Cherington won't rule out major move at meetings

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Cherington won't rule out major move at meetings

BOSTON Two years ago, the Red Sox won the winter, acquiring first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford. Talk of 100 wins and a World Series title soon followed. We know how that went.

The Sox have made major splashes in past offseasons with the acquisitions of marquee names such as Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling.

What is the likelihood the Sox make a major move this offseason, acquiring another high-profile player? They do, after all, have an extra quarter-billion dollars or so to spend after Augusts blockbuster trade sent Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto and their salaries for 2013 and beyond -- to the Dodgers.

I dont know, said general manager Ben Cherington. I cant handicap it. You cant rule it out. I certainly wouldn't rule it in. I think if theres a deal that we feel really makes us, the organization, stronger short and long term, well pursue it. And some of those might end up being, can fit into that category. But I cant handicap it right now. Were still working on so many things that were trying to get the right things to land for us.

I think our fans want a winning team, and they want a winning team year after year. They want a team they can root for and can get behind and can believe in. They want to see players they can get behind and believe in and root for. And they want to see a direction. They want to see a sort of reason for things, see a team that plays the right way. So there are different ways to get to that. Sometimes bigger deals help you do that. Sometimes smaller deals help you do that. So well explore everything. Couldnt rule it out or rule it in.

Is it a necessity to have high-profile players to be successful in the major leagues?

You're never going to not want to take talented players, said new Sox manager John Farrell. But more important to that is the success of the team has got that team concept and buy-in. And that's not only an area that's not only being talked about with players that have been here, but what we're looking to add to it. So how we work collectively, and how we work together and how we compete together, you can have a group of individuals but if there's no common thread or common purpose, I think that's just going to make the challenge more difficult.

Still, the Sox have several holes to fill a starting pitcher, an outfielder, first baseman, maybe a shortstop. With the winter meetings starting Monday in Nashville, perhaps those pieces will begin to fall into place.

Asked if he is more likely to add players by way of trades or through free agency, Cherington said it may be easier to answer that question as the meetings progress.

Ive always thought its hard to answer that until you get to the winter meetings because a lot of these dominoes start to fall and until they do you dont really know the cost of different things, he said. Up until the winter meetings, it seems a lot of teams and agents are playing this dance of what it might cost, what you might be willing to pay but not really committing. And then teams start to commit or players start to commit and that sort of sets a price and then everything else, sometimes other things fall from that. So I think well have a better idea maybe later this week or into the next week on that question of whether we can more easily fill holes through free agency or trades.

It is unlikely, though, that the Sox will delve back into the realm of long-term contracts. With the stranglehold that was put on the roster, and any financial flexibility, by recent long-term deals -- precipitating the need for the trade with the Dodgers -- Cherington has become cognizant of the length of deals.

I think we have to have a guiding philosophy and preferences, he said. And that is consistent with what youve heard from Sox presidentCEO Larry Lucchino and what Ive said. In baseball you always have to be sort of open to the exception, and if its the right time and the right fit in the organization. But were guided by an interest in keeping deals shorter if we can. We cant always do that. So more than anything were trying to find the best fits for our team and guys that we think fit in the best for the long term.

Its not difficult to find things to spend it on. Its difficult to find the right things to spend it on, and that's what were trying to do.

Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

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Butler earns praise from Belichick, Patricia after wire-to-wire performance

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler left Sunday's win over the Texans feeling pretty good about himself. One week after being relegated to the No. 3 corner role on the Patriots defense, he played every snap and allowed just two catches for 10 yards.

“I think I’m building,” Butler said afterward. “I think I’m taking it a step at a time. There’s a lot of football to be played, so whatever you see, judge me.”

And we have. There was the pass-interference penalty in Week 1. There was the botched pick-play coverage with Patrick Chung in Week 2. But even with those mishaps mixed in, Butler's energy and effort did not seem to wane on film.

He caught Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill for a tackle from behind to prevent a first down in the season-opener. Against the Saints, his hard pass breakup on top Saints wideout Michael Thomas was a bright spot for the Patriots secondary.

In Week 3, that effort was there again. Targeted twice while in coverage on DeAndre Hopkins, Butler did well to jam Hopkins at the line of scrimmage and then limit the game's highest-paid receiver to zero yards after the catch.

When asked about Butler on Tuesday's conference calls, both Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia struck tones that were strikingly different than the ones that made headlines when discussing Butler the week prior.

"Yeah, I think Malcolm did a good job," Belichick said. "I mean, all of our defensive backs I thought were pretty competitive. We had some scramble yardage and loose plays and things like that. But I mean, the normal passing game we were pretty competitive on. But like anything else, there are certainly a lot of things we can do better."

That goes for Butler, too, who admitted last week that he hadn't been playing up to his standards.

On one of those scramble-drill plays Belichick referenced, Deshaun Watson found tight end Ryan Griffin for a 35-yard gain, which included several yards after the catch when Butler was among the defenders who missed the chance to try to wrestle Griffin to the ground.

There were occasions though -- like Watson's first-quarter third-down scramble that Butler helped to stop, forcing the Texans to kick a field goal -- when Butler's want-to was evident.

"I thought Malcolm played really well," Patricia said. "We certainly didn’t play great at all as a defense. I’m not saying that but I think the guy really tried to go out and play extremely hard. 

"This is a very competitive guy. Malcolm steps up to the challenges that you place in front of him. He goes out and competes, he works hard, he tries to do it the right way and he really tries to get better every week. Look, we had a productive week last week for him and working through. But it’s a new week and we’re going to try to get the same consistency every single week and that’s what we’re trying to do."

A week ago, when asked about Butler's performance, Belichick and Patricia weren't quite as glowing.

"I don’t think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be," Belichick said at the time. "We all need to do a better job."

"I think with Malcolm, he’s kind of in a boat with everybody else," Patricia said. "We’re trying to get better."

Part of the reason Butler may have been relied upon as much as he was could have been due to the fact that fellow corner Eric Rowe -- who started in Week 2 opposite Stephon Gilmore -- was inactive with a groin injury. 

How Butler will factor in against the Panthers in Week 4 remains to be seen, but if his work against the Texans improved his confidence, then that would seem benefit the Patriots defense as a whole. 

"Things that we're confident in," Belichick said, "we do more aggressively, we do quicker, we do with probably better overall execution than things we're not confident in . . . 

"It’s a fine line there between confidence and overconfidence and taking it for granted, as opposed to just being right in that sweet spot of having an edge, having confidence, being alert and aggressive."

Report: Dwyane Wade close to reuniting with LeBron James in Cleveland

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Report: Dwyane Wade close to reuniting with LeBron James in Cleveland

The LeBron James-Dwyane Wade reunion is happening in Cleveland.

Wade, 35, who won two championships with James with the Miami Heat, is "nearing a commitment" to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. 

Wade, bought out by the Chicago Bulls after one underwhelming season in a return to his hometown, will clear waivers Wednesday, become an unrestricted free agent and can sign for the $2.3 million veterans minimum with the Cavs. 

Wojnarowski reported that Wade considered offers from the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and a return to Miami, where he won two titles with James in 2012 and '13 and one with Shaquille O'Neal in 2006. 

The Cavs, of course, have remade James' supporting cast significantly since reaching the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season in June. 

Kyrie Irving was traded to the Celtics in a deal that sent Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to Cleveland. Thomas' injured hip is expected to keep him from playing until January, giving Wade, who averaged 18 points for the Bulls last season and 23.3 points, 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds in his career, an opportunity for more minutes.