Don?t attempt to call any major league general managers this week, even if you?re immediate family. With Friday?s trade deadline approaching and so many clubs still in contention for a possible postseason berth, team execs will be frantically trying to make moves all week long.
Theo Epstein is certainly no exception, as the Red Sox ? just 3-6 since the All-Star break ? have suddenly gone into an offensive funk while their pitching has become somewhat inconsistent.
Last week?s acquisition of Adam LaRoche from Pittsburgh may have been just the starting point for Epstein and Co.?s deadline depth chart shakeup. According to the Boston Globe?s Nick Cafardo, the Indians? front office rejected a trade proposed by Epstein that would have sent young right-hander Clay Buchholz to Cleveland in exchange for catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez straight up. Cafardo also reports that the Indians then rejected a counteroffer from Boston that would have sent Pawtucket right-hander Michael Bowden, Justin Masterson and an unnamed outfield prospect for Martinez.
Apparently, Epstein feels that the Red Sox need another bat. And with a .287/14/64 2009 line, Martinez would add immediate depth to the middle of the Red Sox? order. The only question is: Whose spot would Martinez ? or any other big bat, for that matter ? replace?
Martinez is an everyday, borderline superstar player. His bat ? from both sides of the plate ? is too good to platoon. That said, he?s versatile enough defensively to play either catcher or first base, as well as help out at DH. But of course, that means a significant decrease in playing time for either Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell or David Ortiz, not to mention LaRoche.
Varitek is the team captain. Though his offensive skills have diminished significantly since his prime, he remains one of the best game-callers in baseball. It?s hard to see him reduced to just two or three starts per five games, especially considering how well George Kottaras has caught Tim Wakefield this season.
No chance the Sox give up on Big Papi, the king of Boston?s playoff kingdom.
But Lowell?s hip is certainly a cause for concern. That?s why the Sox went and got a new insurance policy on their third baseman: LaRoche. Martinez is definitely an upgrade from the former Pirate, but acquiring the Indian would almost completely eliminate the need for LaRoche. Perhaps he may be moved by week?s end.
But what if Lowell proves to be fine over the course of the next few weeks? Kevin Youkilis will play every day, whether it?s at first ? where he seems much more comfortable ? or third base. Varitek most likely will continue his four-out-of-five-game routine, too. The Sox? best defensive lineup includes Lowell at third and Youkilis at first. It would be hard to bench the 2007 World Series MVP to make room for Martinez?s bat.
Then there?s the Red Sox? pitching. Luckily, the bullpen is postseason ready, with perhaps one addition of a lefty specialist before October (not necessarily before Friday). But the starters are a different animal. After Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, there are a whole lot of question marks.
Wakefield was an All-Star in the first half of the season, but now he finds himself on the DL. Who knows how reliable he?ll be down the stretch? He?s not exactly known as a second-half stud.
John Smoltz (1-4, 7.04 ERA) has been less than inspiring since making his Red Sox debut. Will he ever become the Smoltz of old?
Right now, Brad Penny is probably the Sox? third-most consistent starter. But he?s not exactly the guy Epstein is hoping to be No. 3 come playoff time.
Buchholz has showed glimpses of nastiness, but it?s hard to count on the kid who was 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA just a year ago, no matter how well he?s pitched in Pawtucket this season.
Is it even worth mentioning Daisuke Matsuzaka?s name?
A Roy Halladay or a Cliff Lee would obviously add immediate depth to a once deep, now seemingly shallow Red Sox rotation. But acquiring either one would require sacrificing a large chunk of Boston?s future, Buchholz included.
Penny and LaRoche seem somewhat expendable for either a bat or an arm, but only a contender would most likely consider taking either or both in a package. What contender would be looking to deal a worthwhile piece to a postseason puzzle?
The Red Sox have several interesting chips to play with and a few needs that rapidly have increased as the team sinks behind the Bombers from the Bronx. But acquisitions ? especially those that demand everyday appearances ? require shifting others? playing time. Others that quite frankly deserve the at-bats.
Epstein pulled the trigger in 2004 and 2008, ridding the Red Sox of fan favorites Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez, respectively.
Don?t expect Ortiz in an Indians or Blue Jays uniform come Saturday. But then again, don?t let anything surprise you. This management will do just about anything to win now.