The Red Sox made Bill Lajoie, baseball operations special advisor, Craig Shipley, special assistant to the GM, and Jed Hoyer, assistant to the GM, available to the media today to preview next week’s winter meetings in Dallas. A complete Q&A transcript follows:
How will the delegation be run out there in Dallas, is there a point man among you guys or will you be dispersed like the GM meetings?
Bill Lajoie: Well there should be a point man, I imagine it will be myself and we will delegate various things for people to do which we are taking up at the present time and making our assignments. Assignments meaning teams to talk to, as well as agents and free agents.
Do you feel you’re close to anything going in there?
Bill Lajoie: We have been close with some things but we you know we do not discuss any trades or negotiations with players so all I can tell you is we have meetings with 13 teams at this point scheduled because we have matches with those clubs.
Can you talk about the situations at first and second base, whether there’s any thought to bringing John Olerud or Tony Graffanino back to the team?
Jed Hoyer: I think you know we’re talking with both those guys right now and there are discussions to bring those guys back. They both actually fit needs that we have right now.
What are your overall thoughts on second base, there’s been some speculation… is Pedroia ready, isn’t he ready, what are your thoughts on that?
Jed Hoyer: My thoughts on Dustin (Pedroia) as with any player in our system is when they are ready to play in big leagues, we’ll bring them here. We won’t know that until we get through spring training and obviously in the meantime, we’ll continue to seek all options and if we find a fit that we think will get where we need to go and bridge us to Dustin if we don’t think he’s ready we’ll do that. But as far as Pedroia goes, as soon as he’s ready to play in the big leagues, I think he’ll be here.
With center field, how much are you guys looking for alternatives right now or how much of your attention is towards trying to get Johnny Damon back here?
Jed Hoyer: Our priority really is to bring Johnny Damon back. We do want to keep him in a Red Sox uniform so of course we’re always looking at alternatives but our priority is to make sure Johnny is in center field next year for us.
Is there a strict timetable of how quickly you need to make that happen or do you have a little leeway there with Johnny?
Jed Hoyer: There’s no strict timetable.
With the direction of the market and the contracts that have been signed thus far, will that change your approach to length of contract? For the past few seasons you’ve tried to avoid deals in excess generally of three or four years. Do you view that as possibly changing?
Bill Lajoie: This is something at this point we really haven’t given a great deal of thought to. Naturally with the changing market, you have to be aware of that but basically it doesn’t have to affect… I think the clubs that may be going for a greater length in contract are clubs that have received perhaps more money with the revenue sharing and feel they have excess money to spend. So while we’re aware of the extended four and five year contracts, we have not really gotten into any set rule.
In aftermath of the trade with Marlins, how much caution would there be about further trades given what might be reduced depth of the farm system after that trade?
Jed Hoyer: Well I think the depth of our farm system is fine, you have to consider each trade on its own merit. If there was a good fit, I’m sure we would consider it. We also have a pretty good idea of the value of our prospects. Prospects are valuable and we do want to move guys through our system to Boston, so obviously the more prospects you can hold the better. Hopefully the ones that we do hold will have an impact here in the future.
What have you been told in regard to whether the management team that you guys represent right now is gonna stay status quo for the GM meetings? Is there going to be any change in that between now and next Thursday of is this the way it’s gonna be?
Bill Lajoie: I can’t answer that as far as any long term, we go day-to-day with our present system and it seems to be working very well. As you notice we have three men in here today to further verify that we are working together and getting along and making the best decisions that we can at this point. So to answer your question directly, we’re pleased with the way things are going.
Do you anticipate that this is the way the club is going to operate through the winter meetings?
Craig Shipley: As long as Bill behaves himself, we’ll get through the winter meetings (laughs).
Could you also update us on where things stand with Manny Ramirez? Do you anticipate one, that Manny will be traded? Two, that he’ll be traded at the winter meetings? Or three, that you’ll keep him?
Jed Hoyer: I think we’re sort of in the same position. Teams have expressed a lot of interest in Manny but he’s still one of the top 3-4 hitters in baseball, and we’re going to keep on listening but as evidenced by the fact that we haven’t made a deal yet, no one has stepped up to meet the price that we’d want for him. We’re not anticipating anything with regard to Manny. We’re going to keep listening and if something worked out that we felt would benefit the club short term and long term, I think we might act, but we’re certainly not going in with the expectations that we’re going to make a trade. Someone really has to step up and met our expectations.
