The one thing the Red Sox wanted to do this winter was add a pitcher who could give them 180-200 innings. So who better than someone who has thrown at least 200 innings seven times in his career?
The Sox reached an agreement Thursday with veteran Ryan Dempster on a two-year, $26.5 million deal. Team sources indicated an agreement was in place pending a physical for the 35-year-old righthander, who turns 36 May 3.
Only a week ago, Dempster turned down a two-year, $25 million deal from the Sox. Other general managers around baseball speculated that Boston was willing to go a third year, but it didn’t prove necessary.
The Red Sox had one of the worst rotations in baseball last season. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz had down seasons, and John Lackey was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Felix Doubront became a bona fide starter and Franklin Morales was reintroduced to the rotation after a few years in the bullpen.
Dempster should fit as the Sox’ fifth starter, with Morales likely returning to the bullpen or being traded.
Is $13 million too much to pay your fifth starter?
Once again, the Red Sox stayed within their offseason parameters — sign veterans to two or three-year deals, build up team depth, and wait for young pitchers like Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Matt Barnes to develop and contribute in 2013 if necessary.
With John Farrell as manager, the Sox believe their established pitchers will improve.
Dempster was moved from the Cubs to the Rangers at the trade deadline last season. He made 12 starts for Texas and had a 6-1 run en route to a 7-3 record and 5.09 ERA. He was far different from the National League pitcher who sported a 2.25 ERA for the Cubs. He also pitched two tremendous games against the Red Sox (one with each team) and allowed no earned runs over 13⅔ innings.
That’s the version the Red Sox are hoping to get.
Pursuing a pitcher capable of working 200 innings was important. Only Lester reached that number last season.
“We struggled in that area for different reasons,” Cherington said Thursday afternoon during the introductory press conference for Shane Victorino. “One of the things we’ve been lacking is reliability and someone who can be a reliable and durable part of the rotation.”
One National League GM cautioned about Dempster’s ability to handle strong AL lineups. He had a 11.20 ERA in three starts against the Angels last season, and he was hit hard by the Yankees and A’s.
“If he’s your fifth starter you can be a little bit more picky who he pitches against,” said the GM. “Obviously, Texas didn’t re-sign him feeling he was more suited for the National League. But if you’re careful and pick your spots, he’ll do a great job. He’s a competitor.”
While the Sox addressed their rotation, the Mike Napoli situation remains unresolved.
Cherington was uncomfortable speaking about the gap between the Red Sox and first baseman/catcher finally inking a three-year, $39 million deal. But Cherington was hopeful that a resolution is in the cards.
“I understand the question. It’s a situation where we’re working through some things in regard to the player. Until . . . as has been our policy . . . until every aspect of the agreement is resolved we’re not in position to comment publicly or announce anything. We’re still working through some issues. That’s all I can say at this point,” Cherington said.
Major league sources have told the Globe that the holdup involves a medical clause that would protect the team in case Napoli misses time with a specific injury; the leg and hip areas seem to be the focus of that clause.
When Thomas Gill served as Sox medical director, he insisted on clauses in the contracts of J.D. Drew (shoulder) and Lackey (elbow). He also insisted on the clause in Jason Bay’s deal, but Bay didn’t think the clause was warranted and signed with the Mets.
It would appear Napoli would have to go along with some type of injury clause since it’s unlikely he would receive a similar deal with another team at this stage of free agency.
“Every time we sign a free agent to a guaranteed deal there are a number of things you have to come to agreement on and resolve,” said Cherington. “Some is contract language, terms and money and then there’s a physical with all these agreements. Until all those things are done and agreed upon . . . can’t comment on it.
“All I can say is we continue to talk and there’s that consistent dialogue and work to resolve the issues that are outstanding. I can’t classify it more than that. Our hope is to be able to resolve the issues and again we’re working on it. There’s nothing else I can say about it.”
Cherington was involved in the Drew contract talks, which took five weeks to resolve. He had no idea whether these talks would follow that course.
Cherington also spoke about shortstop Jose Iglesias working with Dustin Pedroia in Arizona.
“Any time a young player can be around Pedroia, it’s a benefit for the young player,” Cherington said. “They’ve gotten to know each other a little bit from playing. Pedey is getting to know his tendencies and he really cares about guys he’s playing with. He wants to help young players understand what it takes. It was important to Pedroia.”
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Gary DiSarcina will be introduced Friday as manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox. DiSarcina, 45, most recently the Angels’ special assistant to the general manager, managed the Lowell Spinners from 2007-09 and was the Red Sox’ minor league infield coordinator in 2010.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.