LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Greetings from baseball’s winter meetings, where it has been a quiet morning so far for the Red Sox as they continue to move through what Ben Cherington has called the “opportunistic phase” of the offseason.
The unfinished business includes finding another infielder who can play shortstop, which could be code for waiting to see if the market comes back to them on Stephen Drew, or simply adding an experienced backup to Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks. They also will continue to have conversations regarding their starting pitchers, even while maintaining a public posture of being perfectly happy to begin the season with the kind of depth in the rotation they currently enjoy.
There’s a reason teams talk about never having enough arms. Last spring, the Dodgers began the season with eight experienced starting pitchers on their roster, with three relegated to the bullpen: Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.
Then the casualties came, fast and furious. Zack Greinke fractured his clavicle in a brawl with Carlos Quentin of the Padres. Chad Billingsley had Tommy John elbow surgery. Lilly strained his rib cage and went on the disabled list. Capuano strained his calf and went on the DL. That was just April.
In mid-May, Josh Beckett felt numbness in his fingers, went on the DL and two months later had season-ending surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Lilly would later have a neck injury and missed more than two months in all. Capuano also had lat and groin injuries and also missed more than two months.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti went from answering questions about why he was holding on to all his starters to searching for more pitching.
In that context, it’s understandable why Cherington said the Red Sox might not make any trades involving a pitcher.
“We’re very comfortable not doing anything,’’ Cherington said when meeting with reporters Monday night. “We’re very comfortable just holding everyone. We all know that starting pitching, a supposed surplus, has a way of working itself out.
“There have been a handful of teams that have been calling since the beginning of the offseason, and that hasn’t really changed since some of the free agents have gone off the board. Some of those free agents landed in spots that weren’t necessarily matches, anyway. I wouldn’t say it’s changed much since the beginning of the offseason. That doesn’t mean we’re close to doing anything; we’re not. We’re still hearing from teams.”
The Red Sox, unlike the Dodgers, have a strong group of pitching prospects that stand poised to move into the rotation should a spot become available. Brandon Workman, who pitched effectively last season, would be in line to get the first crack. There remains some debate about how close Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are, and Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo may be a year away, or late summer at the earliest.
Still, with so many teams looking for starters, the Sox could find a match that prompts them to pull the trigger.
* I ran into former Sox pitcher and closer Tom Gordon, bursting with pride that he already has one son in the big leagues (Dee Gordon of the Dodgers) and another son, Nick, who is well on his way to launching a pro career.
Nick Gordon is a shortstop/pitcher for Olympia High School in Orlando and currently ranked in the top 10 of Baseball America’s top high school prospects list.
“He’s a definite first-rounder,’’ one major-league talent evaluator said Tuesday. “It’s just a question of who’s going to take him. He’s going to be better than Dee. He’s a terrific shortstop, and throws 95 as a pitcher. If he had better running speed, he’d be the total package.’’
Tom Gordon retired after the 2009 season with Arizona, the eighth team for which he played in a 21-year big-league career. He was with the Red Sox from 1996-99, leading the league with 46 saves in 1998. He said he’d like to get back into the game as a pitching coach, starting in the lower minors in order to learn as much as he can, but said he promised his daughter that he would stay at home until she turns 17.