Red Sox GM Ben Cherington on MLB Tonight

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was speaking in the lobby of the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort Wednesday afternoon, a few feet away from where agent Scott Boras had been holding court a few minutes earlier. It was an interesting coincidence, because Boras represents outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, the top free agent Boston would like to keep.

As the annual General Managers Meetings began to wind down, Cherington conceded that the team would start making contingency plans in case Ellsbury were to sign elsewhere, especially because Boras has a reputation for protracted negotiations.

"Whether it's Ellsbury or any of our free agents, I don't think you find a carbon copy where you're exactly replacing the skills," Cherington said. "The challenge then is to try to make the team just as good in other ways. Make it up by being a little better in other areas. So that's what every team is working through. What available options are there out there to make us stronger in as many areas as possible so we can react to things that happen or don't happen?

"The leadoff prototype has on base and speed and a little power all combined," Cherington added. "Guys who have all those things are hard to find. I'm not certain we have one guy who has all those things or who has proven he has all those things at the Major League level. But if we're getting on base at the top of the lineup and doing a good enough job building depth in the lineup, then we'll have a chance to score runs."

Cherington stressed that he still believed it was possible Ellsbury would be back in Boston next season and that he was far from setting deadlines.

"We're not at that point yet; if it does get to that point, we'll communicate that," Cherington said. "We've got to be working on other things at the same time. And we are. [Boras] has got to go through what he needs to go through for his clients, and we get that. There will be time to talk in between. At some point, decisions have to be made, but, again, we're not there yet."

Seeking new star, Red Sox eye young arms

Workman on Sox young pitchers' success

ORLANDO, Fla. -- At this time a year ago, Ben Cherington acknowledged, there was no way the general manager could have predicted what a vital role right-hander Brandon Workman would play in the success of the Red Sox.

Which is why, Cherington said Wednesday as the General Managers Meetings wrapped up at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort, he is reluctant to deal away any of the young arms -- Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo -- the organization has stockpiled.

"There is interest," Cherington said. "I'm not sure that pushed us in one direction or the other, but there's certainly interest."

That does not mean Cherington is eager to wheel and deal.

"If we wanted to be involved in just about any trade discussion, because of the guys who might be available, we could be," Cherington said. "I'm not sure we'll want to be involved in all of them. But we have a number of players asked about on the Major League and prospect level.

"We're not far enough exactly to know exactly what they're going to be, so I guess the best way to integrate young pitching and find the next really good young pitchers for the Red Sox is just to keep all of them and see what happens. That said, we never say never to anything. If there's an idea that a team has, we're always going to listen to them."

Workman, who made his Major League debut July 10, appeared in 20 regular-season games, including three starts. In seven postseason appearances, he did not allow an earned run.

"Even in Spring Training, if you had asked us which of these young pitchers is going to play a role for you late in 2013, he probably wouldn't have been the first choice," Cherington added. "It's hard to predict. So I'm sure three months from now or four months from now or eight months from now, somebody will have emerged that maybe we weren't even thinking about right now.

"The simple position and the simple answer is, look, the more good, quality, young, controllable arms we have, the better chance we'll have to figure out our pitching staff short and long term. And that's the position we want to be in as much as possible. I don't want to do anything that's going to take us out of that position unnecessarily."