Since day one, Ben Cherington has taken the reserved approach. As the offseason has unfolded, the new Red Sox general manager has patiently waited on the sidelines, biding his time for the right deal.
One by one, notable team targets have been scooped up. Throughout the early part of December, closers Heath Bell and Joe Nathan signed contracts with the Marlins and Rangers, respectively. Then, outfielder Michael Cuddyer came to terms with the Rockies after the winter meetings.
But after the Nationals completed a trade for Gio Gonzalez and the Cardinals locked up Carlos Beltran on Wednesday, Boston fans should officially raise their eyebrows. The transactions — or lack of transactions for the Red Sox — beg the question: Is Cherington being too reserved?
He certainly doesn’t need to make a huge splash, considering the Red Sox missed the postseason by just one game. That one outing was the difference between the Cardinals missing the playoffs or qualifying for it en route to a World Series championship.
All the Red Sox need now are secondary pieces at cheap prices. With every passing day, those alternatives are slowly slipping away — and it’s not as if Beltran’s two-year, $26 million deal with St. Louis wasn’t manageable.
Despite being 34, Beltran resurrected his career in 2011 and finished with an impressive .385 on-base percentage and .910 OPS. After watching Lance Berkman rejuvenate the Cardinals at the same age, the Red Sox should have been determined to replicate that magic with Beltran.
The inability to land Gonzalez is more understandable. With the Nationals offering two top prospects and two average ones to the Athletics, it would’ve difficult for Cherington to match that package.
The clock is ticking, though. At the winter meetings, the general manager revealed that he was comfortable playing it that way.
“I think we may be less likely to go out and set the market this year than we were last year,” Cherington said. “The timing of things may be different, but I think we have the same level of feel for where the market is.”
His reserved approach shouldn’t catch many off guard. When it took Red Sox management a little over two months to hire Bobby Valentine to replace Terry Francona, it offered a peek at Cherington’s meticulous ways.
The lack of urgency intensified when the Red Sox declined to aggressively pursue closer Jonathan Papelbon. It allowed the Phillies to swoop in and ink the fixture in Boston’s bullpen to a four-year, $50 million deal.
Even Theo Epstein is benefiting from it. With Cherington’s wait-and-see manner, the Red Sox still haven’t settled on a compensation package with the Cubs.
Fortunately for Cherington, the team’s track record is historically strong in January. During the first month of the year, the team landed David Ortiz and Bill Mueller, two pieces of the 2004 World Series puzzle.
So will Cherington’s reserved approach hurt the Red Sox in the long run? It’s too early to tell, but he needs to press the gas pedal soon.
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