Ben Cherington Rumors

AL East Notes: Cherington, Lind, Jurrjens

Here's the latest news and stories making headlines around the AL East…

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says that he does not expect Jacoby Ellsbury contract situation to be a distraction at any point this season, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Ellsbury enters his walk year looking to rebound from injuries that have plagued him in two of the past three seasons.
  • Adam Lind discusses how last year's Blue Jays coaching staff played a role in negatively impacting his numbers over the course of the season, writes Gregor Chisolm of MLB.com. "This year the coaches will be given the freedom to do whatever they want. They have the trust of Gibby so he can just manage and sometimes the type of personalities we had on our staff last year, they micromanaged a lot and sometimes that can affect the way we play and the way we coach."
  • Jair Jurrjens may have suffered financial setback this offseason, but the veteran right-hander remains confident he can be the pitcher the Orioles were looking for when they first offered him a big league contract, says Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun"If I'm out there and can stay on the mound, I know what I can do. A lot of people know what I can do. I'm just going to come here and show everybody that i'm healthy and I can pitch again."

Napoli, Cherington Discuss Contract, Health

Mike Napoli’s hip condition led to a restructured contract and what he described today as “a pretty tough offseason.” But avascular necrosis (AVN), the condition affecting both of Napoli’s hips, hasn’t diminished his expectations for 2013. The recently-discovered condition has been symptomless, and was caught at an early stage.

“We’re moving in a good direction and I feel like we’ve got that behind us and are ready to go,” Napoli said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

Napoli’s one-year, $5MM contract with the Red Sox includes incentives that can boost the value of the deal to $13MM. The sides readjusted their initial three-year, $39MM agreement after Napoli’s physical revealed that he has AVN. 

The 31-year-old said he was initially “shocked” to discover that he had the condition. He played through it in 2012, when he hit 24 home runs, and the Red Sox expect he can be similarly productive this coming season. They’ll rely on Napoli at first base because they want him to stay healthy and they already have ample catching depth.

“There’s no reason Mike Napoli won’t be our primary first baseman in 2013,” Boston general manager Ben Cherington said. “That’s what we’re counting on.”

The Red Sox would be comfortable relying on Napoli as a catcher, Cherington added. That said, the team wanted to add offense at first base given the presence of catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ross and Ryan Lavarnway. On offense, Cherington expects Napoli will see pitches, get on base and hit for power — especially given Fenway Park’s dimensions.

Napoli said he expects playing first base will be easier on his body than catching, and that he plans to be ready on Opening Day. After consulting with many doctors he started taking medication for AVN, which has also affected prominent athletes such as Bo Jackson and Brett Favre. 

Napoli remained a free agent after the initial deal caused a delay, and other teams inquired about the possibility of signing him. Agent Brian Grieper of Paragon Sports International said he listened to interested teams and outlined different options to Napoli. However, the Red Sox were patient and supportive throughout the process, Grieper said. While Napoli initially sought a multiyear deal, he wanted to play in Boston instead of returning to the Rangers or signing with another club.

“I had a great two years in Texas and enjoyed my time there,” he said. “The best fit for me was in Boston.”

It took a while, but the unexpectedly lengthy process led to a deal that has both sides looking ahead hopefully at the 2013 season.


GM Notes: Cherington, Rizzo, Colletti

Let's catch up on the latest stories and happenings taking place in front offices from around the league…

  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington spoke to Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio about the status of free agent Mike Napoli and where the slugger stands with the team. Cherington told Bowden (via Twitter) that Boston is still looking to add offense to the first base position as the club still considers Napoli to be a free agent. He added that the Red Sox will continue to work through the issues of signing Napoli but admits there is no deal at this point (on Twitter).
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo faces the task of improving a 98-win team this offseason and recently took a break from the action to chat with MLB.com's Bill Ladson on the state of Nationals baseball. Rizzo points to the young, talented players on his roster taking the proverbial "next step" as one of the factors for the team's continued success in 2013.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti's major concern for his roster isn't about adding more pieces but rather making sure players are fully recovered from various injuries before Spring Training starts, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "We're fine right now if we come into camp, we're in a good spot," Colletti said.


Cherington Talks Outfield, Iglesias

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said completing this year’s managerial search relatively early should provide the team with some amount of additional flexibility this coming offseason. The GM can focus on the roster now that John Farrell’s in place as Boston’s new manager. Here are more details from Cherington’s conversation with MLBTR at the 2012 GM Meetings…

  • The Red Sox are talking to free agent outfielders while discussing possible trades to address their needs in the outfield, Cherington said.
  • Cherington expressed confidence that Jose Iglesias can be an MLB shortstop on a good team. “He has a chance to be an elite defender and his development path has probably made his offensive performance look worse than the hitter he actually is,” the GM said. However, nothing will be given to Iglesias and the Red Sox could go with another option if an appealing alternative emerges.
  • “We’ve got some work to do this winter,” Cherington acknowledged.

