While he was sometimes careful about what to say, at other times Kennedy was blunt about the club being in the doghouse for the terrible 2022 season.
The Sox are trying to learn from some of their mistakes — they waited too long to aggressively bring on Mookie Betts early in his career, Kennedy admitted — to build a team the right way this time.
“Get out of something [last week’s] At GM meetings, I can tell you that we’ve been very proactive,” Kennedy said, “although I know people don’t want to hear how aggressive we’ve been, because it doesn’t mean anything until there’s something to announce.
“But I can tell you that we have made offers to several players, including our own players. And we are cautiously optimistic that things will move here.”
The club have made at least two offers to Bogaerts since the end of the season, once during the exclusivity period before the shortstop applied for free agency, and a sweeter offer since becoming a free agent earlier this month.
“We’ve been engaged to Xander and Scott since the end of this season [Boras], his agent, and I’ll leave it at that,” Kennedy said. “But we’ve had productive conversations.”
As for Devers, the 26-year-old third baseman, Kennedy said the club’s engagement to him and his agent since the end of the season included one bid.
A brief discussion about Devers led to a discussion about the top-notch players like Bogaerts and Betts, on the strength of a proven track record of elite performance in the pressure cooker atmosphere that envelops New England’s Red Sox baseball.
“You have to factor that into the calculation,” Kennedy said. “It is not for everyone. It’s intense. There is a lot of checking.”
The absence of Betts — the MVP who escaped when the Red Sox traded him for his 2020 hiking year — hovers over every step the Red Sox take this offseason.
“We haven’t always managed to sign our own homegrown players for the long haul, I fully acknowledge that,” Kennedy said, “and when that doesn’t happen it’s disappointing for the fans and it’s disappointing for us on a personal level. . But we get paid to make very, very tough decisions, and we’ll see how those decisions work out.”
When asked if the Red Sox learned anything from the Betts experience that will be relevant to how they approach Devers, Kennedy took a moment to choose his words.
“I think so,” he said. “I think consulting with your players earlier – early and often – about arrangements that are mutually beneficial is something that really well-run teams do and do. We just did that with [pitcher] Garrett Whitlock. We’ve had overtime for younger players in the past, and that’s definitely a lesson we’ve learned.
“With Mookie, we could have deployed more effectively earlier in his career,” Kennedy said, though he added that it was “unknowable” whether previous involvement would have prevented the fate of trading Betts to the Dodgers, who signed him. a 12-year, $365 million contract. “From where I sit, it’s certainly difficult when you leave homegrown players.”
When it comes to non-Red Sox free agents, Kennedy was asked about Yankees slugger Aaron Judge and Astros ace Justin Verlander.
“It’s safe to say that, Chaim [Bloom] and BOH [general manager Brian O’Halloran] leave no stone unturned,” he said. “They are very diligent and aggressive in their research into ways to improve a top-level team.”
Kennedy gave a long laugh when asked to simply deny that the Red Sox had any interest in Judge and Verlander.
“We have a responsibility to look at all opportunities to improve the major league team, including free agents – all free agents,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about those two.”
With the Fenway Sports Group multitasking on numerous fronts – a possible sale of Liverpool Football Club, the Winter Classic, ownership of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, the Fenway Bowl, Fenway Music Hall, real estate ventures and interest in owning an NBA franchise – Kennedy was asked about the perception that Red Sox ownership has too much on its plate.
“This discussion about lack of focus or distraction comes up when we underperform at the highest level, and that’s 100 percent for us,” he said. “It is absolutely understandable that if we don’t perform at the highest level, everything will be questioned, so we deserve that criticism.
“But I can assure you, from me to Chaim, to BOH, to [manager] Alex Cora, it’s worried about the 2023 Boston Red Sox 24/7. We’re totally focused on improving, we feel the urgency, we feel the need to improve this club and get better.”
Regarding the age-old question of whether ownership is committed to spending enough on payroll to field a winning team, Kennedy said: “It’s an unknowable concept, because our job is to win enough games to to go into the postseason and have a chance to win the World Series, and we didn’t.
“In 2021, when we were two games into the World Series, there was no discussion about how much money we invested in the team or whether we focused on Liverpool or other Fenway Sports Group activities – no. No discussion.
“When we fall short at the major league level in Boston, we open up to criticism and we understand that.”