NASHVILLE -- Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington addressed a few subjects on Day 1 of baseball’s winter meetings Monday at the Opryland Hotel.
Cherington’s day began with reports that the club had agreed with free-agent catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli on a three-year deal worth $39 million, and while the GM would not confirm the sides had a deal in place, Cherington did talk about what Napoli would add if and when a contract is finalized.
“We’ve made some progress,” Cherington said. “He’s a guy who’s getting on base, has power and could be a good fit for our ballpark. We knew when we made the Dodger trade, when we moved (Adrian) Gonzalez that we would have to try to find a way to replace that offense, and as we got into the offseason we understood that was probably going to have to come from a combination of guys and maybe not one guy.
“So that’s a part of what we’re trying to do this offseason is add offense at a number of spots on the roster, so we’re hopeful we can continue to do that.”
The Red Sox seem to have a surplus at the catching position with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway, David Ross and now Napoli. Cherington believes Napoli could help the Sox at both catcher and first base.
“He can catch and he can play first,” Cherington said. “If he’s here, I would imagine he’d do some of both but that would be up to our manager to figure out.”
How much Napoli would be behind the plate is not clear.
“It’s hard to say. Obviously we’re not ready to announce anything, but we can envision him -- there have been years where he’s caught a number of games and there’s been years he’s caught less,” Cherington said. “We like his offense at Fenway. We like the versatility. So we’ll see and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to make some progress there.”
Here are a few other subjects Cherington addressed during his afternoon scrum with the Boston media.
Q: Since the lineup is stocked with right-handed hitters, is it now a priority to get some balance?
A: “We would like to find some balance. I want to make sure we, I’d rather have the right players than just add a left-handed hitter just to say we added a left-handed hitter, so I guess it’s a balancing act. We’d be hopeful that we can find some ways to add a left-hand bat somewhere to complement the current group.”
Q: With Napoli now in the mix, do you consider there to be a logjam at the catching position?
A: “We’re pretty comfortable where we are. There’s some time before spring training, but we’ve been trying to strengthen the team all over the roster. It just so happens we’ve made some additions in that area, or at least one and another in that area, and we’ll see how the offseason goes.
“I think there’s a very viable scenario that we go into spring training without moving anyone off the current roster and we’ll figure it out in spring training and keep the guys in the organization that are here now.”
Q: Have you made progress on adding another outfielder?
A: “We’re working on it. I’m not sure I can classify the progress, but we’re working on it. We’re working on free-agent alternatives, trade alternatives, all different flavors of ice cream and we’d like to add in that area -- no doubt.”
Q: What about starting pitching?
A: “Same. Same.”
Q: Is there a decent market for staring pitching?
A: “I think it’s always steep for the better guys. It’s a valuable commodity so if a team is going to move someone, especially if there’s any length of control asking for a lot as we would if we were talking about someone. It’s steep and I think teams -- and I put us in this category -- are trying to balance that versus the free-agent options. Free-agent options, some of them may cost a little bit more money but there’s probably less talent so we’re trying to balance those options.”
Q: Since the free-agent outfield options you’re focused on have been made qualifying offers, is giving up a draft pick in compensation a factor?
A: “It’s a factor but it’s not the only factor. For the right guy, whether it’s this offseason or future offseasons, we factor that in but it’s not a road block.”
Q: Is it easier since your first-round pick is protected?
A: “That helps but we’ve done well in that area of the draft, the second round, so we don’t take that lightly and it’s still giving up value.”
Q: Is it different this offseason to try to build a roster when everyone is healthy compared to a year ago?
A: “I think what’s different about this offseason more than anything is where we’re starting from. Things did not go well this year and we’re trying to move forward and we are moving forward. There’s no doubt that anything a franchise needs to be successful is in place here, but you are what you are, so that’s what’s different more than anything this offseason as opposed to any other offseason, at least in recent memory since I’ve been here. We’re trying to add a lot of wins to where we finished to compete in this division because we know this division is going to be tough.”
Q: How is it for you personally this winter since you have a year of experience as a GM?
A: “Hopefully better. I guess you go through the cycle once and you’re a little bit more comfortable with everything you have to do and maybe you’re more aware of potential potholes and you’re able to navigate those hopefully. Again, you’ve got a lot to do and I think any GM would tell you that ideally you go into any offseason coming off a strong year with less to do, and you’re able to be more focused and opportunistic about improving the team. This offseason is different. We had [to hire] a manager, a coaching staff and a lot to do for the roster. We’re having to work on a number of different fronts at the same time and it’s a challenge, but we’ve been able to land some things and hopefully getting closer on some other things and we’ll keep working.”
Q: Has it been hard having to convince agents and players Boston is still the place to play given what happened last season?
A: “It has been a question that has been asked, but it hasn’t been that hard to answer. I think players and agents understand, despite what happened this year, Boston is Boston and we’re committed to having a winning team, we have a history of a winning team, we’re going to commit resources to the team, so sure, they ask the question just to make sure that they understand the direction we’re headed but it hasn’t been an obstacle, as I can tell.”
Q: Do you have a profile for the offensive type of player you'd like to play right field?
A: “Dwight Evans. Dwight Evans.”
Q: Are you thinking about adding another shortstop or will Jose Iglesias be given an opportunity to win the job in spring training?
A: “I think we need to look at, to some degree, what the rest of the team looks like. Jose is at a point, we think, where he can help a major-league team because the defense has a chance to be good enough, if the rest of the lineup is strong enough, that he can be a part of a good team. If he’s given that opportunity he’s going to have to earn it in spring training. If there’s a clear way to get better at that position and help our team overall this offseason, we’ll pursue that, but I don’t think we’re leaning toward any one direction or another.”