So here we are at the All Star break and the Red Sox enjoy a three-game lead over the Yankees of the Brand New Stadium. The Sox have the second best record in baseball, the best in the American League and are one of only three teams with 50 or more wins. All in all, a pretty good first half.
Additionally, they have Jed Lowrie and Mike Lowell soon to return from the DL, and Clay Buchholz pawing the earth like an enraged bull, eager to join the big club’s rotation.
On top of this, J.D. Drew has yet to have one of his blazing hot months with the bat, Big Papi seems to be finally hitting his stride, and it’s about time for Youk to wake up from his nap.
So it would seem the Sox are pretty well positioned for another run at a championship.
Nevertheless, it is July and so we’ll continue to wonder if Theo Epstein will make a DEAL. Or maybe just a deal.
If I were a betting man, I’d lay money on the latter. Theo won’t mortgage the farm to bring in some temporary talent. But I think he has trouble simply standing pat. He’ll want to tweak the lineup with a bat that can play at least one of the corners.
(If I could script the next four months: The Sox acquire Nomar Garciaparra from the Oakland A’s for Julio Lugo and a ton of cash. In game four of the World Series vs. the Dodgers, Nomar hits a walk off home run to solidify the sweep and then retires — Manny goes one for 19 in the series.)
But it is fun to imagine the blockbuster trade, the one that brings a genuine impact player in exchange for a host of prospects. You can forget about Roy Halladay, however, because there is no way J.P. Riccardi will want to see him return to Toronto nine or ten times a year in a Red Sox uniform; and there is no way Theo Epstein is going to want to have to face Clay Buccholz four or five times a year for the next six or seven years.
Would I trade Clay, Lars Anderson and Manny Delcarmen for Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres? Yep. Gonzalez is young and is reputed to be an excellent fielder — I haven’t seen him play. He could be a stalwart of the offense for years to come, as well as providing some needed power to the current lineup. Would I trade those same three for Victor Martinez? Nope. Martinez is 30 — not over the hill, but not far from reaching the downward slope. He’d help this year, but then you’d need to sign him to an expensive extension or risk losing him after 2010 (I think that’s correct).
Anyway, by all accounts, the Padres are intent on keeping Gonzalez, so it might take even more than the trio I mentioned above to pry him away, and then you’re starting to make the deal too costly.
The ideal scenario is for the Sox to find a good hitting short stop, but they seem to be in very short (ahem) supply. The Rangers are in the thick of things, so I doubt they’d part with Michael Young at this stage. Who else is there? Is Jack Wilson really a difference maker? Nick Green’s bat has cooled off some, but it seems to me some combination of he and Jed Lowrie are just about as good as any of the trading options.
But even a small trade for a Nick Johnson type player might be a long shot. With Lowrie and Lowell coming off the DL, two positions will need to be cleared: Aaron Bates (or whoever is the Pawtucket flavor of the month) will be one of them, and probably Julio Lugo will be the other. But if the Sox bring in an additional corner infielder, they’ll have to dump either Rocco Baldelli or Mark Kotsay (is that the reason Baldelli was taking balls at first base the other day?), but that will leave them thin in the outfield — and with Sir Hurtsalot in right field, it seems unlikely Theo would put the team in that position. So, unless the new player can also play the outfield, I can’t see the Sox making that move — and who are they going to get who can play first base and center field like Mark Kotsay?
The bottom line is that I suspect the Sox will end up making no deals afterall — unless they determine that Lowrie or Lowell will not be able to come back at full speed. If that’s the case, all bets are on.