Cherington realistic on return of same team for 2014

Cherington realistic on return of same team for 2014
November 4, 2013, 10:00 pm
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In theory, the Red Sox would love to return to Fort Myers next February with the same 25 players who helped them win a World Series last week.
      
In theory.
      
In practice, they recognize that's almost certainly not feasible. In baseball in the 21st century, change is inevitable.
      
General manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell met with reporters Monday and sketched out plans for an off-season that on Tuesday is officially in full swing, with free agents eligible to sign with any team.
      
Cherington, who was part of the organization in 2004 and 2007, the last two seasons which ended in titles, recalls even then, the team knew it couldn't bring back the exact same cast.
      
"I remember at the time what Theo (Epstein, former general manager) felt strongly about is that if you try to replicate exactly," said Cherington, "it's probably not going to work the same."
      
"That was felt when we got off the duck boats," added Farrell. "This was that one last acknowledgement of a great run, to celebrate with millions of people here in the city. The reality hits as soon as our feet hit the ground, coming off those duck boats -- knowing that some things are going to be out of our control this off-season that could change the face of our roster. That's why you relish the moments and how special they are when a group of guys come together and achieve as they did.
      
"Hopefully, we're able to retain all of them. But that might not work out."
      
So what does a team that had everything -- or at least, enough of everything to win a championship -- now want?
      
"I think we have to go into this off-season with the same sort of general mindset and the same general philosophy," said Cherington, "and that is to build as deep a roster as we possibly can, to be as balanced we possibly can. But if we try to simply replicate what happened this year, I don't know if that's possible.
      
"The general philosophy would still lead to us toward a lot of the same things we were looking for last year. But exactly how it plays out, we'll just have to see."
      
Without any major holes in the roster -- at least not until the team discovers which of its own free agents are coming or going -- the Sox want to focus on overall depth.
      
"We want to maintain that  -- the sort of strength throughout the roster -- where we can," said Cherington. "One of the hallmarks of this team in 2013 was that we had a deep roster and it helped us get through certain part of the season. So we want to do whatever we can to continue that in the next season.
      
"I think generally we're in a strong position in a lot of areas. Certainly, established starting pitching and the depth behind it. We have a core of position players coming back; we have young position players coming. We have talent in the farm system that's maturing, but we definitely have things to do, too. We want to be as strong 1-25 and 1-40 as we possibly can."
      
One area the Sox are rich in is starting pitching. They'll return six proven starters in 2014 - Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Jake Pavy and Ryan Dempster.
      
"I think we feel it's a position of strength," said Farrell of the rotation. "The six guys, plus we think we have younger starting pitching candidates who have either gotten a little taste of it or are on their way. So, relative to past years, we think it's an area of strength and depth."
      
There's been some speculation that the Sox could actually deal off an established starter to provide an opportunity for some younger pitchers while filling other needs.
      
But Cherington made that sound like a longshot.
      
"We can certainly envision a scenario where every one currently under contract shows up in Fort Myers," said Cherington. "In fact, at this point, that's what I would expect. We'll see what the off-season brings."
      
The team got big contributions from two younger pitchers -- righthander Brandon Workman and lefty Drake Britton. But for now, there's no room in the rotation for either.
      
"Both proved they can pitch at this level, in meaningful spots," said Farrell. "Brandon is a little bit unique in this situation because he did both (start and relieve) for us. I think if we were to poll 10 people in the organization, they're might be a split camp at which role he's best served. But the fact is, he had success at both.
      
"As we look at improving the pitching staff that also includes the six starters, you could see him occupying a spot in the bullpen. In the event of an unforeseen injury, there's a guy I'd be very comfortable with stepping into the rotation. For two guys who started the year at Double A and came to us in very defined roles, I think that's what makes us feel very good about the overall health of the organization going forward."
      
Workman and Britton aren't the only ones. The Sox also have Allen Webster, Rubby De la Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes nearing major league-readiness.       
      
"We certainly subscribe to never having enough pitching," said Farrell, "and not knowing what could unfold next year, early on, if injuries start to hit. But I've been in situations in the past, you can get a rash of them quickly. I think we're always looking to maintain a full pipeline of arms coming through. If that means guys who have already debuted here and have pitched successfully, if they begin the year at Triple A, then that means we're strong on the mound."
      
The bullpen returns Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, Andrew Bailey and Craig Breslow, though Cherington noted that the team would "probably look to add to that group, (though we're) not sure yet how or what sort of roles or flavors."