Epstein at His Finest in Final Week of July

Epstein at His Finest in Final Week of July The tweaking has begun.

Wednesday, Theo Epstein made two moves to help his team’s depth. First, he sent two low-level minor leaguers to Pittsburgh in exchange for Adam LaRoche. Later he swapped Julio Lugo, already designated for assignment, for Chris Duncan of St. Louis.

Neither was in uniform for the Sox Wednesday night. LaRoche is expected to be with the club when it opens up its seven-game homestand Friday against the Orioles. LaRoche has averaged 26 homers a season for the past four years and has hit 12 with the Bucs this season. Whether or not he will be an impact bat with the Sox remains to be seen, but Epstein liked what he got for the price he paid, calling it "a very reasonable acquisition cost."

Is this the end of Theo’s moves for the 2009 season? There are eight days to go before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, so you can bet there will be dozens, maybe hundreds, of calls made in the days ahead.

"I think we plan to be very active in discussions in talking to just about every club out there and pursuing every player that can make us better now and in the future," Epstein said. "Certainly, there are no guarantees. Certainly, we hope to make another move between now and the deadline."

Recent history shows that Epstein is willing to make a big splash before the clock strikes 4 p.m. a week from tomorrow. In fact, the Red Sox have been a part of the games’ biggest deadline deal in three of the last four years.

1. July 31, 2004: the Red Sox trade Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in a four-team blockbuster deal. Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz come to Boston in return.

2. July 31, 2007: the Red Sox acquire Eric Gagne from Texas for three players. While his stay in Boston was disappointing, Gagne was the biggest name to move at the deadline.

3. July 31, 2008: the Red Sox send disgruntled superstar Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers in a three-team deal that brings Jason Bay to Boston.

In each of those three seasons, Boston stunned the baseball world with the moves. They also made it to the ALCS each time they pulled the trigger on a mega-deal, winning the World Series twice.
Epstein didn’t make a major deal in 2005 or 2006, and didn’t make it further than the first round either time. Coincidence? Probably, but the point is, the Sox have reaped rewards each time they have rolled the dice.

So far, the Red Sox haven’t had to go beyond MLB’s slot machines yet. The real dice rolling will start next week, as GMs around the game play craps for a shot at an October jackpot. Big names have been rumored to be on the block: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Matt Holliday.

It’s hard to see how the Red Sox match up to deal for players like that, or for that matter, how they would fit them into their lineup. But we’ve learned not to bet against Epstein in late July. He is a bold dealer when the stakes are highest.

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