Red Sox GM won't 'blow up' roster

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- General manager Ben Cherington delivered a message to that segment of the Boston Red Sox fan base/media types who contend the best course the Red Sox could take is to blow up the roster: That's not happening.

"I don't think blowing it up makes sense for where we are," Cherington said Thursday night at Tropicana Field, where the Sox worked out prior to playing the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night in their first game after the All-Star break.

"There's a lot of talent on the team. We're right in the thick of the wild-card chase. We've played very well since the beginning of May, aside from the last week. It would be foolish to start doing things that got in the way of giving ourselves a chance this year. We'll see how it goes.

"Like I said, we have to play well. We've got to start winning games."

The trade deadline is July 31, and Cherington essentially dismissed any notion that the Sox, who are 2½ games out of a wild-card spot, would be sellers in the traditional sense. The club has a "surplus," he said, presumably referring to the team's brace of outfielders, that could result in a deal, but he said there are ways of maintaining control over most of those players, even after Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford come back.

The Sox will be looking for starting pitching, Cherington said, but that makes them no different than the other clubs who consider themselves in contention. "Renting" a player for a couple of months, especially one that costs a team top prospects, makes less sense now under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which no longer assures the team renting a player of receiving draft picks as compensation if that player signs with another club. That would seem to indicate that the Sox will tread carefully when looking at someone like Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, who may be one of the top prizes available at the deadline.

Cherington said the Sox would think twice about dealing top prospects.

"We never say never," he said. "You've got to keep an open mind. But we feel very good about our farm system. It's come a long way, even in the last 12 months. We feel like that next generation of Red Sox players is coming.

"Our best teams have been able to integrate young players on the team along with a good mix of veterans. We started to do that this year (Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront). We feel we're getting closer to doing that, and we need to protect against hurting our ability to do that. We're not apt to give up young players who we like for a short amount of control or a true rental, especially in this new climate we're working in."

Cherington said the luxury tax, which CEO Larry Lucchino has said the club will exceed this season, will not be an impediment to a deadline deal, but there are budget constraints. The club is hoping the return to health of such key players as Ellsbury, Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz will make a difference, but if internal solutions are not sufficient, the team will look outside.

"We're always going to do whatever we can to give ourselves a chance to win," Cherington said. "There's no such thing as taking a year off in Boston."