Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington talks Rick Porcello trade, plans for Red Sox going forward

Rob Bradford
December 11, 2014 - 8:59 am

SAN DIEGO -- The only thing that could stop Ben Cherington's activity at the winter meetings? The plea over his plane's loudspeaker to power down all electronic devices. The Red Sox general manager punctuated his stay at the Manchester Hyatt with a flurry of pitching acquisitions, although Cherington was only prepared to discuss one -- trading Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier to Detroit for pitcher Rick Porcello -- by the time he ventured to the airport. Along with Porcello, according to sources, Cherington was on the verge of completing a trade for pitcher Wade Miley in exchange for pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, while also coming to terms with free agent hurler Justin Masterson on a one-year, $9.5 million with incentives. A source also confirmed that the Red Sox met with free agent pitcher James Shields at his San Diego-area home. Here is what Cherington had to say before leaving the meetings: On discussions involving Cespedes: "Many. Going back to the beginning of the offseason and GM meetings. I've said before, there were plenty of scenarios where we were keeping him. We were not looking to trade Yoenis Cespedes, but as we got into the offseason and looked at what the alternatives were and the need to build a rotation and the depth we have in the outfield, we feel good about the outfield group that we have. We just felt like it made sense. And Detroit's getting a good player. I expect him to have a very good year for them." On the outfield logjam with Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo: "Yeah, well, I think it's those three guys. With those three guys, we feel confident we'll figure out a solution that works. I don't think we feel like we need to do it right now. Obviously in Mookie's case, he's the youngest of the group. he came up and played very well and looked like he's going to be more than capable of playing center or right or any other positions potentially. Castillo's a natural center fielder and has looked really good defensively in Arizona and Puerto Rico now that he's down there. Obviously we made an investment in him and believe in him as a player. And then obviously Victorino is a huge part of the team and the best right fielder in baseball in 2013 and went through a tough 2014 because of injuries. If he's recovered, and we expect him to be recovered, he can be a very good player. I just think it's something we'll figure out as we get closer to the season. We feel like, as you guys all know, center and right, both really important positions. We feel like between the three of them, we'll come up with a good solution. And then certainly Craig gives us protection at both corners, first base. And so we feel like we have some options and some offensive depth that we were able to consider trading Cespedes because of that." On the end result of the Jon Lester trade: "Yeah, I guess if you look at it in that context, I think if we had known in July that we weren't going to sign Jon Lester, I think we would've been happy to trade him for Rick Porcello. So that's not what we were expecting to do when we traded for Cespedes, but I guess in the final, this is the sort of net-net, we're excited to have Rick on board." On how he views the rotation after the moves: "I think we feel like, hopefully, if we're able to push some other stuff across the goal line that we'll be in strong position with the rotation. It doesn't mean that we'd be disinterested in considering other stuff, but that we'd be in strong position with the group of guys who we feel can be good major league starters in our division next year and also because of the group of young pitching that we would've protected and have a chance to develop behind them." On possible extension talks with Porcello: "Just get to know him a little bit first. I'm sure we'll have a chance to get him up to Boston sometime soon and introduce him to some of the things we do and get to know him a little better. I don'€™t want to rule anything out but that'€™s not something we're talking about right now." On moving young starters into the bullpen: "I think it's more likely than not that at least one of the spots in the bullpen if not more than that will be filled by some of the group that'€™s here '€” the younger pitching group. That'€™s not to say we wouldn't look to add to the bullpen externally also this winter; we may do that. But we wouldn't mind creating an opportunity in the bullpen for one of the younger guys." On looking for ground ball pitchers: "We're just looking for the best fits. Guys that keep the ball out of the air, there's some benefit to that in Fenway Park obviously. There are fly ball pitchers we looked at too. There are different ways to pitch, and there's not a certain type that we're looking for." On how he views the infield defense with ground ball pitchers: "We feel good about the way our infield defense has gone. Obviously the right side has and should continue to be a strength. For right-hand pitchers that keep the ball on the ground, really the right side of the infield is the most important '€” not the only important part but the most important. Sandoval has been a good defender and we should see probably improvement at that position defensively. As we saw, Bogie is still developing as a shortstop in the major leagues. But the way he looked after he moved back to the position late in the season and what he did late in the year and even what we've seen in this offseason from him, we feel confident he's going to be a solid defender there." On how he views Porcello: "We see, starting just with what he is now or what he has been the last couple of years, we feel he's been one of the better starting pitchers in baseball. He's been on a staff with a lot of big-name pitchers and really good starting pitchers, so he sort of gets buried in the names in Detroit because he's been part of such a good rotation. He's been really good in his own right. Given his age, we feel there may be more upside. Even what he is right now we think is really going to help us." On if there will be more moves made for the rotation: "I think we'€™re going to keep working and see what comes to us. Our hope was to really strengthen our rotation, our position with the rotation, this week, or at some point soon. Hopefully we'€™ll be able to do that. It doesn't mean the offseason'€™s over on other parts of the team that we'€™d still like to address, and no matter what happens to the rotation this week, I don'€™t want to rule out other things. Hopefully we'€™re closer to just being in a much stronger position with the rotation and having more strength and depth in that area." On if the Sox can get by without a proven ace: "I think it can be done. I think there are good teams that have both versions. I think as I'€™ve said before, I think we feel it'€™s never a question about whether a team would benefit from having an ace or a front of the rotation type of starter. The question is how do you get them and where do they come from. If you'€™re looking at baseball, 2014, the top 10-15 starting pitchers in baseball, there'€™s a bunch of them that two years ago would not have been on that list. So pitching can change quickly and again, hopefully we'€™re closer to building some strength and depth in the rotation and we also have, beyond that, a lot of younger pitching that we think in time, some of them have a chance to develop into that type of guy. As I said, I think we still feel like the winter meetings is relatively early in the offseason and there'€™s a long way to go and we'€™ll see what comes to us." On if teams are more willing to talk about front-line pitching in recent days: "I guess it depends on exactly who you'€™re talking about but I don'€™t know that that'€™s changed. Obviously moves have started to happen. you hear even the ones that haven'€™t been announced, you hear free agent pitchers are getting closer to agreements so that market is starting to go. Trades, same thing. Some of the five plus pitchers you hear are starting to move. I'€™m sure there will be more to come but as expected, it probably picked up after Lester made his decision." On his analysis of Porcello: "Well, I think ground balls, and he doesn't walk guys. He'€™s been extremely durable. He made an adjustment last year in his style which we think helped him. Certainly the type of guy who would benefit from a good defense. He'€™s a guy who was a very high pick, got to the big leagues very quickly and was kind of learning how to pitch at the big league level for a while. Seems like he was starting to turn a corner the last couple of years. Even 2013, we feel like look at the underlying numbers and our scouting reports, it was sort of better than what the raw ERA looked like. That carried into 2014. We think he'€™s at a good point in his career and that he'€™ll be a good, solid addition to the rotation."