The Red Sox executed a well-defined template last winter in trying to emerge from the wreckage of a 69-win season. On Monday, as team CEO/president Larry Lucchino prepared to see the Wang Theatre premier of the Official 2013 World Series Film that stood as a testament to that approach, he acknowledged that it might prove difficult to repeat that formula.
Lucchino said that it remains premature to say whether the market has moved in an unexpected direction. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the early stages of the offseason have produced “a couple of big contracts … for a couple of big guys,” and that “everyone is expecting [the market] will go up because nothing ever goes down and because there’s new television money available.”
That reality suggests that the Sox may face a different offseason landscape than they did last year. Then, their mandate was to improve, and they were able to follow a principled route to do so. The team focused on limiting the term of the contracts given (all seven of the free agents whom they acquired received deals of three or fewer years) — sometimes giving players more dollars to do so — while also preserving all of its draft picks by avoiding signing any players who had received qualifying offers from their former clubs.
This year, Lucchino suggested, the team would like to follow a similar script. But that won’t necessarily be possible.
“Fewer years, more dollars — it’s our preferred model, but you can never get exactly what you want,” said Lucchino.”We still value the draft picks enormously, and our behavior has shown that. We still prefer shorter to longer-term contract. We have a presumption against really long-term contracts. A lot of things we did last year proved to be successful, at least in the short term, so I think we’re going to behave accordingly going forward.
“You need to have a diverse portfolio of contracts. Some will be longer than you want. Some will be heavy at the front end. You’ve got to mix the structure of all the contracts so you have the kind of diversity you need for long-term stability.”
The Sox do face the near-certainty of change. The team has four key free agents — center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Stephen Drew, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and first baseman Mike Napoli — and Lucchino suggested the mix will alter.
“One of the lessons I learned a long time ago was that you can’t fall in love with your veterans. You can’t do that,” said Lucchino. “That’s not the way to run the railroad. We are not going to be a stand-pat team. That’s just not the way we run the railroad here. That’s probably a losing proposition every year. Every year has to have its own personality. Every year will have a different personality, composition as well as personality.”
That being the case, it was worth noting that Lucchino suggested that he is “pretty darn confident” that Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. can step in and be productive big league regulars at this phase of their careers.
“I think that Xander still has some refining of his game,” said Lucchino. “He just turned 21 in the postseason. Jackie Bradley, taking you back a few months as to the views of him by experienced baseball people, he’s going to have a long and productive career. I feel very confident about them, as confident as you can be with someone at that age and stage.”
Such proclamations suggested that, even on a night of nostalgia for what the Red Sox accomplished in 2013, the organization is looking forward to something different in 2014.