Trade Deadline Edition 2006: It cost a lot to win, and even more to lose

July 30th, 2006 → 2:26 pm @ // No Comments

A year ago at this time, Boston was embroiled in what seemed to be an annual trade-deadline soap opera. In 2004, it was Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe who were rumored to be on their way out of town; Nomar, of course, was actually traded to the Cubs. Last year, Manny Ramirez was either demanding a trade, or asking not to be traded, or refusing to play, or telling the world nothing was wrong.

This year, things are much quieter…at least on the media front. One big reason for that is the fact that for the first time in decades, Peter Gammons isn’t burning up the phone lines. (Last year, even as he was being inducted into the writers wing of the Hall of Fame, Gammons was perhaps the best source of information about all the various discussions going on around the league.) Another big reason is that, in the wake of last winter’s off-field turmoil, the Red Sox have kept a much tighter lid on their public relations operation. (Think about the fact that the first anyone heard about the Red Sox signing David Ortiz, Coco Crisp, and Josh Beckett to contract extensions was when the team held press conferences to announce the deals.)

Over the last several days, word about possible Red Sox deals has heated up, with much of it coming from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who has said the Sox offered up Coco Crisp in return for White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, or that they’re looking to trade Mark Loretta and move Dustin Pedroia to the bigs. As I’ve written before, I have a huge amount of respect for Olney, but in this case, I’m not inclined to rely on him as a prime source of information. As Olney himself writes, “I wish I knew all the details of what the Red Sox are planning, all the tentacles, because the bits and pieces are fascinating.” If the Red Sox aren’t leaking–and I really doubt they are–these bits and pieces are coming from other GMs, and pretty much every team in the American League has good reason to try to stir up some trouble in Boston.

That said, I would bet that most of the team is available for the right price. Schilling isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Manny. Papelbon, Hansen, Delcarmon, and Lester are also probably untouchable, and it’s unlikely Jason Varitek or Tim Wakefield would be put on the block. Kevin Youkilis is so relatively inexpensive, and so unlikely to get comparable value in return, that it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he’d be on his way out of town. But there were trades on the table for Trot Nixon this past offseason, and his declining power numbers and impending free agency likely increase the chance that he’s seen as expendable. (Of course, those same facts also mean his value is probably lower than it has been in some time.) Everyone else is probably fair game as well…and we probably have no idea about what’s actually going on. (Last year, with my retrospective awareness of what had been discussed and what had almost occured, I was struck by two things: the fact that very few trades are for “name” players, and the fact that so little of what’s discussed by the Sox’s baseball operations department ever makes its way into print.)

In other news, there are reports that the Yankees will send their top draft pick in 2005–20-year-old shrotstop C.J. Henry–along with a reliever to the Phillies in return for Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. From the Red Sox’s perspective, this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. The Yankees’ four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000 were won on the backs of players who came up through the Yankees’ farm system during between 1990 and 1993, the time during which George “Instant Gratification” Steinbrenner was banned from baseball. (Jorge Posada was drafted in 1990; Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte signed as an amateur free agents in 1990 and 1991, respectively; Bernie Williams’s first year in the majors was 1991; and Derek Jeter was drafted in 1992.) It seems unlikely all these players would have been in New York had Steinbrenner, who always wants to win right now and worry about tomorrow when it comes, been in control of the team. Abreu and Lidle would definitely make the Yankees better in the immediate short-term. But, Abreu–like Randy Johnson and Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon and Carl Pavano–would cost a boatload of money and decrease New York’s flexibility going forward. And the loss of cheap, young talent could very well burn the Yankees in the future.

That’s a lesson the Red Sox don’t need to learn. Theo Epstein has shown a consistent desire to hold on to Boston’s young talent. Even so, it’s worth taking a look at what’s been lost (or almost lost) these last few years. The Sox shipped Matt Murton to Chicago as part of the Nomar trade, and this year Murton’s put up a .321 batting average and a .907 OPS in 51 games for the Cubs. (With those numbers, Murton would lead the Sox in BA and be third in OPS.) And had the Manny for A-Rod deal gone through, Jon Lester would have gone to the Rangers.

Without a doubt, there’ll be a lot going down in the next 25-and-a-half hours. And we probably won’t hear about it until those deals come round.

Post Categories: Grateful Dead lyrics & Peter Gammons & Sports Reporters & trade deadline

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