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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington begins second roster overhaul

Aug 1, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT

For the second time in 22 months, Ben Cherington must find a way to turn a last place team into a winner — and fast.

Boston isn’t a patient place. Long, gradual improvements don’t go over well for a fan base which has enjoyed three world championships in the last 10 years and pays some of the highest ticket prices in the game.

Rebuilding? That’s for other teams in other cities.

In Boston, the turnaround has to be on-the-fly, with little time elapsing before an also-ran becomes a title contender again.

After the disastrous 2012 season, when the Sox finished with their worst record since the mid-1960s, Cherington took an aggressive approach to off-season.

He re-invested the massive financial savings that came out of the mega-deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers into solid major league free agents in their prime.

The plan worked like a charm then, as the Red Sox improbably went from last to first by winning the World Series in 2013.

On Thursday, Cherington began his second overhaul in much the same way.

He shipped out Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, John Lackey, Andrew Miller and Stephen Drew, but instead of accumulating a host of prospects, mostly focused on obtaining proven, established players in return.

Throughout, Cherington was guided by one principle: “To be as good as we can, as quickly as we can.”

In the off-season that followed 2012, the Sox targeted the likes of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, David Ross, Ryan Dempster, Gomes and Drew.

He wasn’t interested in stockpiling more potential and waiting to see if the talent evaluations were on-target.

It was the same approach on Thursday. He didn’t look for the best high-ceiling, low-cost prospect from the A’s in dealing Lester and Gomes. Instead, he received a 28-year-old power-hitting outfielder, who himself is under control only through the end of next season.

And when he shipped out Lackey to the Cardinals, owners of one of the best and deepest farm systems, he didn’t hold out for blue-chippers Oscar Tavares or Carlos Martinez or Stephen Piscotty. He opted for Allen Craig, 30, and Joe Kelly, 26, both part of the Cardinals team that faced the Sox in the World Series last October.

Why? Because Cherington was in a hurry.

The Red Sox aren’t the Rays, whose best return for ace David Price was an 18-year-old shortstop at Single A. No, the Red Sox intend to try to win next year.

Potential? The Sox already have plenty of that, especially starting pitching (Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Henry Owens, Brandon Workman) and left-side infield help (Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero).

No, what they wanted was a short-cut. The two biggest trades that Cherington pulled off were old-fashioned baseball trades.

You have pitching? We need hitting.

You need hitting? We have pitching.

And so, deals were born, though they weren’t easy to execute.

“Prospect deals are typically easier to pull off,” said Cherington. “Most of the time, you’re getting calls from contenders and it’s tough to get proven major leaguers from contenders because it doesn’t typically make sense to give up proven major leaguers if you’re contenders.

“But I think the quality of our guys (being shopped) and the fact that they’re playoff tested and recently playoff-tested. As far as the return, time will tell. We’re happy with what we did. We think it fits with what we’re trying to do, which is to focus on major league or near-ready major league talent.

But as painful as it was to get to this point, we really wanted to see if we could take advantage of the unfortunate circumstances and make it into something better.”

There’s more to do, of course. Either by packaging some of their own prospects or by signing free agents, the Red Sox need more established starting depth this winter. It would be foolish to head into next season with the fragile Clay Buchholz and the still improving Kelly as their own experienced starters.

But this much is clear: the club’s offense is vastly improved over the last 24 hours and so is its own inventory of young pitching.

There’s no guarantee that they can execute another quick turnaround. But they determined Thursday that there was only one way to try: to do what worked when they were faced with the same challenge two years earlier.

  1. anotheryx - Aug 1, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Is Red Sox the first team in history to go last to first to last in a 3 year span?

    • Caught Looking - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      They would be if it happens.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:18 PM

      I assume so, but they’re only had 5-team divisions since, what, 1995? That makes it a lot easier. The Sox finished last in the East in 2012, but still had more wins than AL two teams. They finished first in 2013 but only won one more game than Oakland did. And if they finish last this year, they’ll still probably have a better record than Minnesota, Texas, and Houston.

  2. moogro - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    I love the logos crookedly stuck to the wall behind them, and then not bothering to frame it for the shot. Were they saying something?

  3. edelmanfanclub - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    Both trades were necessary. 2013 was supposed to be a bridge year but it got delayed because of the amazing run we had, which no one seems to care about in the present. It was worth it. Some of these starters were supposed to be stop gaps, well now they are actual stopgaps. Last place this year but with a good offseason we could compete next year. We need some better left handed hitting and a good left handed pitcher though.

    • pete2112 - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      I agree with some of that and I do think they have some young talent who probably have some good years ahead of them, but they’re going to need more than just one starting pitcher via free agency.They’re also going to have to hope Buchholz returns to form. Luckily the AL east is a bit of a mess as most the teams have some glaring needs that probably won’t be fully addressed in the offseason.

      • edelmanfanclub - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Infield is pretty much locked but 3rd, not sure if it’s Holt or Middlebrooks. Outfield Cespedes and Victorino in the corners Bradley in center, Nava or Betts as the forth. I think we’ll deal some specs for a good left handed starting pitcher and maybe sign another. Clay Rubby are locks. While Workman, Webster, Ranaudo are getting work. Yes it would be a shame if Clay isn’t able to return to form, because it would be another roadblock. My hope is just better competition in 2015, and if its another bridge year to 2016. Then so be it.

