Sports

Red Sox still have plenty to do

The Red Sox had general manager Ben Cherington meet with reporters in a drafty hallway at Fenway Park Saturday morning, just a few feet away from where snow was falling.

“I hope this is going to be quick,” said Cherington, who had left his jacket behind.

It wasn’t. There’s just too much going on with the Red Sox and so many questions that need answering.

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In the two months since their 93-loss season ended, Cherington has fired manager Bobby Valentine, hired John Farrell, and replaced nearly the entire coaching staff.

The Sox retained David Ortiz, signed backup catcher David Ross, and picked up outfielder Jonny Gomes. Compared with most teams, the Sox have been busy.

But they still need a first baseman, a right fielder, and at least one starting pitcher. At the moment, the Sox have less than $100 million in payroll spoken for — well below the $175 million they spent last season.

With the winter meetings starting in Nashville Monday, the Red Sox have three significant holes and the resources to sign virtually any free agent they desire.

On the one-year anniversary of the team’s ill-fated decision to hire Valentine as the manager of an expensive team of mismatched stars, Cherington sounded like an executive determined to get it right this time and not be rushed into anything.

“There are things we know we could do right now,” he said. “Things we’re not ready to do right now. Things we’re choosing not to do right now.

“I still see the weekend before the winter meetings as pretty early in the offseason. There’s a lot of time before pitchers report and plenty of time to do stuff.”

But tickets are now on sale, and the pressure to make a significant move is rising. After Cherington met with reporters, he spoke to fans attending the annual “Christmas at Fenway” promotional event. Those diehards were happy to see the ballpark on a cold December day and get a few autographs. But most want action in the form of big names being added to the roster.

“The water is kind of moving down the river,” said Cherington. “We haven’t gotten to the waterfall yet. The winter meetings is usually when the water starts getting a little quicker and things start falling.

“Sometimes there’s a domino effect to these things. We’re actively engaged on a number of fronts.”

The Sox are pursuing Mike Napoli for first base, and that situation could be resolved fairly soon. Napoli has traveled to Boston and Seattle for meetings and most recently sat down with the Rangers to discuss returning there for a third season as the catcher.

The Sox also have spoken to Adam LaRoche, who would prefer to stay with the Nationals. He met with Washington GM Mike Rizzo Friday. The Nationals hope to give LaRoche two seasons, one fewer than he wants.

The outfield market also is getting clearer with Torii Hunter, Melky Cabrera, and B.J. Upton all signing. The Sox remain in contact with Cody Ross about returning to right field. They also are exploring the possibility of signing Nick Swisher, who is unlikely to return to the Yankees.

“It’s been consistent, I’ve talked to him; I’ve talked to his agent several times,” Cherington said of Ross. “Keeping the door open with dialogue. He’s talking to other teams as well. We’ll keep talking and see where things end up.”

Cherington said his preference would be to sign an outfielder who could play right field and handle center if needed. That could mean somebody like Shane Victorino or Angel Pagan. Both are center fielders who have experience in right.

The Sox have had internal discussions about Josh Hamilton, the best outfielder on the market. But his price may be prohibitive, even for a team with tremendous financial flexibility.

“We’d certainly like to add one [outfielder],” Cherington said. “We wouldn’t rule out more than that.

“There are things we’d like to do and then there’s a price you’re willing to pay. We’re still working through that with the different options.”

Cherington seemed to signal that a major move was not planned for the rotation. After getting burned by long-term deals for other starters, the Sox seem hesitant to try it again.

“Generally it needs to improve. The performance of the rotation wasn’t good enough last year,” said Cherington. “I think that [improvement] will mostly come from the guys that are already here. That’s going to make a bigger difference than anyone else we add, likely.”

There are no plans, Cherington said, to trade any of the starting pitchers who are with the team now. Kansas City, which is willing to deal outfielder prospect Wil Myers, inquired about Jon Lester, according to major league sources.

“Anything’s possible, but it certainly gets harder to do that, to subtract somebody,” Cherington said.

Could the Sox make a move that grabs the headlines? They did that two winters ago at this time with the acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. That both players are now with the Dodgers indicates how that worked out.

“I can’t handicap it,” said Cherington. “You can’t rule it out. I certainly wouldn’t rule it in.

“I think if there’s a deal that we feel really makes the organization stronger short- and long-term, we’ll pursue it. Some of those could fit into that category.”

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