While following various articles and posts covering the Red Sox 2012 offseason, I’ll usually stumble upon a commentary or two that criticizes GM Ben Cherington. Some will claim he’s “in over his head as a GM” and others are ready to dub his tenure as “a catostrophic failure” after just one season and two offseasons. To the critics of Boston’s GM, as well as those who are uncertain about Cherington, I must ask this question, “Is Cherington being judged fairly, especially considering the circumstances?”
Cherington was hired by the Red Sox in 1999. He worked his way up in the front office, becoming one of Theo Epstein’s right hand men during his tenure as GM. He also served a brief stint as Co-GM along with Jed Hoyer when Epstein first departed the club after the 05 season. He and Hoyer would acquire Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett during that tenure, two players who were key contributors to the 2007 World Series Championship Team. When Epstein departed the organization (again) after two disappointing seasons, Cherington finally got a well-deserved promotion.
Cherington was immediately undermined by his boss,Larry Lucchino, in his first major move as GM. He was ready to hire his choice, Dale Sveum. He was instead forced to go along with Lucchino’s choice, Bobby Valentine, after a prolonged managerial search. The less we say about Valentine’s one season as manager, the better.
Thanks to Theo Epstein’s splurging of the previous offseasons, Cherington had to be creative in roster building in the 2011-2012 offseason. He traded Marco Scutaro to the Colorado Rockies for Clay Mortensen. Although Scoot would later be traded to the Giants and play a pivotal role in the postseason (NLCS MVP) en route to a World Series Championship, the Red Sox should have no regrets in this trade. Mortensen would up being a viable bullpen option and Mike Aviles was a solid shortstop for most of the season. Cherington was also able to sign then undervalued outfielder Cody Ross with the extra budget space.
In hindsight, many criticize Cherington’s moves on the pitching front.
He traded Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland to the Houston Astros for Mark Melancon. Although he finished strong in 2012, Melancon’s one year in Boston was pretty bad. Lowrie would hit 16 home runs in only 97 games. This deal should be considered a wash since Melancon would be part of the Joel Hanrahan trade and Lowrie’s still the same oft-injured, so-so fielding shortstop with power. Considering the injuries the 2012 Red Sox had, would another oft-injured player have made a difference?
More criticism is cited in the swap of Josh Reddick, Miles Head, and Raul Alcantara for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. Yes Reddick hit 32 home runs. He also had a .305 OBP and struck out 151 times. Bailey was plagued with injuries as well as Sweeney. Considering the lineup had a mediocre OBP, another guy with a mediocre OBP (who strikes out too much) wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Fans should be more upset about losing Miles Head who’s climbing the ladder steadily and could be major league ready pretty soon. Bailey has two years of club control left. If he reestablishes trade value or leaves as a qualifying offer-eligible free agent, this deal won’t look too bad for the Red Sox.
After falling out of contention thanks to injuries, lack of chemistry, and disdain for their manager, Cherington made a very bold move: he was able to trade three expensive contracts (the oft-injured Carl Crawford, under performing and surly Josh Beckett, and the good but replaceable Adrian Gonzalez) and Nick Punto to the LA Dodgers for two excellent pitching prospects (Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster) and three spare parts
(James Loney, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus Jr) as well as regaining vast financial flexibility. He fired Valentine the day after the season ended and hired his guy, John Farrell.
This offseason, Cherington has done an exceptional job in upgrading the roster. He hasn’t surrendered a single draft pick or top prospect. On paper, the pitching staff looks better than it did this time last year. The new additions on offense come with question marks, but if they pay off, Cherington will look brilliant.
Cherington’s two predecessors, Dan Duquette and Theo Epstein held the GM position for eight and nine seasons respectively. Duquette was let go after a disastrous 2001 season and new ownership took over. His tenure was a mixed bag. He acquired many key pieces of the 2004 World Series Championship Team. He also made his share of blunders, especially in the draft. Theo chose to leave after drifting away from his big picture view and “Feeding the Monster”, leaving the big league club in turmoil. Cherington looks to return the philosophy back to the successful formula. It’s too early to declare him a failure as a GM. Let’s let it play out for a few more seasons before declaring him a success or failure.