Ben Cherington, Red Sox Building For Future As MLB Trade Deadline Nears

Ben CheringtonThe Boston Red Sox’s 2013 World Series banner now is accompanied by a white flag, figuratively speaking.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington acknowledged Saturday after trading pitcher Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants for two minor leaguer hurlers that Boston officially has adopted a forward-looking approach when it comes to Thursday’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. The Red Sox, a team filled with such promise before the season, are focused on building for the future rather than 2014.

“We are in a unique position — I know I’ve said this before — in that the performance of the team has put us in a position where we have to at least listen (to trade offers),” Cherington told reporters Saturday. “And yet we have guys, particularly on the pitching side of things, who are elite performers; who are not only elite performers but who have been a big part of winning a World Series very recently. It’s a unique combination of guys, and there’s a lot of teams that are interested in those guys.”

The Peavy trade, which netted the Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree and left-hander Edwin Escobar, didn’t directly signify that Boston had become sellers. The 33-year-old had been included in trade rumors for weeks, and the Red Sox have a bevy of young, major league-ready pitchers ready to step in. Instead, it was Boston’s four-game losing streak this week — after the Red Sox won eight of their previous nine contests — that proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“It’s been a disappointing week — a little surprising even,” Cherington said. “We ran off a bunch of wins, then a big (14-1) win Monday night up in Toronto. We kept thinking as of Tuesday that we were looking toward continuing that run and adding wins. I really thought that we would. It hasn’t happened.

“As you start marking down the days before Thursday, it does mean something. There’s a reason why they call it a deadline. We have to be mindful of what that means, where we are, what the math says about our chances.”

The Red Sox entered Saturday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field with a 47-56 record. They sat 10 1/2 games back in the American League East and, according to ESPN.com, had just a 1.6 percent chance of making the postseason. Clearly, contending this season is far-fetched, and Cherington thus is tackling the trade deadline with a realistic mindset rather than blind faith.

The biggest decision facing the Red Sox obviously involves ace Jon Lester, who is slated to become a free agent after this season. Lester said Friday he would be open to re-signing with the Red Sox over the offseason even if they trade him before Thursday’s deadline. Cherington isn’t ruling out anything, although the GM refused to go into specifics regarding his negotiations or the club’s current considerations.

“I’m not going to comment on any particular player,” Cherington said. “We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there. Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015.

“That might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff, it might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon (Lester). We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed. We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015.”

The Red Sox had been teetering on the edge for quite a while, with Cherington and Co. hesitant to commit to buying or selling. A direction finally has been settled on, though, and it certainly wasn’t what Boston envisioned coming off last year’s incredible championship run.

“It’s not the most fun,” Cherington said. “I much prefer the alternative.”

Photo via Twitter/@RedSoxFund

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