Sox content to stand pat at Winter Meetings

Sox content to stand pat at Winter Meetings
December 8, 2011, 8:36 pm
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DALLAS -- A year ago, there was frenetic activity surrounding the Red Sox at winter meetings. The day before they arrived, they traded for Adrian Gonzalez, and right before they left, they shocked everyone with the signing of Carl Crawford.

In stark contrast, the Red Sox hardly drew attention to themselves this time. Other than retaining Andrew Miller (re-signed to a non-guaranteed deal) and David Ortiz (through arbitration), the Red Sox are essentially unchanged.

But as general manager Ben Cherington left here Thursday, he sounded far from disappointed and said the Sox weren't through building their roster for next season.

"We feel we have a really good team that just needs some (complementary parts),'' said Cherington, "and needs to put in a better position to win over a six-month stretch and that's what we're focusing on.''

Cherington and his staff spent much of the week exploring pitching options -- through trades and free agency -- and while they didn't do anything beyond adding lefty reliever Jesse Carlson, they believe that other moves will eventually come.

"I think we have a good idea of what we may or may not be able to do,'' he said. "On the pitching front, I think we felt all along that this is really going to be an all winter project and some of the moves would be very under the radar. There may be some that are on the radar, but we have a much better idea of what's out there and what it would take now than we did Monday.''

The first priority is to uncover a closer. Andrew Bailey continues to be shopped by the Oakland A's and several free agents (Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge and Francisco Cordero) remain on the market.

"I think we have some internal options,'' said Cherington. "Being out front on things doesn't always lead to the best outcome in the long run. We're in a good position, frankly, in respect to the closer, because we have guys who we think can do it. If there's a deal that makes sense to acquire one this offseason, we will pursue that.''

The starting rotation can use some re-inforcements, too, though that's likely to be focused on back-end options and depth. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, ending months of speculation, announced Thursday that he would indeed be posted by his club, putting himself up for bid for Major League teams, but Cherington strongly hinted the Sox weren't going to be involved.

"I'm not sure the timing of this offseason puts us in a position to be the most aggressive team,'' said Cherington. "He's a good pitcher. We have a lot of respect for him. We'll certainly discuss it and figure out if the post makes sense. But we've got a lot of commitment to the starting rotation and we feel pretty good about the front end of our rotation.

"Certinaly, if a team's going to be posting and trying to sign (Darvish), it's to be a part of the front end of the rotation and we feel pretty good about that part of our team.''

Retaining Ortiz was a step forward, since he finished last season with the fifth-best OPS in the American League.

"We're happy about it,'' said Cherington. ''He's one of the best hitters in the American League, so it's a good outcome. We wanted him back one way or another and this (accepting arbitration) is one way to do it, so we're happy about having him in the lineup again.''

Ortiz will likely get somewhere between 13-14 million -- either in a ruling or a settlement beforehand -- which might eat into the budget and prevent the Sox from being in on the likes of Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer or any other prominent free agent outfielder.

"To some degree,'' confirmed Cherington. "It doesn't mean that we would rule out making an addition to the outfield. But David's a huge bat in the lineup. I don't think we're in a position where we need to add a lot more offense.''

If the Sox have either Ryan Kalish andor Josh Reddick as their right field option, they would again feature an all-lefthanded-hitting outfield, plus Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in the order.

But Cherington said the Sox will live with that imbalance if the lineup produces like it did year ago when the Sox finished second in the American League in runs scored.

"There's been a lot made of that,'' said Cherington, "and I guess, in a perfect world, you'd like to go left-right-left-right. But our lineup last year, even with down years from a couple guys and some injuries, was one of the best offenses in baseball. So I'm not really that worried about it. We have some lefthanders who hit lefties. And there are guys like (Kevin Youkilis) who we expect and hope for a more
complete season out of.

"In a perfect world, every team would like to have a perfectly balanced lineup. But I think our lineup's pretty good. We're going to score a lot of runs.''