Epstein discusses Yanks' pursuit of Manny, Red Sox's needs

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is still answering questions about Manny Ramirez, more than three months after trading him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Epstein took issue with one particular query at the GM meetings Tuesday. When asked how concerned he was about the prospect of the rival New York Yankees pursuing Ramirez now that he's a free agent, Epstein said: "I'm sure they'll make good moves, but we don't plan our offseason strategy around what they're trying to do. We'll deal with the Yankees when we play them 19 times during the season.

"Our approach to the Yankees has always been just to respect them and sort of admire them from afar during the offseason and assume they're going to win somewhere between 95 and 100 games," the GM added. "We try to build an organization that can field a team each year that has a good chance to win 95 games. We figure that will be enough to get into the playoffs, and it has been five of the last six years."

One player who almost certainly won't be with the Red Sox next season is reliever Mike Timlin.

"We felt there would probably be better opportunity for him elsewhere," Epstein said. "Carrying someone in the 'pen in addition to our top five guys, we'd probably want somebody a little younger with a little more projection left. Maybe there are internal candidates to take over the role, but we're also out there looking."

Epstein's immediate need is a catcher. But he maintains that his No. 1 priority is to try and build a deep and healthy organization.

"If you convince yourself you need a certain player to win, then you've already lost. It just doesn't work that way," Epstein said. "One player doesn't have that much impact. It's about building organizations, not adding players.

"There's no player you can add to make up for an inherent weakness in your organization, a foundational weakness. You need to build the foundation up to get to the point where you don't need to add that one player. I mean, you can pursue that one player -- and yeah, he'd be a great fit. But if it doesn't work out or if the money gets ridiculous, you can turn to a different player and be in just as good a shape, almost."

Third baseman Mike Lowell, who couldn't play in the AL Championship Series against Tampa Bay because of an injury, expects to be ready in time for spring training.

"Our doctors think he's going to be 100 percent," Epstein said. "But a lot of work lies ahead of them. Mike said he already feels great and he's a little bit ahead of schedule, and the reports couldn't be any better. So we'll see. The expectations of all the doctors and experts is that, with proper rehab, will be 100 percent sometime in early March."

On another front, Epstein said reliever Justin Masterson's role for next season hasn't been determined.

"He's a nice luxury to have for us, because if we happen to make a trade or add a reliever, we know that maybe frees him up to start," Epstein said. "And if we make a trade for a starter or sign one, we know he's not going to be pushed out of the rotation and off the team, and he'll have a chance to impact us in the bullpen.

"But both options will be open for him, indefinitely, because we feel he can do both and make an impact in both. The more options we have, the more flexibility it gives us. The goal is to build a 'pen that won't need reinforcements through trade in the middle of a season."