Red Sox assistant GM likely to replace Epstein
Ben Cherington will have plenty to do if, as expected, he follows Theo Epstein as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox.
He'll also have plenty to work with.
Cherington is expected to be promoted on Tuesday, when the Red Sox have scheduled a news conference to introduce Epstein's replacement. Epstein resigned from Boston to take over as president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs on Friday, and the teams said they would hold off on more announcements out of respect for the teams in the World Series. Tuesday is the next off day.
Cherington's first job will be to find a manager to replace Terry Francona, a two-time World Series winner who admitted he lost the clubhouse in his eighth season and was let go after the team's unprecedented September collapse. The coaching staff also will need to be rebuilt as pitching coach Curt Young left for the Oakland Athletics earlier Friday.
Cherington also will have to deal with the fallout from the team's 7-20 September that left it one game short of the playoffs. The pitching staff disintegrated over the final month, followed by news reports that several starters were drinking beer and eating fast-food fried chicken in the clubhouse during games.
Among them was John Lackey, who was 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in the second year of a five-year, $82.5-million US deal. The Red Sox are unlikely to find a taker unless they eat most of Lackey's remaining salary. Cherington also will be saddled with six more years of Carl Crawford's contract, a seven-year, $142-million deal signed by Epstein.
But the Red Sox have reason to be hopeful with the core of the team that went 81-43 over a 4 ½-month stretch of the season and a payroll that is among the biggest in baseball. All-Star Adrian Gonzalez just finished the first year of a seven-year, $154-million deal, Jacoby Ellsbury developed into an MVP candidate, and Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are locked up long term.
Josh Beckett was an ace for most of the year and Jon Lester remains one of the top lefties in the AL, but their performance in September was a key reason for the collapse. Clay Buchholz is expected to return from a stress fracture.
J.D. Drew's contract is up, giving the Red Sox some payroll flexibility, and Daisuke Matsuzaka is at the end of the six-year deal that brought him over from Japan for a total of $103 million.
They'll need the money to re-sign closer Jonathan Papelbon, who can file for free agency for the first time, and for designated hitter David Ortiz, who's also a free agent.
Because Epstein's move was in the works for a while, Cherington has been filling in as GM since the regular season ended.
Cherington also served as co-GM during the three-month period after the 2005 season when Epstein walked away from the Red Sox. He shared the job with Jed Hoyer. Now the San Diego Padres' GM, Hoyer is expected to be Epstein's top hire with the Cubs.
Because the teams were unable to agree to compensation for allowing Epstein out of the last year of his contract, Hoyer and Cherington will probably have to work on that, too.