Cherington On Beckett, Ellsbury, Deadline Moves

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan radio show this morning to discuss his club, and WEEI.com's Jerry Spar has the partial transcript…

  • Cherington said he still believes his team is in playoff contention and can raise their level of play, though he admitted, "it's an unusual position for us to be in. That's the truth. Our approach at the deadline most every year that I've been here in the front office has been pretty clear. We're trying to improve the team. This deadline is going to take more of a nuanced approach, but we're certainly still focused on 2012 and doing everything we can to win as many games as we can this year."
  • The Red Sox are talking to other teams about starting pitching, though Cherington sounded doubtful given the "seller's market" for available top arms.
  • Josh Beckett has not been asked about waiving his 10-5 rights, nor have the Sox discussed dealing Beckett with another team.  "Taking Josh Beckett off this team is not necessarily improving things," Cherington said. "We need to add, we need to improve the rotation, if anything — improve internally or add to the rotation. I think we're sort of stuck in neutral if we start taking guys out of the rotation who are good major league pitchers."   
  • The team hasn't talked to Jacoby Ellsbury about a contract extension, echoing what Ellsbury's agent Scott Boras said last month.  Ellsbury will be a free agent after the 2013 season and it's hard to gauge what an extension for the center fielder would look like, given his injury-plagued 2010 and 2012 seasons sandwiched around a stellar 2011 campaign.  Cherington said other teams have inquired about Ellsbury though the Sox have no interest in trading him.
  • Cherington said it makes little sense to move struggling veterans as the Sox wouldn't be able to recoup proper value in a trade.  "The secondary point, the last thing a GM ever wants to do is sell low," Cherington said. "If we are ever going to consider trading a player, doing it at a time when a guy isn't performing doesn't help your cause."  Cherington admitted the Sox have made such sell-low trades before, possibly in reference to the Kevin Youkilis deal.

Red Sox Notes: Crawford, Lucchino, Marlins, Valentine

We heard earlier today that the Red Sox had lost interest in trading for Ryan Dempster, though they're still looking at another Cubs starter, Matt Garza.  Here are some more items out of Beantown…

  • Though Carl Crawford has struggled with injuries and performance since joining the Red Sox, he told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that he has no regrets about signing with the team in the 2010-11 offseason.
  • Team president Larry Lucchino discussed the recent Crawford-to-Miami trade rumors on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan radio show (WEEI.com's Kirk Minihane has a partial transcript).  "Dan Jennings, the guy from the Marlins front office who drafted Carl Crawford, was up in Boston scouting, presumably, Carl Crawford and others when Ben [Cherington] let us about the fact that there had been an inquiry," Lucchino said. "And given the encouragement that we offer regarding being bold I'm sure he asked them what they had in mind. That's just par for the course for this time of year. You explore all the possibilities, big ones, bold ones, small ones, incremental ones, whatever you can do."
  • Also from Lucchino's interview, he thinks Cherington is "empowered" to make a big move at the trade deadline. "This is a club has been built on bold moves over the years, going back to the Nomar Garciaparra trade as one example," Lucchino said. "There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Ben Cherington and the entire baseball operations are all pointed to working hard to July 31."
  • Manager Bobby Valentine told reporters (including Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal) that he is open to roster improvements though he doesn't "see any gaping holes on our team."

AL East Notes: Rivera, Roberts, Moore, Cherington

It was on this day in 1985 that the Blue Jays and Dave Stieb finalized one of the more unique contracts in baseball history — an 11-year deal worth a guaranteed $16.6MM and (with incentives) possibly worth as much as $25MM.  Larry Stone of the Seattle Times looked back at the contract in 2010, noting that while the Jays absorbed some criticism for the deal at the time, they got a bargain in the long run when Stieb developed into one of the best pitchers of his era.  In 1991, the Jays reworked three years of the contract to pay Stieb an extra $4.35MM as a gesture of gratitude for his performance.

