CHICAGO -- The interleague meeting between the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs this weekend has already brought with it an analysis of Theo Epstein's 10-year tenure as general manager of the Sox -- a period that began with such promise and ended in a far less satisfactory manner.
But with Epstein focused on revitalizing the last-place Cubs, perhaps this is also a good time to evaluate how his successor, Ben Cherington, has fared.
Cherington was hired last October, on the very same day that Epstein was introduced as president of the Cubs. That's fitting in a sense, given that the two will, for some time, be linked.
The 2012 Red Sox are, in large part, still Epstein's team. It was on his watch that the entire starting rotation was either signed, drafted or traded for. The same can be said of the starting infield, and much of the rest of the roster.
Cherington also took over at a time when a new austerity swept Yawkey Way, limiting his ability to makeover the roster with budget-busting signings or deals.
It's also Cherington's misfortune to have the club beset with a rash of injuries that decimated the roster. The Sox had projected their outfield to feature Carl Crawford in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center and perhaps a platoon of Cody Ross and Ryan Kalish in center field.
Crawford and Kalish have yet to play a single game. Ellsbury played a week before suffering a shoulder injury during the home opener and by the time he returns from a broken boot in his foot, Ross will have missed nearly a month.
Andrew Bailey, perhaps Cherington's biggest acquisition in his first six months on the job, suffered a thumb injury in spring training and is weeks away from throwing his first regular season pitch in a Red Sox uniform.
Cherington's first draft took place earlier this month and it will be years before it can properly evaluated.
Here's a look a the moves he's made to date which can be judged -- The Good, The Bad and The Too Soon to Tell.
Cody RossRoss was signed to a 3 million deal for 2012, and at the time of his injury, was second on the team in homers and slugging percentage. Ross has proven to be an adventure defensively -- even in left field at Fenway, where the challenges aren't great.
But as an offensive player, he's got plenty of value, especially given his relatively modest salary. It's possible that Ross could be dealt in the second half of the season when Ellsbury, Crawford and Kalish return to full health.
If not, he's an affordable and productive free agent signing.
Mike AvilesNo, Cherington didn't trade for him, but he did advocate that Aviles be the team's starting shortstop at a time when manager Bobby Valentine was clearly pushing for Jose Iglesias to take over the job.
Cherington made the right call here, reasoning that Aviles was better than he was being given credit for. That's proved correct, with Aviles currently second on the team in RBI and first among major league shortstops.
Moreover, Aviles has done a nice job at short. He doesn't possess great range, but he's been relatively sure-handed and has done a nice job on double plays with second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Kelly ShoppachShoppach won't win any Mr. Congeniality awards, but he's hit .282.373.533 and though Shoppach is supposed to crush lefthanded pitching, he's actually hit better against righties this year.
Shoppach has thrown out a respectable 29 percent of opposing basestealers and his overall .905 OPS represents a bargain for a player signed to a modest one-year (1.14 million) deal.
David OrtizCherington wouldn't give Ortiz the long-term extension the slugger wanted, and while it can be argued that the 15 million is too much for a DH, there's no arguing Ortiz's production this year -- or the benefit of a one-year commitment.
Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland for Mark MelanconIt can be misleading to judge trades this soon, but for now, the Sox got the short end of this deal.
Lowrie, who couldn't stay healthy in Boston, has played well as the Astros' everyday shortstop (.279.354.515) while displaying surprising power (12 homers). Weiland underwent shoulder surgery in early May after three poor outings.
Meanwhile, Melancon pitched himself back to the minors after just two weeks and only recently retutrned to the majors. In time, Melancon may develop into a reliable seventh- and eighth-inning reliever. But for now, this trade favors the Astros.
Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara for Andrew Bailey and Ryan SweeneyReddick has been a revelation for the A's, with 14 homers -- or, more than he had in parts of three seasons with the Red Sox. Perhaps more amazingly, he's done it in a big ballpark with virtually no protection in an otherwise feeble Oakland lineup.
Sweeney, too, has outstripped expectations, hitting .301 though, as expected, showing little power (zero homers in 175 plate appearances). With Ellsbury sidelined, Sweeney is the best Red Sox defender in the outfield, capable of playing bothcenter and right and even when the others return, he can be a useful role player off the bench.
It's Bailey, however, who was supposed to be the centerpiece of the deal, but there's nothing on which to evaluate him -- yet. Cherington had hoped to obtain an effective closer whom he could contractually control for a number of seasons. But to date, Bailey has merely been as injury-prone as he was in Oakland.
Nick PuntoOn the same day he dealt away Lowrie, Cherington signed the veteran utility player to a two-year deal. Punto went the entire month of May without a hit and is hitting just .209. He's hit better of late and has played a few infield positions without an issue. Still, the two-year commitment seemed a reach last winter and looks even more so after 2 12 months of the season. Daniel Bard as a starterThis was Bard's choice, but Cherington backed it fully, even when Valentine wanted Bard to go back to the bullpen during spring training. To date, to put it plainly, it's been an unmitigated disaster. Bard, demoted back to Triple A, looks lost on the mound.
TOO SOON TO TELL: Bob McClureCherington had his first manager foisted upon him by CEO Larry Lucchino, retained holdovers Tim Bogar, Gary Tuck and Dave Magadan and allowed Valentine to hire Jerry Royster as his third base coach. McClure, who had already been hired as a scoutminor league coordinator, was the choice for pitching coach, but with less than half a season, it's difficult to assess McClure's impact one way or another.
Scott PodsednikPodsednik has been a nice find off the scrapheap, obtained for virutally nothing from the Phillies' Triple A team. But 16 games does not a career renaissance make.