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TON -- Roughly a week ago, Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino noted that general manager Ben Cherington was "empowered to do something bold" before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
As it turns out, Cherington made only a subtle addition to the Major League roster, bringing in a seasoned lefty specialist in Craig Breslow.
When the Red Sox took the field on Tuesday night against the Tigers, Josh Beckett was on the mound.
And some other players who had been in some degree of rumors in recent weeks -- from Cody Ross to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Kelly Shoppach -- were also in the lineup.
It wasn't that Cherington was reluctant to do something bold in his first July trade season as a GM. The problem was that he didn't see a blockbuster move that made sense given his team's positioning and roster.
"We did feel empowered to do something bold," Cherington said. "We just didn't find something bold that made sense for us. We explored a lot of things that were bold and even maybe got close to a couple of things, but we just didn't feel like there was anything of the big, bold variety that made sense for us right now."
The positioning was a bit tricky for Cherington and the Red Sox. They entered Tuesday night with a 52-51 record, some 8 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East and four games off the pace in the Wild Card standings.
"In the end, we'd prefer to not do things rather than make decisions that end up hurting us in the long run," Cherington said. "We're happy with what we did, and most importantly, we're happy with the guys we have here. It's really more of a reflection on them. We believe in the group. We feel like we have as good a chance as any of these teams in this cluster of teams in the Wild Card [hunt] to go on a run and win a lot of games in the next two months."
If the Red Sox had been more defined in the standings as a buyer or a seller, Cherington likely would have found a way to do the bold type of transaction Lucchino spoke of.
"It was an unfamiliar position, going back to late last week," said Cherington. "You're trying to balance the desire to make the team better and give the guys in the clubhouse every chance with the reality of where we are. As good as we feel about the group of our players that we have, you need to do the math and figure out the cluster of teams ahead of you, and what you have to do to pass all of them.
"We have to weigh that against the desire to make the team better. It was an additional layer in the decision-making process this year as opposed to the past, where it's been more, we've been clearly buyers. But we pursued a lot of different things, some small things, some bigger things, but in the end, this is what we did.
And what they did was hold on to Beckett, despite rumors that swirled around the erstwhile ace leading into the Deadline.
"Our general feeling was that we were not apt to do anything that was going to hurt our team this year unless it was just too compelling to ignore," Cherington said. "That was the general operating path that we took. A number of things got talked about. Look, every guy in that clubhouse's name, at some point, has been bandied about. That's what happens this time of year. You talk to GMs of every team, and you talk about all sorts of things. There was no intent to go trade one guy or the other. We just listened to opportunities and presented some opportunities, and ultimately, this is where we are."
Beckett entered Tuesday's start with a 5-9 record and a 4.57 ERA. Lefty Jon Lester (5-8, 5.49 ERA) has been a similar underachiever. Nobody would dispute that the best way the Red Sox can get back into contention is for that duo to raise its level.
"Well, we need to pitch well, and they know that," Cherington said. "We pitched pretty well here the last few days, so we'll hope that continues. They know what they need to do. They've heard it a lot, but they don't need to hear it. They know that we need those guys pitching effectively and helping us win games, but it's not just on them. We have five guys rolling and they all need to do their job. Obviously Clay was great last night. Felix [Doubront] pitched a good game before that. We'll try to keep it rolling tonight with Josh."
So instead of rolling into the final two months with a makeover, the Red Sox will try to maximize what they can get from the familiar cast.
"I'm not really surprised," manager Bobby Valentine said of getting no major additions. "I like this team and I think we're moving forward in the right direction. If there was no other ways of improving it, I think we're pretty good."
In the meantime, Cherington will continue to monitor his team's place in the standings while evaluating if a waiver trade or pickup can be made over the next month.
Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, work out a trade for the player or simply let the player go to the claiming team.