The more time I spend trying to figure out the inner workings of a general manager, the more I realize how fruitless of a task this is. Anyone tasked with trying to mock a Bill Belichick draft pick or predict a Patriots free agent signing can fathom this.
Ben Cherington is another fantastic example of this, he made his first splash as general manager of the Red Sox by orchestrating quite possibly the largest trade in MLB history. He sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles in a cap slashing move that left many scratching their heads. The big money Red Sox were effectively “folding their hand” and conceding defeat; a first for the John Henry-Tom Warner-Larry Lucchino trio.
what if a Josh Beckett type deal comes along, where a pitcher thought to be unavailable is suddenly in play if Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts are included?
He followed that up with a series of very “un-Red Sox-like” signings bringing in Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, David Ross and Jonny Gomes. Cherington seemingly had chosen quantity over quality, as none of the contracts exceeded $39 million. As we saw, those all ended up being quality signings (except perhaps Dempster) and culminated in the 3rd World Series trophy in a decade being hoisted in Boston.
Naturally, he did the same thing the following offseason… to very poor results. The Red Sox quickly bottomed out in an AL East that was not even as competitive as years past. Cherington hit the eject button on 2014, trading away star pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey and Andrew Miller, but quickly began rebuilding for 2015. He called up top prospects Mookie Betts and Christian Vasquez and inked Rusney Castillo to a $72 million contract that seemed much more “Red Sox-like”, alongside star deadline acquisitions Allen Craig and Yoenis Cespedes.
And now the rumors are that Allen Craig and Yoenis Cespedes could already be on their way out of Boston, and Jon Lester could be coming back to Boston alongside the newly acquired Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and their $88 million, and $95 million respective contracts. Cherington at some point seems to have decided that building through expensive free agents is an unavoidable facet to winning baseball games despite the recent successes of teams like the Ray’s and A’s.
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But the one thing we have not seen him do is trade away his top prospects. And my immediate reaction to the Sandoval/Ramirez signings was that he shouldn’t. My thought process was that as long as he held onto young stars, he could mitigate the risk inherent in these risky free agent signings. But this team needs a number two pitcher. I am still of the opinion that the best way to do this is by using assets not named Xander Bogaerts, or Mookie Betts. But what if a Josh Beckett type deal comes along, where a pitcher thought to be unavailable is suddenly in play if Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts are included?
The following seven players are by all indications unavailable. But, with the value of players like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, maybe these teams could be swayed.