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High-profile deal unlikely at meetings

12/11/2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Takeaways on a day in which new Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski stopped by to have lunch with two of his former bosses, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and top aide Dennis Gilbert, and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington playfully recounted the time the Sox staged a simulation of contract negotiations and the role of powerful agent Scott Boras was played by scouting director Amiel Sawdaye.

In other words, a day of no breaking developments on the news front. Sure, another report, this one from Fox Sports, surfaced Tuesday night identifying the Red Sox as one of several clubs talking to the Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp, which the Red Sox have done, but a Sox source reiterated moments later that it was “highly unlikely” Boston would move on Kemp.

Indeed, the biggest winner of these winter meetings for the Sox may well be rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., whose path to center field in Fenway Park was cleared last week when Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees and may not face a challenger in spring training for the position.

Cherington and manager John Farrell repeatedly have expressed their satisfaction with that scenario should it come to pass, and while it doesn’t seem to be reflective of the “deep depth” the team made a priority a year ago, the Sox have yet to find a reason to upgrade on the five outfielders that would be on the 25-man roster if the season started tomorrow: Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.

Could that change? The “never say never” card comes into the conversation here, but while the Sox may consider adding another outfielder, it clearly is not a pressing concern.

That may well describe whatever other business the Sox elect to transact between now and when camp opens in February. The pitching market here has yet to move in any significant way, which leaves the Red Sox in something of a holding pattern in regard to the proposals they may field for any of their starting pitchers.

“Every time we think about potentially moving a starter, something in the back of our head reminds us, don’t do it unless it really makes sense,” Cherington said.

They also are in no rush to add a shortstop/utility type until they see whether a market develops for Stephen Drew -- the compensatory draft pick required is a hindrance -- or if he comes back to them. Cherington said he had yet to speak to Boras, Drew’s agent, at the meetings but expected he would do so soon.

In sum, Cherington said the Sox are unlikely to make a deal of the “higher profile” variety here. And the smaller deals, the ones “in the depth-type variety or bench roles,” he predicted won’t come until later in the offseason.

Inevitably, the Red Sox will turn to another matter of considerable significance -- negotiating with pitcher Jon Lester on a contract extension before he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. But that, Cherington said, is a conversation for another day. Typically, he said, extensions are discussed later in the winter or during spring training.

Lester is due to be paid $13 million in 2014, the last year of a six-year, $42.75 million deal. Six pitchers already are being paid salaries that top $24 million in average annual value -- Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels -- and there is speculation that Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw could command a total package of $300 million when he signs an extension. The floor for Lester probably will start at $20 million per season, and if he repeats his 2013 performance, there’s no telling what the ceiling will be.

That's another reason why teams are placing such a premium on their homegrown pitchers.

“He's a key guy,” Cherington said of Lester. “He's been a horse for us for a long time and didn't show any signs of slowing down this October. Obviously, he's a guy we would like to keep. The timing of those conversations, usually it's a later-in-the-winter or a spring training thing, or after the contract [runs out]. We'll see. I think there will certainly be a willingness to have a conversation, so we'll see where it goes, but we haven't done that yet.”

• Pierzynski, who lives in the Orlando area, conducted an impromptu media session after his lunch and told reporters that one of his goals next season is to hit a home run in Fenway Park. Pierzynski has played in 39 ballparks in his big-league career and homered in 28 of them. Fenway is one of the 11 in which he hasn’t gone deep. In 121 plate appearances on Yawkey Way, Pierzynski has 12 extra-base hits, all doubles. He also joked that the Sox told him that with Ellsbury gone, he would bat leadoff.

Hitting leadoff, in truth, is the only place in the batting order that Pierzynski has not started a big-league game. Most of his starts have come in the fifth through seventh spots in the order.

Pierzynski also said that having faced so many of the Red Sox pitchers gives him a head start on learning the staff. Left-handed reliever Craig Breslow has had the most success of all Sox pitchers against Pierzynski, holding him hitless in eight at-bats while striking him out three times. Pierzynski had his greatest success against Ryan Dempster (10-for-28, 2 HRs).

• Cherington said it was a couple of years ago that Sawdaye made his acting debut, playing Boras in a simulation of negotiations.

“A good exercise,” Cherington said. “You should know something about Amiel. Obviously, he is very good at his job, we think. But he was a hustler. He had a T-shirt empire in high school, growing up in Maryland. He made big profits selling T-shirts. Kind of a hustler.”

• Yankees manager Joe Girardi was noncommittal when asked whether Ellsbury or Brett Gardner would play center field for the Yankees, but it’s likely he was just being polite. The Yankees didn’t pay Ellsbury $153 million to play a corner spot.

“I think we've acquired a great player,” Girardi said of Ellsbury. “We've seen the damage he can do against us. We first-hand witnessed how he can change a game. I've seen him hit home runs to beat us. I've seen him steal home to beat us. I've seen him do it all, make great catches. So we added a great player.”

• Former Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen has signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals and has an invitation to big-league camp, according to his Amherst-based agent, Jim Masteralexis, with whom Delcarmen has reunited. Masteralexis said Delcarmen hit 97 mph pitching for Licey in the Dominican winter league. Delcarmen, who last pitched for the Sox in 2010, when he was traded to the Rockies, turns 32 in February. Delcarmen spent last season in Triple-A Norfolk, a Baltimore affiliate, posting a 2.83 ERA and opponents batting average of .229 while striking out 46 in 54 innings.