BOSTON — Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington’s goal since Day 1 has been to build the deepest roster possible. Enter shortstop Stephen Drew.
Cherington said during a conference call Wednesday that signing Drew was a move designed to improve the Red Sox for 2014. The Boston GM suggested the deal shouldn’t be viewed as a slight toward the Red Sox’s younger players, specifically Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks, who are directly impacted by Drew’s return.
“The infield — particularly the left side of the infield — was an area that we had been looking at adding to really for several months,” Cherington said. “We like the guys we have, but in the interest of being as strong as we can and building as deep a roster as we can to get through the season, that’s been an area that we’ve had our eyes on, even going back to the late part of the offseason through spring training.
“It had nothing to do with who was on the roster. It was just simply a matter of trying to build as deep a roster as we could.”
The Red Sox seemingly understood they were gambling a bit by starting the season with Bogaerts at shortstop and Middlebrooks at third base. While both players have tremendous potential, there existed concerns that have since reared their ugly heads.
Bogaerts has endured growing pains, particularly defensively, and Middlebrooks again has battled both injuries and inconsistency. Middlebrooks’ current injury — a fractured finger that could sideline the third baseman for “weeks” — just pushed Cherington further into a direction he already was leaning.
“The Middlebrooks injury was another factor in this,” Cherington said. “Like I said before, our opinion of Stephen, our position on Stephen as a player, as a person (and) as a teammate never changed. (It) didn’t change at all since the day after the season last year. It just so happened that now is the time where it was able to all come together, and we were able to add a very good infielder to the team and we hope that we’ve made the team stronger.”
Cherington, like manager John Farrell, reiterated Wednesday that Bogaerts still is viewed as the Red Sox’s long-term shortstop, even though most of the 21-year-old’s playing time this season likely will come at third base with Drew back in the fold. It’s obvious Bogaerts still is a work in progress, however, and Cherington felt that adding Drew gave the Red Sox a better chance to contend this season.
“This move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short,” Cherington said. “We’re just trying to make the team better. We’re just trying to strengthen the roster. The fact that Xander has the ability to play short and third allowed us to consider different options and different alternatives to do that. It just ended up being the one that to us made the most sense to pursue.
“Right now, we’re just focused on 2014 and trying to build the best team that we can and trying to get on a roll,” Cherington added. “Bogey’s versatility is important in allowing us to do that, and certainly, he’s a very important player for us, more generally speaking. … He’s going to be a good player for us for a long time. Adding Stephen hopefully makes us a better team in the short-term.”
Cherington discovered a hole, and he filled it. We’ll see if that helps stabilize the Red Sox’s shaky 2014 season.