Boston can move full steam into free-agent and trade negotiations at the Winter Meetings next week with Bobby Valentine on board, all the while assembling a coaching staff and, the team hopes, making progress in the compensation negotiations with the Cubs.
Free agency's been moving slowly for most teams, and the Red Sox aren't expected to make any grand acquisitions, although president Larry Lucchino offered the ubiquitous disclaimer: "We're not going to rule out any avenue, whether free agency or anything."
"We need deep depth. You've heard me say that," Lucchino said. "If we had enough 'deep depth,' we may have averted some of the problems we had at the end of the year. ... I said once before, we're going to explore it with healthy skepticism, but we're going to explore every possibility: trades, free agents, international signings, everything. [General manager] Ben [Cherington] has got all those things going on these days."
Cherington said there's already been things the Red Sox "could have done and chose not to," but that's ordinary for any offseason. The Sox and Fern Cuza, David Ortiz's agent, have spoken a couple times and are planning to meet in Dallas at the Winter Meetings, which run from Monday through Thursday.
Bobby V hits Beantown
Wednesday is the deadline for Ortiz and right-hander Dan Wheeler to accept or decline arbitration. If Ortiz declines, which is likely considering his desire for a multiyear deal, negotiations can continue.
"We've had continued good dialogue, and we'll get together with his agents, certainly Fern and his other agents in Dallas," Cherington said.
Once again, Cherington reinforced that Boston won't be doing anything splashy. While there's no guarantee anything will get done next week, things will start happening soon, one way or another.
"I'm sure we'll accomplish something. I don't know what it will be," Cherington said of his time at the Winter Meetings. "I can't guarantee when player moves will happen, but we've got a pretty good idea of the landscape and an idea of our needs. ... There are other parts of the operation we've been we've been restructuring. We're going to make player moves, but we've got a lot of good players. We made some big moves last offseason. The work we do this offseason is going to be a little bit different in nature, but, certainly, there will be player moves. We have been working on that. They'll start happening soon."
If the Sox are leaning in one direction with the coaching staff, both in terms of outside hires and retaining what's left of last year's staff, they gave few hints. Valentine's been linked to Bill Buckner, he of Red Sox lore, and offered Buckner plenty of praise Thursday, but said nothing's been decided.
"As I've said all along, we've got four coaches under contract, and we think highly of all of them," Cherington said. "It needs to be the right fit for them. It needs to be the right fit for Bobby. Bobby will get a chance to talk to all of them very soon, I would think."
One of those coaches still under contract, Terry Francona's bench coach DeMarlo Hale, is reportedly considering a third-base coaching job with the Orioles. As for the possibility of Buckner's return to the Sox, he would arrive with plenty of trust from the skipper.
"Bill Buckner was my college roommate," Valentine said. "He's been a friend for years. We played together with the Dodgers, we played together in the Dominican Republic, I've watched his kids grow up, and I respect his every opinion in baseball and in worldly matters. Whether or not Bill Buckner would be on this staff is a decision that Ben and I will talk about. Or if anyone else is going to be on this staff, Ben and I will talk about it to find out the right composition of a staff."
"And it's not about friendship and it's not about who is here in the past, it's about who it is that can do the specific jobs that need to be done, who it is that will communicate the information that I need communicated to me, and who it is that can communicate to the players and their respective fields best."
Theo Epstein and Cherington are again scheduled to meet at the Winter Meetings to discuss what Boston receives for allowing Epstein to take over as the Cubs' president of baseball operations. The Rule 5 Draft is set for next Thursday, and a deal between the two sides isn't expected to be struck before it.
Valentine was asked about Daniel Bard's future with the team, whether he'd be a starter or not, and said he has no idea yet and that the decision will be collaborative with the front office.