far as whether its internal or free agency or trade. We’re trying to put the best five together we can and we just don’t know yet where those roles are filled from.”
On if the Red Sox will enter the season with a rotation ace: “I think we have to build a good rotation, there’s different ways to do that. Of course any team would benefit from having an ace-level performance. More than that, what teams needs is just good pitching, good rotation. There are different ways to do that. The Giants obviously benefit from having a young ace on their team. He really carried them through the postseason. So of course a team benefits from that. The Orioles benefited from having just a really cheap pitching staff and having good pitchers one through 12.”
On if Mookie Betts will be with the Red Sox in 2015: “He is someone we really value, he’s got a lot going for him. He obviously proved the time he was in the big leagues this year that he’s more than capable of helping a team, it looks like he’s ready. Certainly easy to see him as part of the team next year, but we’ve just got to get a little deeper into the winter and see how it all lines up.”