Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 20:10
Ben Cherington has his work cut out for him.
After any season, changes to the roster are inevitable. There are always trades, free agent signings, and players who leave for other teams. However, for teams that finish in last place, it seems as though those rosters change the most and this happens to be the case for the Red Sox. When fans get a first glimpse of the 2013 Red Sox next February, it will feature a new manager and many new players. Postseason baseball may still be going on, but Cherington and his staff have many areas that they are looking to address this winter.
The Sox must find a good candidate to replace Bobby Valentine as the manager. The Sox have already expressed that they do not want the managerial process to take as long as it did last winter. Reports are already suggesting that Ben Cherington and the owners are contacting candidates for interviews. The Red Sox will begin the managerial search by interviewing Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach, Tim Wallach, as well as San Diego Padres special assistant, Brad Ausmus. The Red Sox have already interviewed Yankees bench coach Tony Pena and will interview Orioles third base coach, Demarlo Hale as well. Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach, John Farrell is still at the top of the list but the Red Sox have not yet been given permission to speak to Farrell and would also have to deal with the compensation issue. The Red Sox need to hire a manager before they begin dealing with players, as incoming players will want to see a manager in place before they commit to signing with the Red Sox. Having a manager in place will help Cherington construct the 2013 roster, as he can look for input from the new manager, which is critical in rebuilding a team.
Another pressing issue for the Sox is retaining David Ortiz and Cody Ross. Ortiz has already expressed that he wants to finish his career with the Sox and wants to experience “good times” again. According to ESPN.com, the Sox and Ortiz are expected to begin contract negotiations very soon. Cherington has already said that bringing back Ortiz and Ross is a priority for him. "David is someone that we feel strongly about bringing back, and we're trying to figure out a way to do that. Cody fit in well and had a good year. It's an area of need going forward." Both Ross and Ortiz are productive players, respected leaders, and provide a good presence in the clubhouse. Re-signing them both before looking to other players is necessary.
The Sox need to obtain reliable and worthy starting pitchers. Part of the reason why the team finished in last place was a result of poor pitching. The Red Sox need an ace to go along with the staff of Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, John Lackey and Franklin Morales. The Red Sox should focus on the quality of their pitching staff and not string together a bunch of unproven starters like they did last year with Aaron Cook, Zach Stewart and others. There are many good pitchers available via free agency and trade.
Other places the Sox need help are scattered. After trading Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox need a first baseman, but don’t expect them to sign a big name as almost all of the star-powered first basemen have been locked up to long-term deals. James Loney, acquired in the blockbuster trade, is a free agent but is likely to not return. Loney was very good defensively, but had very little impact with his bat. Mauro Gomez, who also shared time at first, is not expected to get the job. The Sox need to upgrade at the first base position any way they can.
The Sox also have to figure out what they want to do at the shortstop position. Mike Aviles hardly played the final month of the season, as Jose Iglesias possessed most of the playing time. If the Sox do not want to retain Aviles, they need to find a suitable shortstop to replace him. It does not appear that Iglesias is not ready, and may never be ready but with a lack of options, the Red Sox may go this route.
Cherington and his staff need to decide whether they want to keep Jacoby Ellsbury or trade him. If they decide to trade him, they must get someone good in return. Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez is a long shot but Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton could be a viable trade option. The Sox will think long and hard before trading Ellsbury, for if he stays healthy, he could replicate his 2011 season but being a client of Scott Boras, he will likely seek a new contract, one greater than the deal Carl Crawford received in 2010.
Ben Cherington has to find a way to bring winning baseball back to Boston. Believe it or not, the Sox have not made the playoffs for three consecutive years. Unlike the 2012 team, Cherington has to put together a roster that is likeable with a good chance of succeeding which many people feel was doomed from the start. Mort importantly, the Sox front office has to find a way to excite Red Sox Nation, as the fan base has been particularly distant since the 2011 September collapse. Bringing back the passion to Red Sox baseball is necessary for repairing the Red Sox broken image. Needless to say, the Red Sox have a lot of work to do. However, if the owners give Cherington more freedom to build the team, he has a good chance of restructure the Sox right back into contention for the 2013 season. Let the hot stove season begin.