Former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was hired on Wednesday by the rival Toronto Blue Jays as vice president of baseball operations. Cherington will focus on rebuilding the Jays’ farm system, which has taken a hit over the last few years in trades for major league talent.
Cherington told the Globe recently that he would get back into baseball after taking a year off and that he would not be against taking a job less than that of president of baseball operations or general manager.
Cherington did not respond when asked to confirm the hiring, but the Blue Jays made the announcement late Wednesday afternoon. Mark Shapiro runs both the business and baseball sides of the organization as president and CEO, and Ross Atkins acts as the general manager for daily transactions, with Cherington expected to have a role in those decisions as well.
Cherington worked with Shapiro in Cleveland years ago, so he is very familiar with Shapiro’s style of management. Cherington resigned from the Red Sox last August after Dave Dombrowski became president of baseball operations. Cherington had stayed out of baseball this season and worked as an adjunct professor at Columbia University in New York, teaching sports management. He had indicated he would like a situation where he could make a difference but not necessarily be in charge. He apparently found one.
It’s what Cherington didn’t do — deal his major prospects — that helped the Red Sox go from last place to first this season. Cherington was the architect of the Sox’ 2013 World Series championship team, but his teams finished last the next two seasons. The 2016 Red Sox have many of Cherington’s acquisitions playing large roles.
Even moves that didn’t work initially, such as the Rick Porcello trade with Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes and the signing of Hanley Ramirez, have turned out well. Cherington’s biggest mistake may have been letting Andrew Miller leave as a free agent. Cherington signed Rusney Castillo, who is now off the 40-man roster, but he also signed Yoan Moncada, who is considered the top prospect in baseball.
Cherington also hired Red Sox manager John Farrell, getting him out of his contract with the Blue Jays.
“For those who worked closely with him, he was always able to articulate what he wanted to see, not only from the organization but from individual departments, that would be an integral piece to the organization,” said Farrell. “From that point, he was great. He was very even-keeled. He would get excited, don’t get me wrong, and he was a tremendous competitor, but still at the same time very thoughtful in his comments. And you always knew where you stood with him. And no matter where he worked, and now it’s Toronto, he’s going to make a great contribution. His legacy is left here. His imprint is all over this team and the people he brought in.
“For all of us that got to know Ben, that he went to serve as an instructor at Columbia was no surprise. He has so much introspect. He’s a teacher and builder at heart. He’s talked about with the vacancies around the game. He’s got a wide range of experience as a front office guy and I think Toronto has added a quality person and one with a tremendous amount of experience.”
Steven Wright will head to Fort Myers, Fla., after this homestand to begin a throwing program. Time is of the essence, so the Red Sox will see if Wright can accelerate the program so he can contribute before the end of the season. But right now, the Sox aren’t counting on it. Wright has improved from his bout with bursitis, but it may not be enough . . . Farrell is pleased with the work of Joe Kelly out of the bullpen, and him going back and forth from a starter to reliever may finally be over. The Red Sox thought they had a starter in Kelly when they acquired him with Allen Craig for John Lackey in July 2014, but he’s evolved as a power reliever. “You have to be respectful of the bouncing back and forth,” said Farrell. “It happens, as we’ve seen with Clay [Buchholz] and Joe, but for all involved the more you can stay the course in one role the better.” . . . It’s been easier for Farrell to define bullpen roles better with Koji Uehara back from his pectoral injury. The next step for Uehara? Pitching in back-to-back games. Farrell hopes that can happen over the next 7-10 days. Farrell thinks pitchers knowing their roles is important, but he said he will use Brad Ziegler in a role where he’s matched up against tough righthanded batters in late innings . . . Farrell respects what the Yankees, who are in town starting Thursday for a four-game series, have done despite a lot of turnover to their team. “They’ve gone through as much turnover as anyone. But they’ve got good, quality young players to turn to. They’ve injected a lot of life into that club,” Farrell said . . . “Spaceman,” the film about Bill Lee’s life following his release from the Expos in 1982, headlines the 11th annual Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival Sept. 23-25 in Cooperstown, N.Y.