BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have introduced John Farrell as their new manager.
Farrell appeared Tuesday at a news conference with club officials two days after the team announced it had reached an agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays to allow him to leave with one year left on his three-year contract as manager. The Red Sox sent infielder Mike Aviles to Toronto and obtained reliever David Carpenter in the deal.
Farrell, Boston’s pitching coach from 2007-10 under Terry Francona, takes over for Bobby Valentine, who was fired after one of the worst seasons in team history. The Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East with a 69-93 record, their worst since 1965 and four games behind the Blue Jays. Farrell is the 46th manager in franchise history, and was introduced by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.
“As far as what you can expect from us on the field, I truly believe in an aggressive style of play,” Farrell said. “That creates a strategy that is relentless, and I think that is critical.”
Boston wanted to hire Farrell after it let Francona go, but Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos asked for a top player in return. At the time, Farrell had been with the Blue Jays for one season, going 81-81.
“We will give forth our best effort,” Farrell said, “as a minimum.”
In two seasons with Toronto, Farrell was 154-170 and finished fourth twice.
“We brought in a number of young players (in Toronto), and we installed a new running game,” Farrell said, looking back on his time with the Blue Jays. “We ran into some outs because of that, and we struggled sometimes with that strategy.”
The fallout from Farrell’s exit has not been pretty in Toronto, especially after Farrell talked about his loyalty to the Blue Jays a few weeks back.
“My responsibility is to the ballclub,” Anthopolous said over the weekend. “But I also understand the connection, I understand the ties. John had been there a long time, has a lot of strong relationships there. That’s how he expressed it to me. This is the one job, there’s no other city that was more of a perfect fit or a perfect opportunity.”
The Red Sox wanted him as a known quantity who they’ve worked well with, a sharp contrast with Valentine, who clashed with players and didn’t have full support of management, including Cherington, who preferred Dale Sveum. The Chicago Cubs hired Sveum as their manager after he interviewed with both teams.
Farrell brings a measure of stability to the manager’s position and a familiarity with some players. His background with the Red Sox could be particularly valuable in improving the starting rotation.
“We have a number of things to take care of,” Farrell said. “We will have the players’ best interest in our minds at all times.”
Jon Lester was 54-23 while Farrell was pitching coach and 15-9 in 2011 but fell to 9-14 with a career-worst 4.82 ERA last season. In his two full, injury-free seasons, Clay Buchholz was 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010 but 11-8 with a 4.56 ERA in 2012. Felix Doubront, who went 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA as a rookie in 2012, was a top prospect while Farrell was pitching coach. The Red Sox also get back John Lackey, who missed all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Lester and Buchholz were All-Stars while Farrell was pitching coach.
“There are some relationships that I still have with players here, yes,” Farrell said. “For others, I have to earn their trust and start new relationships.”
Under Farrell’s guidance, Boston pitchers held opponents to an AL-low .254 batting average and led the league with 4,771 strikeouts.
There has been considerable turnover among position players since Farrell left, but David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury remain. Ortiz, who can become a free agent, has expressed optimism about returning.
“When you look at the roster, there are still some very good major league players here,” Farrell said. “We do need to get healthy.”
Cherington reiterated his stance on Ortiz.
“We’ve had good dialogue since the season ended,” he said. “The goal remains the same. We want him back in a Red Sox uniform, and we’ll continue to work toward that end.”
Farrell, 50, received a three-contract with the Red Sox, who also interviewed San Diego Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach and Baltimore Orioles third base coach DeMarlo Hale.
Cherington thanked all the other candidates for their time and cooperation, and Farrell mentioned how honored he was to be in the mix with those potential managers.
“We think he’s the right person to lead the team. It’s important that I have a relationship with a manager that’s strong. One that we can be candid with one another and walk away knowing that the relationship is still intact,” Cherington said. “I feel confident with that and John.”
It is the seventh time in major league history that one team has traded for a manager while he was under contract to another, the Red Sox said. Last year, the Miami Marlins obtained Ozzie Guillen from the Chicago White Sox in a deal that also included three players.
Aviles, 31, is a career .277 hitter who played 136 games for the Red Sox in 2012, mostly at shortstop. Carpenter, 27, is 1-5 with one save and a 5.70 ERA over 67 career relief appearances with the Astros and Blue Jays. He appeared in 33 games in 2012, 30 with the Astros before being sent to the Blue Jays in a 10-player trade on July 20; he also made 23 minor-league appearances last season. Originally a catcher, Carpenter converted to pitching in 2008.
Farrell was 36-46 with a 4.56 ERA as a major-league pitcher. He had a promising career with the Cleveland Indians before an injury sidelined him for all of the 1991 and 1992 seasons. He pitched sparingly for four more years after that.
“Managing in the big leagues is not an easy thing as everyone knows,” Cherington said. “John is a presence that we need. Very consistent. Strong. His skillset and experience really gives him a chance here.”
This is Cherington’s second managerial hire in just one year on the job. The search to find Valentine lasted seven weeks longer than this one.
“It was important to get this done, and get focused right away on the 2013 Red Sox,” Cherington said. “I’ve been on the job here 12 months, and I feel like most of that time was trying to find managers.”
Farrell coached at Oklahoma State, where he had pitched in college, from 1997-2001. He then spent five years in the Indians’ front office before Francona, a former Cleveland teammate, brought him to Boston as pitching coach.
“There’s going to be challenges here. If there weren’t challenges with this team, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here,” Farrell said. “But there are a lot of things here that make it a natural fit.
“We’re eager to get started, and hit the ground running.”