There are eight days remaining until the 2010 trade deadline. Every team in baseball is scrambling to make a deal that will change the complexion of the franchise. As a result, minor league players, coaches and personnel are left in a never-ending state of disarray.
Or so popular misconception would have us believe.
In actuality, nothing really changes for the Red Sox' minor league front office personnel at this time of year. Once July 31 rolls past, it's just another day in the books.
"We're still in the middle of the season, so our job continues to be supporting the major league club as best we can," Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen said. "You could end up losing some guys at the deadline if we were to make a deal, but it's hard to plan for that because they talk about so many deals over the course of the next 10 days which never really materialize."
Every year, it seems, the Red Sox find themselves in an enviable position at the end of July, not only because there has rarely been a year they have been out of contention for the postseason. They also have what is widely regarded as one of the best farm systems in baseball, a system that has produced a plethora of young talent currently on the Red Sox roster and off it.
It's a bit of a catch-22, but it is one general managers across the league face every day. They would hate to let go of a prospect they've watched thrive throughout the minors, but if dealing that prospect means acquiring veteran talent that could help the club right now, which do you choose?
There have certainly been times the Red Sox have missed out on a marquee free agent because of their unwillingness to deal heralded prospects, and there have been times they have counted their blessings that they've held on to their farmhands. Where would the Red Sox pitching staff be today if Theo Epstein had sent Jon Lester to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana back in 2007 (provided, of course, that the Sox would have been unable to sign Santana to a long-term deal at the season's end)?
This can be a tough time of year for prospects, especially the best prospects the organization has to offer. Over time, they may be able to get used to hearing their names floated around in potential blockbuster deals, and the instability is never something anyone can get used to.
There are plenty of things a player can control in this game, but being traded is not one of them. That is why Hazen encourages young prospects to turn a blind eye — or ear — to trade rumors as much as possible.
"We try to talk to them about it a little bit as far as controlling what they can control, and [trades are] an aspect they can't control," Hazen said. "Nine out of 10 [potential trades] are rumors, so we talk to players about not putting any stock into them because there's nothing they can do about it, either way."
The theory makes sense. Why waste time discussing something that probably will never happen? When you're talking about the Red Sox, a team that seems to always have the means to sign whichever veteran pitcher or bona fide slugger that becomes available each season, there are only so many rumors that can be addressed.
"If we talked to players every time [their names popped up in rumors]," Hazen said, "we'd be talking to them every day."
When those deals do come into fruition, though — when, hypothetically, Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss are being shopped in a potential blockbuster deal with the Pirates and the Dodgers — Hazen and his staff are the first to know. They must provide up-to-the-minute health updates, statistics, scouting reports and anything else a general manager may need to make his prospects look their best.
"Pretty immediately, we're involved every step of the way," Hazen said. "We know when something happens."
The only time Hazen and his staff take heed to trade rumors is when they hear directly from Epstein. When he comes calling, it's the real deal. Otherwise, the rumors are just rumors. They can be interesting, but in the end, they're just distractions.
"We're not really paying attention too much to that stuff," he said. "There are so many rumors that get floated that never seem to materialize."
Once the trade deadline passes, there's no calm after the storm. There's never a second to relax, take stock and breathe. On the morning of Aug. 1, it's on to the next big event on the horizon: September call-ups.
"The deadline is one little bump in the season, and it hasn't been too crazy over the last few years," Hazen said. "It hasn't been that bad from that standpoint, but I don't know — maybe this year's different."
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