Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was interviewed on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Thursday. Among the comments of note ...
The outfield situation. With Shane Victorino on the disabled list and Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore both producing, the Red Sox will soon have a decision to make. When Victorino (hamstring) is ready to return (and assuming Bradley’s production keeps up), the team will have six reliable outfielders -- Victorino, Sizemore, Bradley, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp -- to fill five spots.
Who will be the odd man out?
“I think we’ve got to see where we are when we get there,” Cherington explained when asked whether he would consider trading one of his outfielders. “Our standard default position this early in the season is to try to keep as much talent in the organization as we can. I wouldn’t rule out anything and of course a lot can happen between now and then that might work itself out naturally, but Jackie [Bradley Jr.], it’s been really good to see him -- we’re all happy for him because we’ve seen him be this player for his whole life. It just hadn’t happened in the big leagues yet and now folks in Boston are seeing the kind of things he can do. He’s a really great defender, he’s having good at-bats and playing with a lot of energy. Certainly helping us out.
“We have, we think, a combination of guys who can make up a really good outfield and we’ll just see where we are as we get toward the end of April and Vic comes back, and we’ll see where we are at that time.”
The one thing you can count on, Cherington said, is slotting Victorino in the right field spot once he’s ready to return.
“The one thing we probably feel strongest about is making sure he’s right and then getting him to right field and hopefully leaving him in right field as much as possible,” he said. “Then we’ll figure out the rest from there.”
Contract talks with Jon Lester. The Red Sox and their ace began discussions on a contract extension in spring training, but decided to “hit the pause button” just before the season began. Lester, who is making $13 million in 2014, is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
The 30-year-old Lester said he wants to stick around and would be agreeable to a hometown discount, but it’s not clear what kind of discount he’d accept. For his part, Cherington has suggested the Red Sox would not go to the lengths other clubs have gone to retain their aces.
“He’s got a lot going for him, and he’s just a few months from free agency at a time when you and we all see what’s happened with starting pitching in the free agent market and contracts have come down over the last two, three years,” Cherington said. “That segment of the population has clearly moved at least in terms of free agent dollars. That creates a dynamic when you’re trying to work on a contract. That makes it challenging, and we have to look at it through our own lens that what’s clear as we’ve stated -- and John Henry said this and I’ve said this -- we want Jon Lester to be here. We will work as hard as we can to try to make that work, but there’s things that other teams might do that we just won’t do. But we have a good relationship with Jon and a good relationship with Seth Levinson.
“We’re going to keep working at it. We’re not working in it currently, but we’ll be working on it at the right time. When there’s a desire on both sides there’s always a chance.”
John Lackey beyond 2015? Lackey finished last season strong and has started this one even better, sporting a 2-0 record and a 1.38 ERA through 2 starts. Lackey’s Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago triggered an option in his contract that calls for him to make the major league minimum in 2015.
The 35-year-old Lackey is undergoing a career renaissance and would be a bargain at the major league minimum next season. Would the Red Sox consider adding years to the end of his deal to increase his salary for 2015 and lock him into years beyond? Cherington didn’t seem eager to go there just yet.
“[Lackey] has a really high degree of accountability and I think he understands the contract he signed,” Cherington said. “It’s also clear the way he’s throwing right now that in all likelihood he’s going to keep pitching past 2015, so he’s got a lot of reasons to keep pitching. He certainly looks more than capable of pitching for a while, and he’s got the kind of body and delivery and command. He’s the type of guy that could pitch for a while longer if he wants to, so it is a bit of an unusual situation, but it was part of the contract that was agreed to, and I think the way it looks like right now, we would all expect for John to sign another contract at some point and keep pitching past 2015.”