Here's some news from all around the AL East…

  • Yankees closer Mariano Rivera denied a New York Post report from yesterday that claimed he would announce his possible retirement plans before the All-Star Break.  Rivera told Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York that "nothing's changed" about his future plans and that he will "tell everybody what my plans are at the same time after the season."
  • Brian Roberts isn't sure when, or even if, he'll be able to return to the Orioles following a series of concussions, he tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  Roberts says he has stopped trying to guess when he may be able to resume his career, though he notes that his recovery is "progressing" and he "has more good days than bad days."
  • Rays southpaw Matt Moore tops Baseball America's preseason list of the top 20 rookies in the game.  Moore is the only AL East representative on the list, though former Yankee prospect Jesus Montero (now with the Mariners) clocks in at the #3 position.
  • "We need some guys to step up on our pitching staff," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington tells MLB.com's Ian Browne.  The Sox will be looking at pitching or outfield depth as they conduct their usual scouting of other teams' Spring Training camps.  Also in this in-depth interview, Cherington discusses his first winter as a general manager, the difficulty in parting with long-time Red Sox stars Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, and what he learned from Theo Epstein.
  • The Blue Jays may be the only team that could be a fit for Derrek Lee, writes Fangraphs' Chris Cwik.  Lee could be an alternative to Adam Lind at first if Lind struggles, or Lee could at least platoon if Lind again struggles to hit left-handed pitching.  Though Cwik was pretty hesitant about Lee's chances of playing anywhere in the Majors in 2012, I'm not sure Toronto works as a landing spot either; the Jays have Edwin Encarnacion backing up at first, Travis Snider or Eric Thames as DH candidates, plus Ben Francisco and Rajai Davis as right-handed bench bats.   

AL East Notes: Duquette, Damon, Martin

Wei-Ying Chen, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Pena obtained the biggest free agent contracts handed out by AL East teams this offseason, not counting the Yankees’ extended agreement with C.C. Sabathia. Here’s the latest on the division… 

  • Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette told Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe that he’s operating differently in Baltimore than he did as Boston’s GM. “I have a fresh start in Baltimore,’’ he said. “I believe I could do a better job in one-on-one communication in a couple of different areas of the job. 
  • Ian Browne of MLB.com checks in with Ben Cherington, who’s now wrapping up his first offseason as Boston’s GM. Though Cherington says he’s far from unflappable, his boss, Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino, says he’s off to a “flying start.”
  • The Orioles haven’t ruled out Johnny Damon, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The Orioles have switch-hitting DH Wilson Betemit in place, but they could shift him to third at times or play Damon in left if their interest in the free agent is serious. 
  • Yankees catcher Russell Martin told Heyman that he was pleased to see the Cardinals recognize the value of Yadier Molina’s all-around game with a $75MM deal (Twitter link). "He kind of set the bar," Martin said.

Cherington On Madson, Saunders, Melancon, Darvish

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington appeared on MLB Network Radio's "Inside Pitch" with Jim Bowden this afternoon to speak about the club's offseason plans.  Alex Speier of WEEI.com has a partial transcript of the interview and here are some highlights…

  • Cherington said the Red Sox are looking for rotation depth.  The team is satisfied with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation so the Sox "don’t feel like we’re backed into a place where we need to break the door in for a top-of-the-rotation starter," Cherington said.  "If we can do that and it makes sense for us, then we’ll certainly do that. We’re always looking for ways to do that. But…we’re in good position there and can kind of let the market come to us a little bit."
  • To this end, Cherington said "the timing wasn’t right" for the team to bid on Yu Darvish.
  • Cherington said he had been in contact with Ryan Madson and Joe Saunders' representatives "as well as several other free agent options." 
  • The newly-acquired Mark Melancon projects as Boston's closer, at least for now.  “As I told Mark on the phone when I talked to him, we believe he can close….If the season opened tomorrow, that’s what he’d be doing,” Cherington said.  This, of course, could easily change should the Red Sox sign Madson or trade for Andrew Bailey.
  • The Red Sox have interviewed Brad Arnsberg and Neil Allen about the vacant pitching coach job and also talked to "several" other candidates.

Front Office Notes: Red Sox, Minaya, Cashman

The Cubs and Red Sox introduced the new leaders of their respective baseball operations departments today. Theo Epstein met with the media in Chicago and Ben Cherington did the same in Boston. Here are some more notes from front offices around MLB…

  • Epstein sounded extremely confident in Cherington’s ability to bring the Red Sox back to the playoffs. “He’s had such a well-rounded development,” Epstein said of Cherington. “He’s got so much integrity. He’s so bright. He’s got great management skills of people. This guy is going to do a fantastic job.” Alex Speier of WEEI.com has more quotes from Epstein.
  • Speier hears from an insider who won't be surprised if the Red Sox and Cubs need the help of the commissioner's office to resolve the issue of compensation for Epstein.
  • Former Mets and Expos GM Omar Minaya is one of top candidates for the Angels’ GM job, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • The Yankees expect to have a new deal with GM Brian Cashman by Monday, according to Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Newsday's Ken Davidoff explains that Rangers executive A.J. Preller rooted for the Yankees before getting his first job in professional baseball. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes spoke to Preller earlier this month for our GM Candidates series.
  • The Diamondbacks announced that they promoted Junior Noboa to VP of Latin Operations. Noboa, Arizona's first ever international hire, enters his 18th season with the organization. He has overseen the acquisition of players such as Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra.
  • For the latest on the Orioles’ GM search, click here, for notes on MLB managers click here and for more front office rumors click here.