On at least eight public occasions since the end of the season, general manager Ben Cherington has spoken about his desire to build “the next great Red Sox team.”
What hasn’t been said is when that team will be assembled.
Cherington has carefully avoided making promises to a fan base that has been burned all too often in recent seasons by bold talk that proved to be unfounded. His goal is long-term success, not a quick fix after last season’s 93-loss debacle.
“We hope it’s 2013. But we have a ways to go to get a great team to coalesce,” Cherington said Monday. “Hopefully it will. We’re working as hard as we can, but it’s not just for one year.”
In an interview on Monday, Cherington addressed some of important questions surrounding the team. Here are some highlights:
On the idea that the Sox are not moving fast enough: “I never think about it that way. We’re working hard every day to execute the plan that we have. I’ve found that the best opportunities in free agency often come later in the offseason.
“That [Blue Jays-Marlins trade] got everybody’s attention. But it’s still relatively early. It’s not even Thanksgiving. I think most people understand we have a long way to go.
“We have a lot of work to do because we lost 93 games. But there’s no doubt that with some of the other things you have to do — the manager, the coaching staff, the infrastructure scouting-wise — we’re ahead of where we were last year. We’ve spent a lot more time on player issues at this time as compared to last year. That doesn’t always turn into announcements. You can’t predict when it will happen.”
On retaining Cody Ross: “We continue to talk. There’s really no other update then to say the door is open. We’re also talking to other guys and I presume he is talking to other teams. Those things have a way of starting to move once one of the dominos falls.”
On why the Sox added David Ross to a roster that already included catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway: “We signed Ross because it’s strengthened the position. We thought that was the best alignment for us. We have wanted to have someone as part of the catching group who has been through the wars and has a good feel for the game. David has been in that second catcher role and has thrived in it. I’d rather have three good catchers rather than one or two.”
Ross, Cherington said, will probably play more than a typical backup catcher. The Sox expect him to have a significant impact on the field and off.
There is speculation the Red Sox will now trade Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway. But Cherington would not feed that fire, pointing out that Lavarnway has minor league options and could be returned to Triple A Pawtucket.
“All three could contribute to our team; I expect that to be the case,” Cherington said. “We have to see what happens.”
Saltalamacchia is viewed as the starter at this point. But spring training is still 12 weeks away.
“Salty has earned that right based on the last few years,” Cherington said. “He has done a good job.”
Cherington said there is “no consideration” to Saltalamacchia or Lavarnway playing another position.
On whether he would trade top prospects to fill a need: “I’m not going to rule it out. But you’d have to get a player that makes sense over the longer term than the shorter team. It would be hard, but when you lose 93 games, you have to be open to lots of difficult things.”
On giving a free agent a significant long-term contract: “There may not be one guy out there who is going to fill our needs. There are a number of players we have to look at. In theory, you can offer only so much to a player, even for only one year.
“We believe we’re going to have a significant payroll and we’re going to be active in adding free-agent talent to the team. But you want the contract to make sense.”