Is Theo Toying With GMs as the Deadline Approaches?


Jul 28, 2009

It sounds like a chapter out of Donald Trump's book The Art of the Deal.

At first, feign disinterest. Next, sit back and allow others to make the big offers. Then, in the 11th hour, swoop in with a serious, substantial offer of your own.

That's what the Yankees did in the offseason, pouncing on free agent Mark Teixeira at the last minute to snatch him away from a bevy of teams, including the Red Sox.

And that's what the Red Sox reportedly did Tuesday, according to Yahoo's Gordon Edes, offering three players — including Tuesday night starter Clay Buchholz — to Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi for All-Star righty Roy Halladay. As the second player in the trade, Ricciardi has apparently been given the option of reliever Justin Masterson, Triple-A pitcher Michael Bowden or Double-A first baseman Lars Anderson, considered one of the jewels of the Sox' farm system. The third player heading to the Jays would be a lesser Boston prospect, says Edes.

Last week, Ricciardi set a deadline of Tuesday to deal Halladay, though he has recently backed down.

But Red Sox GM Theo Epstein doesn't appear to be backing down. Whether the Sox get the deal done or not, you have to like Epstein's moxie.

"Theo is by far the smartest GM in baseball," writes a Red Sox blogger on Over the Monster. "I am convinced that he has played these negotiation[s] perfectly. Over-valuing Buchholz's potential, claiming he is untouchable, then turning around and offering him as the key piece to Toronto, Cleveland and San Diego to get an established All-Star caliber player who switches the pressure to Anaheim, N.Y. and Tampa Bay. Theo is playing chess while the rest of the AL GMs are playing checkers."

With every offer including the highly touted Buchholz, who earned a hard-luck no-decision for the Red Sox on Tuesday in their 9-8, 11-inning loss to the A's, Epstein is driving up the price for other teams.

And according to Edes, Theo might really just be playing games.

"The Red Sox remain skeptical of closing a deal for Halladay," he says, "one reason they continue to pursue other avenues."

You can almost see Epstein sitting behind his desk at Fenway with a twinkle in his eye, laughing to himself every time he hangs up the phone with Ricciardi.

The fact is, the Red Sox don't need to make a deal. They're in second place in the brutal AL East with the team they have. If they decide that they do need a change, they're in the mix for Halladay. And even if they don't get Halladay, they still appear to be in the sweepstakes to get Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez from the Indians or Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres.

The only way the Red Sox could lose in this scenario is if Epstein and his management team make a deal they end up regretting. But the way Theo appears to be playing the rest of the league, the odds are against it.

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