First Pitch: Farrell's coming to town; let the speculation begin

First Pitch: Farrell's coming to town; let the speculation begin
September 6, 2012, 12:45 pm
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SEATTLE -- As if Bobby Valentine doesn't have enough to worry about -- a just-completed 1-8 West Coast road trip; the possibility of a last-place finish; the fresh memory of a now infamous radio interview that turned contentious almost from the start -- he faces the prospect of returning home for the penultimate homestand of the season, only to find his potential replacement in the visitor's dugout.

When the Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, speculation is bound to focus on Blue Jays manager John Farrell.

Farrell, it would seem, is nearly as tired of fielding questions about his interest in managing the Red Sox as Valentine is of facing queries about his job security.

But that won't stop the talk.

There are indications that Farrell -- and not Dale Sveum or Valentine -- was the first choice of the Red Sox last October when the team chose not to retain Terry Francona.

Before the notion could pick up much steam, however, the Jays announced they would not allow employees under contract to make lateral moves to other organizations. Multiple baseball sources said the Jays would have been willing to let Farrell go to Boston but only in exchange for pitcher Clay Buchholz, a price the Red Sox found wildly prohibitive.

Now, 11 months later, things are back where they began. Once again, the Red Sox are expected to be in search of a new manager. Once again, Farrell's name will be linked to the opening.

In some sense, not much has changed. As he was a year ago, Farrell remains under contract to the Jays, signed through the end of 2013. Their policy about not allowing personnel under contract to pursue similar jobs in other organizations is still in effect.

But that could change in a hurry. If John Henry or Larry Lucchino call Jays CEO Paul Beeston and re-state their interest in Farrell, Beeston would just about be forced to go to Farrell and see if his manager was committed to remaining with the Blue Jays -- or interested in listening to the Red Sox.

(A caveat: one MLB executive said Wednesday that Beeston is acutely aware that allowing Farrell to jump to a division rival would only further cement the sense of inferiority that many Toronto fans have regarding Canada's only MLB franchise.)

From there, it would be a matter of settling compensation between the two teams. There have already been suggestions that Daniel Bard would be an acceptable return in exchange for letting Farrell out of his deal a year early.

(One baseball source indicated recently that the relationship between Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos and Farrell has chilled some, with the former no longer entirely convinced that Farrell is the man to turn the franchise into a contender).

What's unknown is whether the Sox are still as fascinated with Farrell. In his nearly two seasons in Toronto, the Jays' progress has been minimal. Toronto has the third-worst record in the American League and will, barring some miracle hot streak, finish with a losing record for just the second time in the last seven seasons.

Still, Farrell has several undeniable positives:

He's intimately familiar with working in Boston and its attendant pressures and demands.

His knowledge of pitching in general -- and of Buchholz, Jon Lester and others on the current Red Sox staff -- would be invaluable.

And he successfully straddles the line between authoritarian figure and player-friendly manager, a balance Valentine could never strike.

Now, Farrell could still remove himself from any consideration with a Sherman-esque public statement. Or the Sox could focus their search entirely elsewhere.

But that won't stop the chatter this weekend at Fenway as the countdown to the end of the season begins and the speculation about the next Red Sox manager intensified.

Just what Valentine needs.