To Deal or Not to Deal? That is the Question


Jul 28, 2009

To Deal or Not to Deal? That is the Question A wise person — Gandhi? Mother Theresa? Yogi Berra? — once said, "The best course of action is to do nothing at all."

They could have been talking about the Red Sox at the upcoming trade deadline.

I'm not saying that the Red Sox lineup wouldn't benefit in the short term from the addition of an Adrian Gonzalez or Victor Martinez. I can't dispute that a three-man rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee in the playoffs would be more frightening to opposing teams than spending 24 hours locked in a room with Stephon Marbury.

But do the Sox need to make a deal?

My first inclination is that they're good enough the way they are.

Honestly, if Theo Epstein lands V-Mart from the Indians, where will he play? If he catches, does manager Terry Francona turn Jason Varitek, the captain and heart of the team, into a backup? If Martinez is at first, does he move Kevin Youkilis to third? And does Mike Lowell, who (despite hitting .381 since the All-Star break) has already seen his fair share of the bench since Adam LaRoche came to town, take a permanent seat?

And what of Gonzalez, the Padres' All-Star slugger? If he were to come to Boston, would that make David Ortiz the league's most expensive pinch hitter?

They've already bid farewell to Mark Kotsay and Julio Lugo, eating much of their salary just to free up roster spots. Sorry, guys, I know you're established major leaguers and all, but you just didn't make the grade.

Oh my goodness gracious … what about the rotation? If Theo can land Halladay or Lee, what do you do with Tim Wakefield when he returns from the DL? How long of a leash do you give an ineffective John Smoltz? How do you utilize Daisuke Matsuzaka if he ever makes his way back from Fort Myers?

"I listen to the talks. I don't listen to the radio, but I talk to Theo," Francona told the Boston Globe before Monday's game. "Some of the people I hear talked about on the radio — you guys have no idea."

Oh? So there are other big-name players Theo has his eye on? Maybe Adam Dunn, Marco Scutaro or Jarrod Washburn?

How exciting the anticipation of change can seem when you're having a bad week. Oh, but the Sox' week wasn't just bad:

"We had a horrible week. Some of that has to do with the uncertainty," said Francona. "[Friday's trade deadline] will be nice. Regardless of what's going on, [trading season] will be over. There will be some closure to it."

But let's remember, folks. This is a team with few, if any, holes. Any major deal, despite the initial enthusiasm surrounding it, could cause major upheaval in the clubhouse.

So is a change really needed?

See, most teams have to take advantage of any shot at a World Series title. They focus on the present. When they're close, they go all-in. For the Red Sox, that could equate to mortgaging their future by trading some combination of Clay Buchholz, Casey Kelly, Daniel Bard, Junichi Tazawa and/or Michael Bowden to bring in a star or two to push them over the top.

But the Red Sox aren't like most teams. They can win now, even with Varitek behind the plate, Lowell at third every day and with Smoltz pitching every fifth game. And, they have a myriad of talent at Triple-A and below that could help keep the franchise in contention for years to come.

Still, the focus on Yawkey Way is rightfully on the here and now. And as they currently stand, you could argue that the Sox have a legit chance of winning a World Series without making a dynamite deal prior to the deadline. The more sensible thing for Theo and his crew to do might be to stick with the players they have and hope they're good enough come October.

But standing pat doesn't appear to be in Theo's makeup.

"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 last week after making the deal for LaRoche. "Certainly, there are no guarantees. Certainly, we hope to make another move between now and the deadline."

I repeat: "Better now and in the future." Isn't the team's "now" good enough to keep the "future" side of the debate intact as well?

Francona has made it clear that they won't make a deal simply for the sake of making one.

"We seem to be a player [at the deadline] because of who we are. We're fortunate enough to be able to look for talent, but we also have a lot of stake in our young players," Francona told the Globe.

The team's stake in its young players seems clear. What will be interesting to see over the rest of the week is how much the team believes in its veterans.

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