Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino on Thursday morning urged fans to stay patient, assuring them that the holes that need to be filled will be addressed while signaling the team wouldn’t be handing out any seven- or eight-year deals to free agents this offseason.
“We’re all eager to see this offseason bear some fruit,” Lucchino said on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “It already has, let’s be honest about it. The quick decisions on manager and coaching staff, the relatively quick decision get David Ortiz signed. And don’t diminish the signing of David Ross, he was a much sought after catcher, well known for his defensive skills.”
Lucchino added that an announcement was imminent on a corner outfielder once “the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed,” but that move is expected to be Jonny Gomes, who sources last week told ESPN.com had agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Sox.
The Red Sox also met with free-agent first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli over the weekend, are still interested in bringing back outfielder Cody Ross and reportedly have shown interest in free-agent right fielder Nick Swisher.
“We have some things to do this offseason but we are going to do them,” Lucchino said. “It is only, what’s today the last day of November? There are a lot of players we’ve acquired in recent years that we got as late as January. Cody Ross we got in late January last year, David Ortiz we signed in early January 2003 when he came here. Adrian Beltre we signed in mid-January. There’s plenty of time in this offseason and we recognize that we have got some work to do, some players to sign and some holes to fill.”
Lucchino seemed to indicate they wouldn’t be players for some of the bigger-ticket free agents, namely outfielder Josh Hamilton and pitcher Zach Greinke, both of whom are expected to get the kind of long-term deals the CEO said the team would like to shy away from.
"We're not going to get into seven, eight-year deal as we have done before,” he explained. “What we have ruled out is the kind of long-term, gigantic commitment to players if at all possible. We’re not going to set a hard and fast rule that says nothing will ever be done along the following lines. We’ll always have some kind of exception to a general presumption. But the general presumption is that we would go after everyone but avoid gigantically long term deals. We are more concerned about years than we are dollars."
“I do believe the dangers you face in free agency in particular are the dangers of length and tying up your financial capacity, and making extra-long commitments because of the pressure and competitiveness of free agency. Instead of signing someone you might like to sign for three years you get into the free agency market and all of the sudden it's five or six years. You have to do it because you don't know what the other clubs are doing, it's not an open negotiation. It’s a blind auction, so to speak. That sometimes leads to long and debilitating contracts."
Unless the Red Sox make a big trade or reel in one of the top-tier free agents, their payroll could be far below what it was last season. To Lucchino, that just means the team will have more flexibility to make additions during the season.
“Whatever the payroll looks like in January or February, there are plenty of opportunities during the course of the year, to make significant, some might even say seismic, changes,” Lucchino said. “Look at what happened with the Dodgers transaction last year. It gives us the capacity to add to the team during the course of a season."
“There is an element of patience that’s required,” Lucchino said. “You have to see how the market develops. There are players who fall through the cracks.”
Among the other highlights from the interview:
* Despite the fact that Gomes and Ross are similar players and have similar strengths and weaknesses, that doesn’t mean the Sox aren’t still interested in Ross.
“There is a similarity to be sure (between Ross and Gomes), but the answer to that is yes (we are still interested in Ross). What we want to have this year, and we have the financial capacity to do it, is deep depth. It’s an old phrase you’ve heard me use before and the redundancy is intentional. We want deep depth. We’ve experienced epidemic-like injuries in the last couple of years and we’ve had to go with some untried players. It’s a philosophy that’s widely held in the organization and John Henry is a particularly strong advocate for this policy or point of view. It is something we are determined to protect ourselves against.”
* Lucchino also said the team wasn’t actively trying to deal center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who becomes a free agent at the end of 2013. He also didn’t say the team was negotiating with him on a deal that would keep him in Boston beyond 2013.
"He's our center fielder, and there have been no discussions with regard to him that I'm aware of," Lucchino said. "You don't know whether someone is going to come to you and make you some kind of proposal but our plan is to have Jacoby Ellsbury as our center fielder this year going forward."