Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington begins second roster overhaul

24 Comments

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.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
1 Comment

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 4, Angels 3: I know I wake up kinda early, but the fact that people were still tweeting about this game from Angel Stadium when I woke up tells ya that it was something of a marathon. Fourteen innings with starting pitchers pinch-hitting and all of that kind of zaniness. Not terribly dramatic, though, as it was tied in the third inning and no one scored again until the 12th. The teams traded runs that frame — Aroldis Chapman blew the save — and then played two more. In the 14th Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela, who hit a sac fly to give New York their temporary 12th inning lead, singled home the go-ahead run. Thanks to all of their injuries the Yankees lineup was so anonymous that a split squad lineup for a mid-March trip to Sarasota looked at it and said “damn,” but the Bombers have won six of seven anyway.

As for the Angels:

I don’t know about “all around,” Brad, given that y’all lost, but it’s good to see that fan-pleasing media savvy you cultivated in Detroit has not abandoned you now that you’re in Anaheim.

Mets 5, Phillies 1: Everyone was talking about Bryce Harper getting ejected last night. I know he’s a big star and stuff, but a player getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes is one of the least exciting things around. No one ever gets ejected for interesting things like, I dunno, dancing like Jarvis Cocker after taking a walk or something.

That would be dope.

Anyway, Steven Matz bounced back from his nightmare outing last week to allow only one run on three hits over six innings. Jeff McNeil homered. Peter Alonso was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, which is one of the tougher ways to knock one in. The Phillies have lost four of five.

Diamondbacks 12, Pirates 4: Pittsburgh took a 4-1 lead into the seventh and then disaster struck. The Dbacks put up 11 runs in the seventh and eighth, which was bad enough, but it got worse. Pirates pitcher Nick Burdi appeared to seriously injure his arm, crumpling to the mound and doubling over in tears after throwing a fastball. This really sucks for a kid who had Tommy John surgery back in 2017 and now, no doubt, has something seriously wrong with his elbow or bicep. The Pirates will likely update today.

As for the Dbacks, Christian Walker hit a two-run homer, Eduardo Escobar homered and and finished with three RBI. It was the Dbacks’ ninth comeback win of the year. They’ve won 12 games overall.

White Sox 12, Orioles 2: José Abreu went 3-for-6 with a homer and five RBI. James McCann went deep for a three-run shot. The Orioles’ highlights: two errors from their shortstop, a base runner getting picked off of third base with the bases loaded and a reliever tossing three wild pitches in a single inning. They only drew 8,555 fans, though, so maybe they can pretend this didn’t happen.

Rays 6, Royals 3: Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer in the seventh to turn a 3-3 game into a 5-3 game as the Rays came from behind. Yandy Díaz, Brandon Lowe and Daniel Robertson knocked in runs as well. This was Zunino’s first game back after paternity leave so he probably had a bit more adrenaline coursing through his veins. Which, if he is a new father is actually terror, but let’s be nice and call it adrenaline.

Cardinals 13, Brewers 5: There were a ton of one-run games on Sunday. On Monday we get three teams scoring more than a dozen and winning in laughers. Here Dexter Fowler atoned for his boner on Sunday by going 4-for-4 with a homer and driving in four. Paul Goldschmidt homered — his ninth — among three hits and three driven in. The Cardinals outhit Milwaukee 18-5.

Twins 9, Astros 5: Jorge Polanco had four hits, including a two-run homer and drove in four, Jason Castro dingered as well, Max Kepler and Nelson Cruz had RBI singles and C.J. Cron hit a two-run double. The Twins win their fourth straight. The Astros pitching staff has now allowed 29 runs in their last three contests.

Rockies 7, Nationals 5: If you’re gonna get your 998th career hit, why not make it an RBI double? If you’re gonna get your 999th career hit, why not make it another double? If you’re gonna get your 1,000th career hit, why not make it a homer that breaks a 5-5 tie late in the game and serves to be the winning run? That’s what Nolan Arenado did last night. A shame he didn’t make 999 a triple for symmetry’s sake, but that’s on MLB for not making me their show-runner. Mark Reynolds and  Raimel Tapia also homered for Colorado and Trevor Story extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

Athletics 6, Rangers 1: Toledo Ohio’s own Chris Bassitt tossed five shutout frames for Oakland. No, I have no idea if Toledo claims him with pride or anything. I mean, they should, but I just said that because I looked up his player page and saw that he was born in Toledo. For all I know his family actually lived in some hoity-toity neighborhood in Maumee. Which I guess would be fine. I had a client who once lived and owned a business in Maumee. Nice guy. He’s in jail, but the last time I talked to him he was in good spirits. Of course that was 13 years ago, he’s still in jail and has a few more to go on his sentence so he may be grumpy these days, but at heart I’m sure he’s still a nice guy. Don’t look at me like that. I did my best on that case.

Wait, where was I? Ah, yes, the A’s-Rangers game: Stephen Piscotty homered and drove in three and Matt Chapman added a sac fly. Fernando Rodney pitched in his 907th career game, which puts him 24th on the all-time list, passing Cy Young. Bob Melvin after the game: “Fernando Rodney broke Cy Young’s record, pretty cool stuff.” Get you a manager who tells dad jokes about you. Not one who says a 14-inning loss was “a great baseball game all-around.”

Tigers vs. Red Sox — POSTPONED:

This morning it was summer
By noon a cold front building
Where did you go?
Where did you go?
I got to find some shelter
’cause any minute now
It’s gonna blow
It’s gonna blow
But I don’t mind the rain
So strike me once again:
I’ve got nothing to lose
And it looks like we are in for stormy weather
With death and destruction coming through
Oh, look out there she blows
Now everybody knows:
Stormy weather always makes me think of you
And watch out ’cause the storm is coming through