Cherington talks Sox's draft strategy

May, 31, 2012
BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington will never forget his first assignment as a regional scout for the Red Sox more than a decade ago: Josh Hamilton.

"I thought to myself, 'Wow, this is easy, that guy was good,'" Cherington recalled with a laugh this afternoon in the Red Sox's annual pre-draft news conference at Fenway Park. "And then the next few games, it was a little harder to pick him out."

After serving first as a Sox scout and then as an assistant to former GM Theo Epstein, Cherington will kick off his first draft as GM on Monday night. But there's a lot of organizational continuity despite his job change.

"I'm in a room with a bunch of people I've been with for several years," he said. "We're using a lot of the same philosophy, same standards, talking about the same things that we care about, ultimately with the same goal. Notwithstanding the changes with the CBA, the decision-making process will be very similar to years past."

Ah yes, about that new collective bargaining agreement. The latest CBA enacted last December has new rules for the draft, most significantly a tax penalty on teams that exceed the designated slot salary recommendation for the sum of their first 10 picks. Traditionally, the Sox haven't been afraid to throw first-round bonus money at a 10th round pick; how the new rules affect that inclination going forward remains to be seen.

Philosophically, Cherington reiterated, not much changes. He also refuted the notion of the new rules as a handicap for the Red Sox.

"I don't see it that way, I don't see it as hampering us," Cherington said. "The challenge is different, but the fundamentals are the same. If we do a good enough job scouting players, we're going to do well and we're going to beat our competition. That's what we need to do."

Red Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye added that the foundation for how this front office approaches drafts is based on the disposition of its area scouts.

"When you have strong area scouts that believe in certain players, it doesn't matter if that player is in the second round or the ninth round, or the 16th-17th [round] Josh Reddick-type player," Sawdaye said. "Our area scout really believed in Josh Reddick. To me, it's about how strong your area guys are. We have a group that's been together for a while, and we feel really confident that these guys -- the players we're going to be talking about, whether they're late or early -- they're convicted in big leaguers that are on the board. That's a process we're going through right now."

But will they spend less than in previous years to do it?

"Maybe," Sawdaye said. "But we're still going to get good players."

The Sox once again have great positioning in this draft, holding three of the top 40 picks (two of them received as compensation for Jonathan Papelbon's departure to the Phillies). Once again, the philosophy will be drafting based on the best talent available, not necessarily organizational needs.

"There's so much that can happen," Sawdaye said. "So much happens between the time you draft a guy. ... Even with a guy you think is close to the big leagues, or a highly advanced college player, there's still a transition, there's still a development path that needs to be taken, and so much can change not just with a player, but with our needs.

"Our needs look different six weeks from now, never mind three years from now, so it's a dangerous game I think to get into. We're just going to focus on finding the best possible impact, do as well as we can with each pick."

Cherington estimated he's seen "12 or 15" players live, off the top of his head, and simply smiled when asked who those players were.

"It's not as fun as when Theo was out," Sawdaye said with a chuckle. "You guys would always hear, like, on Twitter, that he was at a game. We're a little bit [more] low-profile."
Brendan C. Hall joined as a high schools reporter/editor in May 2010, after four years covering high schools for The Boston Globe. The Westminster, Mass. native also served on the Globe's Bruins beat in 2009.



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