Could you give some idea of how many teams have expressed an interest in Manny?
Jed Hoyer: I would say, “strong interest,” probably I’d say five teams and more than a dozen have called to inquire.
Regarding Johnny Damon, since you made your initial proposal to Johnny at the end of the GM meetings, have they responded or countered? And two, have you made another proposal since then?
Craig Shipley: We’ve talked to Scott (Boras) and we’ll continue those talks in the coming weeks.
In wake of Ryan and Wagner signings, can you talk about what else would you might like to do in general terms for the bullpen so as to provide some other options and insurance with Foulke coming back?
Jed Hoyer: I would just say that with regard to those two signings, we were involved in pursuit of both those guys, but certainly any time we have free agents of that caliber, we had plenty of back up plans. It did not come as a surprise to us that we were not able to land those guys and we’re sort of working on plan C on down with regard to the bullpen.
Is it important to have someone else on the roster that’s not now that does have closing experience to provide you with some insurance at that position in the event that Keith (Foulke) is struggling or still has physical issues?
Bill Lajoie: Yes, we’re looking into that definitely. At this point we have our ducks in a row as far as a preferential list of the players that are left as relief pitchers… both free agents and trade (options).
What is it you might be looking for in a package back for Manny in terms of present help? Are you looking more for prospects? Pitching in particular? Any way you can address that…
Bill Lajoie: With the number of teams participating, at least inquiring, sometimes names will get out so from our end we would rather not say the names. We know the people, the prospects, or the current major league players we would be interested in on each club. So each one has a different set of people that we would be interested in. One team would be farm team… players in the minor leagues. Another team could be veteran major league players. It just depends where their strengths are.
In terms of Ramirez and Wells, two guys who have apparently expressed discontent with playing in Boston, not wanting to return, wondering if anyone has been in touch with either of those guys and if they still feel the same way?
Craig Shipley: I’ve played phone tag with Boomer the last couple of days and hopefully I’ll get to talk to him. Obviously the more communication you can have with your player the better and keep your hand on the pulse of what their thoughts are… Jed has had a lot of contact with Manny’s representatives. And so we continue to monitor the situation and we do want to know how the players feel and also let them know that we hear their requests and if the right deals come along, there’s a chance we could fulfill the requests.
Could these guys become distractions or even disruptions if they aren’t moved?
Jed Hoyer: I think you know both these guys are veteran players, they’ve been around, they understand the game, they’re professionals and when it comes time to go to work, as you’ll find with most big league players, when they cross the lines they’re serious and they take their jobs seriously and they’ll be prepared to perform.
Back to Boomer and Manny, to the degree that they have made either through their representatives or through themselves, it’s quite well known that they would like or insist upon being traded, talk about how that might hamper your trade talks with other teams knowing that you are… that there’s a mandate here to try to move them, how much more difficult does that make it to pull off a deal to get value in return?
Jed Hoyer: I don’t think it does make it more difficult simply because in both cases we have a number of teams that are expressing interest so in a lot of ways that takes away from them putting us in a bad situation because we have so many teams that are interested in their services.
Bill Lajoie: The other thing is that these are two very fine players. A 15-game (winning) lefthanded pitcher is certainly… he knows that he has value and if we make the honest effort, as well as Manny being of course the top one or two hitters in baseball, they will know if we make the proper effort to move them because their agents will see to that and as long we do make that effort, that if it cannot be done that they will understand and return. And I don’t believe it will be a disruption.
Have you been surprised by the amount of activity both in trades and free agent signings heading up to the winter meetings and do you feel like it’s going to slow down, speed up a little, or pretty much status quo what it’s been so far next week?
Bill Lajoie: With the limited quality perhaps in certain areas, especially pitching, that doesn’t surprise that the top men went pretty quickly. There’s still a couple pretty top starting pitchers but the relievers went and that was to be anticipated. And the amount and the length and so on showed you that due to scarcity of quality that the first one with the most received the player.
Do you see the needs that you have going into next week being filled more with possible trades or free agent signings?
Jed Hoyer: I don’t think we really know at this point, we certainly have both things lined up so we have a number of teams we’re going to talk to and a lot of agents to talk to when we get there. I think at this point we’re just prepared for either one.