Red Sox unlikely to sign top starters

DALLAS -- Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington all but quashed reports that the team is still in the mix for left-handers C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle when he said the Sox are "less likely" to pursue "top-tier" free-agent starting pitchers.

"Never say never," Cherington said late Monday afternoon at baseball's winter meetings, "but I think it's more likely we'll be pursuing other options. You always want to stay involved, to the extent of having the latest information, keep your options open because you never know what might come your way and how that might change things, but I would say it's less likely that we'll be involved with those top-tier guys relative to the past."

Meanwhile, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said during an interview with NESN that setup man Daniel Bard told him his preference is to start, with Cherington adding later to reporters that no decision on Bard's role has been made.

Later, in a text message, Bard tried to clarify his position, suggesting there was some miscommunication and saying he'd fill whatever role the team needs.

"I really didn't give an actual preference," Bard said. "I did make it very clear to them that I have no reservations about moving to the rotation. I told them I'd take any role they choose to give me and run with it, whether that's starting or closing. I guess by making it clear that I would be willing to start may have made it seem like a preference, but I just want to make it clear that I felt like I could thrive in either role."

Bard almost certainly will come into camp physically preparing to be a starter, although that would not preclude him from returning to the bullpen.

Valentine, who arrived here Monday afternoon, said he has reached out to every player on the Sox roster. That included leaving a message for Josh Beckett offering to visit him this week, since he is already in Beckett's home state of Texas.

"I can't say that," Valentine said when asked if he will indeed visit. "If he wants. I left him a message -- 'Hey, Josh …' -- If he listens to it, I don't know."

Valentine said he also may visit another Texas native, Carl Crawford.

The Red Sox have yet to make any firm decisions regarding the coaches they still have under contract, Cherington said, which includes bench coach DeMarlo Hale, third-base coach Tim Bogar and bullpen coach Gary Tuck. Once those decisions are made, he said, the team will proceed on its search for a new pitching coach.

An industry source said Monday night that Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca, who was with Valentine during part of his Mets tenure, is not a candidate for the job.

Longtime pitching coach Rick Peterson, long known as a progressive thinker -- among other things, he served as technical adviser for the movie "Moneyball" -- is on the Sox list but is a long shot to be hired, the source said. One name that could attract interest is Bob McClure, the former Royals pitching coach who was recently hired by the Sox for a hybrid role as scout and roving minor league instructor.

According to ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett, the Red Sox and Texas Rangers have discussed a trade involving Jed Lowrie as the Rangers need a backup shortstop behind Elvis Andrus.

The Red Sox remain keenly interested in Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez, whom a rival American League executive flatly predicted "will be moved" this winter. The Athletics will command a high price for Gonzalez, probably similar to the one Oakland GM Billy Beane extracted from Arizona in 2007 when he traded pitcher Dan Haren for six prospects. The Sox could also engage Oakland for reliever Andrew Bailey, and with Oakland needing outfielders, could include Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish in a deal.

Seattle also is looking for young outfield help, and the Mariners also have a closer, Brandon League, they might be willing to move.

"I like both of those young guys," said one AL executive whose team could have interest. "Reddick because he has some redass in him and plays hard, and Kalish because he's the kind of guy who if you watch for a week or so, you'll notice how he does so many of the little things well."

The Sox came to Dallas with a shopping list that included help in the back end of the rotation, relief pitching and a right-handed bat for the outfield. The most attractive right-handed-hitting outfielder on the market, by many accounts, is Cuban defector Yeonis Cespedes, whom the Sox have scouted extensively in the Dominican Republic.

Cespedes has yet to establish residency, which he needs before becoming a free agent, but that could come in a matter of days. One major league executive said that his agent, Adam Katz, is telling teams that it will cost double the $30 million the Reds gave another Cuban defector, pitcher Aroldis Chapman. Katz, smiling, said that was not true. "That would not be appropriate," he said.

Looming is the Wednesday midnight deadline for David Ortiz to accept arbitration from the Red Sox.

"If we don't reach an agreement before then and he accepts, that'll be a pretty strong indication he's on the team," Cherington said, "and if we don't reach an agreement before then and he declines, then it's certainly open-ended. We still wouldn't rule anything out.

"I think it's an important day. It's going to indicate either a very good chance he's on the team or a continued dialogue and a chance he pursues other options."

Cherington said that reliever Bobby Jenks will undergo a surgical procedure on his back next week, but that doctors expect him to be ready in spring training.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Material from Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com was provided.