BOSTON -- There will be no Thanksgiving Day surprises for the Red Sox, general manager Ben Cherington said Monday night, which means folks can sit down for dinner without expecting a side serving of Mike Lowell or Josh Beckett or Curt Schilling, as has been the case at previous holiday gatherings distinguished by blockbuster deals.
Cherington said there is nothing brewing at the moment that promises a swift consummation, although the Sox continue to explore their options at catcher (which include Jarrod Saltalamacchia), while also looking to improve the depth on the left side of their infield. They are fielding plenty of inquiries regarding their starting pitching and have kept the channels open with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Mike Napoli.
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who like Cherington was at the Wang Theatre Monday night for the premiere showing of the World Series DVD (spoiler alert: Red Sox win in six), did make it clear that fans should expect some change in the makeup of the roster that won it all in 2013.
“I learned a long time ago you can’t fall in love with your veterans,’’ Lucchino said. “That’s not the way to run a railroad. We’re not going to be a stand-pat team. That’s not the way we’re going to run the railroad here. I think that’s a losing proposition. Every year [a team] has got to have its own personality. Every year will have a different personality, and by personality, I mean composition, not just personality.’’
Lucchino said the team’s preference is to sustain the model that worked so well last year.
“We still value draft picks enormously,’’ he said, alluding to the constraint placed on signing free agents who come with draft-pick compensation attached. “Our behavior has shown that we prefer shorter to longer-term contracts, and a presumption against really long-term contracts. A lot of things we did last year proved to be successful, at least for the short term, so I think we’re going to behave accordingly going forward.’’
Still, a certain amount of flexibility is required, Lucchino asserted.
“I think it’s our preferred model, but you can never get exactly what you want,’’ he said. “You need to have a diverse portfolio of contracts. Some will be longer than you want; some will be heavy at the front end. You’ve got to mix the structure of all contracts, so you have the diversity you need for long-term stability.’’
A commonly held view is that the Sox would have to abandon last year’s model if they hope to retain Ellsbury, who is expected to seek a contract at least in the range of the seven-year, $142 million deal Carl Crawford signed with Boston after the 2010 season. The Sox have yet to signal a willingness to do so, especially with rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. in the wings.
Lucchino expressed confidence in the readiness of both Bradley and shortstop Xander Bogaerts to be everyday players in 2014, which is why a baseball source ruled out shortstop Stephen Drew returning to the Sox at the GM meetings earlier this month.
“I’m pretty darn confident,’’ Lucchino said, regarding the readiness of Bradley and Bogaerts. “I think Xander still has some refining of his game. He’s 21, just turned 21. Jackie Bradley, I take you back a few months and the reviews of him by experienced baseball people. He’s going to have a long and productive career, so I feel very confident about them, as confident as you can be at that age and stage.’’
Cherington acknowledged that the Sox had taken a run at free agent catcher Brian McCann before he came to terms on a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees.
“I’d rather not say exactly how far we got [with McCann], but it didn’t surprise me where it ended up,’’ Cherington said. “It seemed pretty clear early on what direction it might go.’’
David Ross, who is returning to the Sox for a second year as the team’s second catcher, played with McCann in Atlanta and is a close friend. He said he lobbied McCann to come to Boston but in the end, McCann had to do what was best for him and his family. Ross said he believes the Yankees clinched the deal by offering more years, and because McCann was excited by how favorably Yankee Stadium is contoured for left-handed home run hitters.
There has been early movement in the catching market, with Carlos Ruiz choosing to remain with the Phillies after being wooed by the Sox, Geovanny Soto re-signing with the Rangers and Jose Molina reportedly deciding to stay with the Rays.
“We kind of thought that might be a position that moved quicker,’’ Cherington said. “There seemed to be a set of teams and a somewhat equal set of players, that musical chairs would start. That leaves us still talking and interested in a small handful of free agents. We also talked to a couple of teams about trades.
“We also think we’re in a pretty strong position long term with the catching we have in the organization. We’re in a position to be a little choosy, a little selective. If we can do something there, we’d like to.’’
Cherington said that even though he’s been fielding lots of calls about the Sox’s starters, the club is far from committed to dealing a pitcher.
“We don’t have to be compelled to do anything there,’’ he said. “A supposed surplus can turn into one that is not. We don’t want to do anything just in the name of doing anything.’’
In what could be interpreted as a vote of confidence in third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who struggled in his first full season in the big leagues, Cherington said that the club expects more production from the position even if they don’t make any changes. He reiterated that the club views Bogaerts as a shortstop, especially for the long term, and would like to add another infielder on the left side, either an everyday player or a backup.