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Sox need puzzle pieces beyond Pierzynski

12/5/2013

During a media conference call in which new Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski was introduced, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said that while the team would have "loved" to have kept Jacoby Ellsbury, "we felt there was an area, a range we were willing to go to. The market just got past that."

Which raised an interesting question: Sources on both sides of the Ellsbury negotiations said the club was willing to go to six years for Ellsbury at a figure less than $120 million. Assuming that is accurate, would the Sox then be willing to go six years for, say, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the former MVP who has six years and $128 million left on his contract but has been hurt each of the past two years? Especially if the Dodgers took back some money?

The Sox and the Dodgers already have one megadeal under their belts, the August 2012 trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers and allowed the Sox to reboot their franchise. The lines of communication between ownership and general managers on both sides are excellent. The Red Sox have made inquiries, and if they are convinced that Kemp can approach the talent level he displayed when healthy, they might try to find another match with Kemp. Just as they haven't ruled out taking a run at free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson, even as the Mets loom as the prime contender for his services.

For now, Cherington said, he doesn't feel any obligation to discuss what the team will look like in 2014 because he is still in the process of assembling that team. At the moment, sure, he said, rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. could succeed Ellsbury in center field.

"Certainly, we feel really good that we have some in-house alternatives," Cherington said. "One is Jackie Bradley Jr. That doesn't mean we wouldn't add an outfielder. It doesn't mean we wouldn't add a player at another spot.

"We're not going to talk about what the team will look like on Opening Day, because we don't have to. There's still time. We're going to continue to work through options, pursue ways to make the team better. We feel fortunate Jackie is in our organization. We'd feel very good if he's playing center field if that's the way it works out."

Those decisions are still to come, as well as dealing with the club's No. 1 priority of re-signing Mike Napoli and possibly welcoming back Stephen Drew if he doesn't find the multiyear riches that seemed a given a month ago, leading one baseball source to say the Sox were out of the Drew picture.

What is already a reality, though, is the fact that the Sox have a new catcher in Pierzynski, who spent this past October in a Fox broadcast booth but at 37 said he was drawn to Boston for the chance to win another World Series, an experience he has known once in his career, back in 2005 with the White Sox.

Pierzynski said he had multiyear offers from other clubs. The Twins, a team on which he was teammates with David Ortiz, were reported to have taken a run at him. There were other clubs, too, he said.

"In the end, it came down to wanting to come to Boston," he said. "Obviously, it's not every day you get a chance to play for the defending World Series champion, and looking at the organization and looking at what they've got coming back, they definitely have a chance to win again. I've won once, and once you've won, you want to try and do it again."

Cherington said Pierzynski, besides being a "very good everyday catcher," also shared the kind of qualities the Sox had sought in last year's free-agent class -- guys who can handle this environment, love to play and are winners.

Pierzynski said he canvassed former teammates, including Ortiz and Jake Peavy, about playing here. During a recent family vacation in Hawaii, he ran into another former teammate, Mark Kotsay, who urged him to sign with the Red Sox.

"Look, I'm just trying to fit in," said Pierzynski. "Last year, going to Texas, I thought I felt I fit in pretty well. The clubhouse [here] is great. There are guys I've known. I know [Shane] Victorino. I've known Jonny Gomes for a long time. Everything says they want to win. That's what I want to do. It shouldn't be that hard to fit in.

"This isn't my team. This is David Ortiz's team, Dustin Pedroia's. I'm just a piece trying to help them win again."