BOSTON — Alex Wilson popped out of the dugout during the Red Sox batting practice, ran over to the cage and hugged Mike Napoli. Once a Boston teammate, Wilson is now a Tigers reliever, traded in the offseason in one of those Ben Cherington moves that Boston may regret.

“I was surprised,” Wilson said of the deal. “Towards the end of the (2014) season, I was finally given the chance to stick around. I thought I performed the way I was capable of. … Now, I’ve been given an opportunity here and able to run with it.”

After compiling a 1.56 ERA and 0.78 WHIP from Aug. 14 to the end of last year, Wilson has good numbers with Detroit (1.94/1.00).

Think Wilson would have helped out the Red Sox bullpen this year?

How about Josh Fields or Franklin Morales?

As the Boston Red Sox head for a second straight last-place finish (and third in four years), Cherington, the general manager, is being critiqued for the moves he’s made to put this club together. And he has been the first to admit blame.

Most of the focus is on the big moves or the lack thereof, including large contracts for underperforming players and not obtaining (or keeping) an ace pitcher.

This is the first time Cherington is receiving broad criticism.

After Cherington survived his “rookie” season of 2012, he received plenty of acclaim for building a World Series champion roster in 2013.

You could call 2013 a series of fortunate events, with so many factors going right.

But 2014 was the flip side. Using many of the same players, the Red Sox dropped to the American League East cellar again.

Boston reset again in 2015 but, instead of a worst-to-first celebration, Cherington’s team finds itself back in last place.

So, where did the Red Sox (and their general manager) go wrong?

There have been big miscalculations, and seemingly minor goofs that have hurt.


Let’s start with the aforementioned Fields, Wilson and Morales, three relievers the Red Sox jettisoned. Fields (2.81 ERA) pitches for Houston, Wilson (1.94) for Detroit and Morales (2.23) for Kansas City. According to WAR (Wins Above Replacement) – the statistical analysis of a player’s overall performance – Fields, Wilson and Morales rank among the 31 best relievers in the AL.

Boston has only two relievers in the top 40 – Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa. That lack of depth has not only caused Tazawa to be overused, but for Boston to rank 13th of 15 in the league among relievers.

The Red Sox have had difficulties compiling a complete bullpen, including a regrettable two-year $9.5-million contract to Edward Mujica, who was designated for assignment in May.

But the Red Sox have let go of quality arms.

Wilson was a secondary piece in the Rick Porcello-for-Yoenis Cespedes deal with Detroit. Morales was traded in December 2013 to Colorado for utility player Jonathan Herrera.

Fields shined in the minors in 2012, with a 2.63 ERA/1.03 WHIP in Portland, finishing with a 10-game blitz in Pawtucket (0.00 ERA/0.73 WHIP). But Boston did not add him to the 40-man roster, almost guaranteeing that another team would take him in the Rule V draft – and Houston did.


In spring training of 2014, Cherington made his infamous low-ball offer to pitcher Jon Lester (four years, $70 million). While Cherington kept calling his offer “a starting point,” it was interpreted that Boston had little interest in a long-term deal with Lester – who was traded and eventually signed with the Cubs, where he has a 3.32 ERA and 124 2/3 innings.

Boston had justifiable reasons for shying from a long deal with a 31-year-old pitcher – fearing a breakdown in the latter years of the contract – but there is no exact science to comparing age and effectiveness (seems the Red Sox signed a 37-year-old starter before the 2004 season and Curt Schilling helped them to two World Series titles).

And it’s not like Boston had nothing in the checkbook. The signings Boston made after Lester was gone included $413.5 million for five players, two of whom are in the minors.

The five are third baseman Pablo Sandoval (five years, $95 million), Porcello (a four-year $88.5-million extension after making $12.5 million this year), left fielder Hanley Ramirez (four years, $88 million), outfielder Rusney Castillo (seven years, $72.5 million) and second baseman Yoan Moncada ($31.5 million signing bonus, plus $31.5 million penalty for exceeded bonuses paid to international free agents).

Porcello’s salary indicated “ace” status, but his 5-10 record and 5.51 ERA don’t (although there are signs of improvement, with five earned runs total in his last three starts).

Castillo, making $10.5 million this year, is playing in Triple-A, having tasted 26 major league games with little success (.230/.544 OPS).

Moncada, 20, is in low Class A Greenville. He’s hitting.270/.786. Moncada shows potential but $63 million for a low-level minor leaguer? That’s a gamble.


So Boston gave sluggers Ramirez and Sandoval big bucks. While Ramirez leads the team in OPS (.775) and is third in RBI (46), Sandoval is underperforming at .670 and 30 RBI.

Defensively, both are liabilities.

Despite Sandoval’s size (5-foot-11, 255 pounds – at least), he has always been nimble enough to play third base. But maybe the weight is catching up with him. According to the defensive measurements compiled by, 48 players have played third base in the American League this season. Sandoval ranks 48th.

Likewise, Ramirez ranks last among 81 American League left fielders. Moving a career infielder like Ramirez to left was a gamble – there’s that word again – that has not worked out. His future seems to be elsewhere (first base?) and eventually designated hitter, when incumbent David Ortiz is done.

This is a problem for Cherington, when his two highest-profile free agent signings in the offseason are losing games with their gloves.

Another outfielder, Castillo, has not turned heads with his defense. Meanwhile a finalist for the Gold Glove last year, Jackie Bradley Jr., is also in Pawtucket, batting .310/.868. But Bradley has not been used much in the majors (14 games).

Given a legitimate chance, Bradley could become the everyday right fielder, but does he get that chance with so much invested in Castillo?


Cherington has obviously done some good things and he’s accurate when describing a promising group of core players, including center fielder Mookie Betts, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, “everywhere” player Brock Holt and starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. And the catching looks in fine shape.

Cherington traded for Rodriguez and Holt (getting Holt as one of those secondary pieces in the Joel Hanrahan deal with Pittsburgh). He supplemented two young catchers (Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart) with a veteran receiver (Ryan Hanigan). All good moves.

But Boston needs more.

Can Cherington deliver?