Ben Cherington: Red Sox heading to winter meetings in 'position of strength'

Rob Bradford
December 07, 2013 - 11:18 am

Speaking on a conference call Saturday afternoon, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington wouldn'€™t directly acknowledge his team'€™s two-year, $32 million deal with Mike Napoli, but did insinuate the Sox'€™ roster looks close to complete. '€œI do think we go into the winter meetings in a position of strength, with a very strong roster and one that we feel good about going into the season if not much changes,'€ Cherington, referencing baseball'€™s annual offseason get-together, which kicks off Monday in Orlando. He added, '€œWe think if Opening Day was tomorrow we'€™d be in pretty good shape but like I said before it'€™s not. We'€™ll keep working. There are things we could do, things we'€™d like to do to pursue and there are still the flexibility and means to do that. But certainly the team is much more filled out than it was in the beginning of the offseason. It could be that we'€™ve done most of our heavy lifting for the winter, but certainly we'€™ll still keep working and see what else we can come up with.'€ Cherington surmised the one area that still needs upgrading is the left side of the Sox'€™ infield, with rookie Xander Bogaerts currently slated to start at shortstop, with Will Middlebrooks manning third. One option continues to be free agent Stephen Drew, who turned down the team'€™s one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer earlier this offseason. The Red Sox appear to be waiting to see what kind of market Drew might draw considering any team (other than the Sox) which signs him will be forced to surrender a draft pick. '€œWe'€™ve had off and on dialogue, nothing too recent, but certainly leaving he door open still,'€ Cherington said of Drew. '€œWe'€™ll leave the door open still. We feel pretty good about our alternative at shortstop but we'€™ll see what happens the rest of the way. We'€™re still exploring different things, different ways to potentially improve the team. I think we'€™ve probably shifted more toward '€“ assuming we get a deal done with the first baseman [Napoli] '€“ we'€™ve probably shifted more toward opportunistic this offseason maybe. And sort of looking at different scenarios, different ideas, and maybe nothing comes of those because we feel pretty good about where we are right now.'€'€™s Alex Speier pointed out in a previous post that after the Napoli signing, the Red Sox'€™ financial flexibility may be limited. Without any further roster juggling, it appears the Sox have under $2 million to spend before hitting the $189 million luxury tax threshold. '€œWon'€™t rule it out but we'€™re also not close to anything,'€ Cherington said of potential additional moves. Regarding the speed a which teams have snatched up free agents over the past few weeks, the GM said, '€œIt is different than what we'€™re used to and I don'€™t know the answer. Usually deals happen when there'€™s a significant level of motivation, when one side or two sides are really motivated to do a deal. I guess now my answer would be a high degree of motivation, at least in some parts for certain teams and certain players to get stuff done. Who knows whether that'€™s a trend that continues or a one-year phenomenon, I really don'€™t know. It wasn'€™t something we necessarily were expecting. I think at the beginning of the offseason, we thought the catching market might move quicker, it was sort of a more obvious match game going on with certain number of catchers and certain number of teams but it has been surprising that the rest of the moves have happened this quickly.'€