Cherington: Sox aren't searching for an ace

Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- If Ben Cherington's words can be taken at face value, James Shields isn't walking through the Boston Red Sox clubhouse door anytime soon. Neither is Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels nor Johnny Cueto, the elite starting pitchers whose names have been mentioned most often as possible replacements for Jon Lester at the top of the Boston rotation.

The Red Sox general manager, speaking with reporters in a conference call Saturday afternoon to introduce new catching acquisition Ryan Hanigan, said the Sox are "not actively engaged with anything right now" regarding the team's starting staff.

"We like the direction the team is headed in," he said. "I think it's more likely if we add anywhere, it's the bullpen, between now and spring training."

Since the start of the offseason, the Red Sox have traded for left-hander Wade Miley and right-hander Rick Porcello and signed right-handed free agent Justin Masterson. In July, the Sox traded for right-hander Joe Kelly. Clay Buchholz is the only holdover from the rotation that started the 2014 season. Lester signed as a free agent, and John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront have all been traded.

If the newcomers in some order comprise the rotation that opens the 2015 season, Cherington insists the club would be satisfied, a view that is not universally shared.

"We would feel really good if that's how we opened up," Cherington said. "You never close your eyes to opportunities. We're not actively engaged with anything right now and we feel very good if we open the season with the guys we have.

"As I've mentioned before, we don't look at just those five guys. We think we're pretty well set up with young pitching behind those five guys we've mentioned. Rotations are rarely static ... but if things happened, we feel we have the depth to deal with that. We'll keep an open mind."

The trades for Miley and Porcello and the signing of Masterson all happened within the same week that Lester came to terms on a six-year, $145 million deal with the Cubs, plus a $10 million buyout and vesting option for a seventh year. Given that none of Boston's projected starting five has ever headed a staff, there has been widespread speculation that the Sox might engage with free agents Shields or Scherzer, or make a deal for Hamels or Cueto. That could still take place -- Cherington's words could be construed as posturing -- but the GM definitely tamped down expectations of another move.

The possibility also remains that the Sox will revisit the issue at the trade deadline, when pitchers like Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and David Price -- all of whom will be eligible for free agency after the season -- might be made available in a deal.