“We are skeptical about free agency, given the recent experience we and so many other clubs have had,” Lucchino said in an interview on Boston sports station WEEI. “But we will never turn off that possibility. You have to examine that every year. It’s a major avenue that’s available to clubs to improve their team. Just as you do with the amateur draft or important trades or international signings, you don’t want to turn off any possibility.”
Boston’s recent big-ticket free-agent signings have not worked out as planned. John Lackey’s second year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract was a colossal disappointment (12-12, 6.41 ERA) and ended with him needing Tommy John surgery.
And Carl Crawford’s first season of a seven-year, $142 million deal was a major letdown, as well (.255 average, 11 homers, 56 RBIs).
At his introductory news conference Tuesday, general manager Ben Cherington called the team’s recent track record in free agency “not good enough” and said he would seek some “perhaps buy-low acquisitions” to bolster the pitching staff, which will be without at least two starters — Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka (also Tommy John surgery) — when the 2012 season begins.
This season’s free-agent class likely will include big-ticket players Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, and potentially CC Sabathia.
Free agency will begin five days after the end of the World Series.
On the future of his own prominent free agents — designated hitter David Ortiz and closer Jonathan Papelbon — Lucchino said he hoped the team would be able to re-sign them both, but at the right price.
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“It takes two to tango,” Lucchino said. “People have different ideas of what the market is dictating. They have a different idea of what their leverage may be. So, sometimes it takes time, and sometimes it doesn’t work. But you’re right, those guys had very productive seasons and I feel very good about those guys being members of the Red Sox team in 2012 if it can be worked out reasonably and sensibly. They are in many ways and have been faces of the franchise and I would like very much to have them stay around.”
Lucchino also said he thought the Red Sox didn’t need a shakeup or big changes in the offseason, despite missing the playoffs for the second straight year following a 7-20 September. He said the Red Sox didn’t get to 30 games over .500 with “smoke and mirrors.”
“There is some talent in that clubhouse,” Lucchino said. “I would add to that, there is some highly motivated talent. These guys are not immune to the adverse effect the collapse has had on them, on their pride, on their public image. I think you’re going to see a highly motivated, cohesive team next season.”