The Boston Red Sox seem to be focused on one man as the team's next manager. But the team should be casting a wider net before trying to reel in John Farrell of the Toronto Blue Jays. There is a lot to like about Farrell, but there are some warning signs as well, and the Boston front office should be sure they have considered every option before simply handing the job to Farrell.
Yes, Farrell was well-respected as the pitching coach for the Red Sox, and was a big part of the 2007 World Series winners. Yes, the Red Sox pitching staff seems to be the team's biggest problem area, and has not performed to its potential since Farrell moved north of the border. Yes, Farrell has strong ties to the Boston front office, and a good relationship with a number of the Red Sox pitchers.
''Not only are they professional colleagues, on some level they became personal friends and we had success,'' Farrell has said of his ties to the Red Sox. ''We shared a lot of challenges along the way. Having worked in Boston, there's a tremendous fan base that is very passionate. The expectations are always very high, but, as a competitor, that's what you aspire to do.''
But this decision isn't as simple as it might seem to Red Sox fans like me. Boston general manager Ben Cherington, at a crucial time in the team's history, needs to keep an open mind. The pursuit of Farrell should not preclude consideration of other potential candidates, as there are some concerning factors to handing Farrell the job.
Farrell still has a year to go on his contract with the Blue Jays. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos is said to be a strong proponent of keeping him. That likely means that the Jays would insist on receiving compensation in return for letting Farrell leave - especially for a division rival. Last year, when the Red Sox inquired about Farrell, the Blue Jays asked for Clay Buchholz in return. That isn't going to happen. But the Jays might insist on a young, inexpensive pitcher with upside like Daniel Bard or Franklin Morales. Is Farrell worth that kind of trade value?
Not every good pitching coach makes a good manager. The jobs are different. Farrell clearly is one, but does that make him the other? Toronto's record certainly doesn't indicate that. Over his two years at the helm, Farrell's team finished 73-89 this season, just four games better than the miserable Red Sox. Last year, the Blue Jays finished at 81-81. The team suffered some injuries, but Farrell has not proven to be any kind of managerial genius thus far.
"The right person for us in 2013 may not be the right person for someone else or may not have been the right person for us two years ago," Cherington says. "We need to find the right person for us moving forward."
Farrell might be that right person. But the case does not seem to be so open-and-shut that the Red Sox can afford to focus on him to the exclusion of other options.
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Rick Blaine, an award-winning broadcaster and columnist, is a lifelong Red Sox fan. Follow him on Twitter @RickBlaineCT.