The Red Sox knew their priorities as the offseason approached. They needed to revamp whole portions of the organization, swapping out many pieces and filling in the holes where the team cleaned house in August.
Their list of ingredients for a successful mix included pitching, position players and coaches.
But the Red Sox weren't just gathering eggs, milk and sugar as they tried to make winning waffles for next season — they also needed a decent waffle iron. They got that late Saturday night when they finally locked up John Farrell as their new manager.
Farrell should be the piece that makes all the other pieces work, and the Red Sox were smart to get him first.
Tasty breakfast treats aside (wasn't that Bobby Valentine's personal favorite?), the Red Sox' focus on getting the manager they wanted as quickly as possible shows that the situation in Boston has already changed.
General manager Ben Cherington said he wanted getting the new manager to be the top priority, and the Red Sox made it that. Boston got its guy, but it also did one better — the Red Sox aggressively pursued Farrell in a way that put Boston back in the driver's seat.
If the Red Sox had to give up someone like Clay Buchholz, who was rumored to be the key piece that the Blue Jays asked for in last year's Farrell talks, Boston would have been in a bad place. Buchholz is not only a key player but was also the team's best pitcher this year. Losing someone of his caliber would have meant the Red Sox would have remained stuck where they've been for the last year or so — in the lower position, with opposing teams calling the shots.
But, instead of the Red Sox losing a key piece or getting what appears to be the lesser end of the deal (the Kevin Youkilis trade and Theo Epstein compensation are the top perceived missteps), the Red Sox actually worked this situation to their advantage. They not only got Farrell but also freed up questions surrounding the shortstop position. They can now give Jose Iglesias and Pedro Ciriaco legitimate room to sink or swim, rather than having to reward the efforts of Mike Aviles while holding a spot for Xander Bogaerts, who within a couple of years is supposed to finally close the can of worms that Nomar Garciaparra's fade opened about a decade ago.
The Red Sox were able to pull off the great deal for Farrell by simply being the Red Sox — being aggressive early and dictating to other teams what they want. Boston's top dog status has gotten the club great free agents and other advantages in the past, and a return of the swagger is exactly what the team needs to fix its clubhouse and return to winning. Getting Farrell was a key part of that process, but the way the Red Sox did it — by getting what they wanted in the dealings — was also important.
By aggressively pursuing several managerial candidates and having plans in place for whatever scenario happened, the Red Sox put themselves in good position to land Farrell, and to lessen the compensation they'd had to give up to get him. The Red Sox had a Plan B, and Toronto was no longer calling the shots. Boston got what had looked improbable as the season wound down, as everyone knew how badly the team wanted Farrell but needed the Blue Jays to comply.
Now the Red Sox are right where they want to be. They have their manager locked up. They already have one of their position questions close to being answered.
They can now head to the free agent market and trade dealings fully loaded, no longer missing the punch that marked the Red Sox for so long.
Farrell was a big grab for a management group that wanted him but didn't want to shortchange the organization to get him. And the way the Red Sox pulled this one off doesn't just help the offseason organizing — it also makes a statement.
These Red Sox are back, and they aren't rolling over this time.