      • edelmanfanclub - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        or Craig at 1st if, they decide to shop Napoli. Although I do like him, he’d bring in a modest return. Victorino has no trade value and is staying put at right.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:06 PM

      That said, Sean McAdam is wrong in assuming that Mo would have offered Taveras as part of a Lackey deal in the first place. Since Mo himself has said Taveras wasn’t likely to be included on even a Price trade, McAdam is setting up a straw man.

      • unclemosesgreen - Aug 1, 2014 at 5:29 PM

        Another emphatic demonstration of your confusion and lack of comprehension. McAdam didn’t assume any offer, he merely mentioned that the Sox didn’t hold out for anyone from the group of Taveras, Carlos Martinez or Piscotty, as they were after pro-level talent and not guys who may take a couple of years to pan out.

        You obviously don’t understand what a straw man argument is or how to apply the phrase properly.

        Another swing and huuuuge miss by the Gadfly.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 1, 2014 at 6:28 PM

        I felt a light, AA-level breeze pass me by.

        Unfortunately, it wafted the smell of the backed-up O.Co.Sucko with it.

  4. toodrunktotastethischicken - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    With Napoli at 1B and Victorino(assuming he stays healthy) in RF where does Craig play?

    • edelmanfanclub - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      Victorino is going on the DL. So YC, Craig and Nava will split time in right and left. Bradley in center, kid is d whiz. Just need him to have an obp north of .325 and swipe some bases please!

  5. proudlycanadian - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    In addition to all his wheeling and dealing in the trade market, Cherington also bought a dead parrot.

    • sophiethegreatdane - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:58 PM

      He’s not sleeping, he’s resting. Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 1, 2014 at 5:35 PM

        That bird is deceased.

  6. Charles Gates - Aug 1, 2014 at 1:52 PM

    Holy one sentence paragraphs, Batman!

  7. Wesley Clark - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Was this written by the team? It reads like propaganda. I understand that the team did, in my estimation anyways, very well yesterday with their wheeling and dealing. Why did the author feel the need to take a shot at the Rays return for David Price without acknowledging, you know, the actual return that they got? Did they only receive a minor league shortstop in the deal? And yet they praise the addition of Kelly and Craig as big league players without acknowledging the inherent gamble that Craig may never return to form and be owed a ton of money. Just seems like they are talking out of both sides of their mouth.

    • unclemosesgreen - Aug 1, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      The Rays got yet another right handed 2B / utility type and a swingman lefty for the major league club. The biggest part of the Price deal was Willy Adames, and he’s 18 years old and in single A.

      The article is not meant to praise the acquisition, it is meant to demonstrate the organization’s timeline for winning based on the age and experience level of the main pieces acquired. It’s accurate enough, certainly not propaganda.

  8. girardisbraces - Aug 1, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    The roster was essentially the same from 2013 except for the losses of Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia and Dempster and the addition of Pierzynski and Capuano (with Drew finally re-signing mid-May.)

    So, either Ellsbury and Salty were THAT important, or Pierzynski was THAT destructive to the clubhouse, or both. I’m inclined to believe now that 2013 was a fluke. They were a good team for which the stars aligned properly.

    I don’t think much of Cherington as a GM, but throw money at some free agents (like Cashman and the Yankees do) and they might get back to winning form….

    • jrob23 - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:20 PM

      Ellsbury as the table setter was that important. Pedroia hasn’t been himself since he got injured and with nobody on base (losing Ellsbury, no Victorino) Ortiz and Napoli are not the same. The projected lineup next season (assuming health) is outstanding and should be among the league’s best if not THE best.

      Of course, none of it will matter unless they get some pitching and I am sure they will be big players in FA.

      Cherington is starting to really make a name for himself. With the draft, FA, trades, how he handles bringing players up and sending them down. He is already a top GM in baseball. People might attribute a lot of luck and Theo to 2013 but he was a part of all of that and this season on is pretty much going to be all him.

  9. twalton95 - Aug 1, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    The Sox lineup for 2015 looks pretty good 2 thru 6, alot better with Cespedes and Craig. There is also speculation that Lester could come back (although its a long shot) and heavily specualtion they could trade for Hamels and will be players in FA for Shields. This overhaul will not take long i expect the Sox to contend next year.

  10. j0esixpack - Aug 1, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    After their last place finish in 2012 no one thought they’d do much better in 2013

    Similarly no one will be blown away by the names in 2015 but they actually have more pieces in place as of now than 2012

    Sox fans are realistic but not impatient – they can see what Cherrington is doing, knowing bats are tougher to find in the offseason than pitching these days, and they are happy to spend the rest of this season seeing how the young prospects do

  11. irishlad19 - Aug 1, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    A big lefty arm will need to be acquired this winter. Also, Bucholtz gets one more season to prove he’s worth keeping; if not, bye-bye.
    They need a lead-off man, so should find a place for Holt, probably 3rd, which frees up Middlebrooks for trade ( let’s hope he hits and stays healthy for the next two months).
    Boegarts has to begin developing into a MLB SS or he’s expendable. Bradley shows signs of beginning to figure it out at the plate, but still has more to prove.
    If a couple or three of the young pitchers look good in Aug/Sept then 2015 looks good; if not, they need to trade for more pitching.
    Also, please bring Miller back!

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