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Monday, November 5, 2012
Decision 2013: What's next for Ben?

By Joe McDonald

BOSTON -- Now that the Boston Red Sox have finalized two of the organization’s top priorities this offseason -- hiring John Farrell as manager and signing designated hitter David Ortiz to a two-year contract extension -- general manager Ben Cherington can focus on the rest of the coaching staff and roster moving forward.

There have been plenty of phone conversations already this offseason, and Cherington will join his counterparts at the annual GM meetings on Wednesday and Thursday in Indian Wells, Calif.

The main purpose of the meetings will be to build the foundation for possible trade deals or free-agent signings as baseball’s annual winter meetings approach Dec. 3-6 in Nashville, Tenn.

“The offseason is a bit of a mosaic,” Cherington said Monday. “You’ve got to look at one piece and how it affects the other, but at some point the other balls have to fall. David was a big one and we’ll try to identify the next one.”

Now that Ortiz is signed, the Red Sox will continue dialogue with veteran free-agent outfielder Cody Ross. Unlike Ortiz, the Red Sox did not tender Ross with a qualifying offer and he’s free to negotiate with all other clubs at this point. That will make it tougher for the Red Sox to re-sign Ross and the club already has started to explore other options just in case.

The Red Sox have been talking with Ross about a new deal since July, but as much as they express their love for him, that affection has yet to translate into a three-year offer, according to sources familiar with negotiations told ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes.

“We’ve had a number of conversations,” Cherington said. “That door will remain open and we’ll continue to talk, but obviously once you’re in free agency, he’s got opportunities to talk to other teams and we fully expect him to do that.”

Other points of interest:

* The Red Sox have yet to hire a new pitching coach. Cherington said Monday that the team is getting closer, but isn’t quite there yet. His hope is that a hire could be finalized by the end of the week. Veteran baseball man Rick Peterson is the front-runner for the position, a source tells ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes, but there are others in the mix, including Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire, White Sox bullpen coach Juan Nieves and Royals bullpen coach Steve Foster.

Cherington also has indentified some potential candidates he wants to interview for the vacant hitting coach position. That process could begin during the GM meetings, but Cherington hopes to have a better grasp on the situation by next week at the latest.

“We’re moving along at a pretty good speed,” Cherington said.

* Cherington and Farrell have made the starting rotation a priority. The team is content with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and a healthy John Lackey for 2013, but also is considering other options.

Torii Hunter
Free agent Torii Hunter could be a good fit for the Red Sox on and off the field.
“We’re considering all sorts of pitching options, both free agents and also I’m sure we’ll talk to some teams about a trade,” Cherington said. “We’re not ruling out acquiring someone we would control longer, but what we want to do is add to the 2013 rotation and we’d like to do that in a way that’s smart for the long term too. We do believe we have better upper-level starting pitching depth than we did a year ago and we want to make sure that continues to mature and we eventually get some of those guys in the rotation, but we’d like to add somebody for 2013.”

* If Cherington is focused more on the free-agent market as opposed to trades, he could be in the market for a veteran presence like free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter. The 37-year-old Hunter could be a solid choice to have both on and off the field. Going in this direction would allow the development and growth of prospects Ryan Kalish, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Bryce Brentz.

“It’s the beauty of these decisions,” Cherington said. “In this game, sometimes young players don’t come up and do what you want them to do right away and you have to go off your conviction and you’re collective organizational wisdom about what those guys are and what they can do. If we’re committing to a young player that means we believe in them and we believe that they’ll make the adjustments over time to become good big leaguers.

“That’s not the case with everyone, but this offseason we’re going to do the best we can to improve the team, address the holes we have without putting up too many artificial barriers to the young players we believe in the most. We’ll see where it ends up.”

* Another intriguing possibility could be the return of Kevin Youkilis. The veteran corner infielder was traded to the Chicago White Sox last June, but now that Bobby Valentine is no longer managing, the Red Sox have begun their due diligence and standard background conversations with Youkilis and his agent, Joe Bick, about a possible return since the club needs a first baseman. He’s not a major target at this point, but Youkilis could be an interesting option.

Cherington has a lot remaining on his offseason to-do list and he’s hoping to make another major dent at the GM meetings this week.

“We have to keep our options open as much as we can, knowing we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Cherington said.