LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — All quiet on the Red Sox front.
That was the sense after a briefing with general manager Theo Epstein on Wednesday night near the end of the final full day of the baseball winter meetings. Not that the club is sitting on its hands, but nothing is imminent in terms of moves, whether through free-agent signings or through trades.
Epstein insisted that it "could always change with one phone call" but the sense is that Boston will leave town Thursday afternoon with nothing to add to slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, its major acquisition earlier in the week. Which likely suits Epstein just fine.
"[The Gonzalez] trade means we don’t have to force things," he said. "In pursuing players or in any negotiation , it's a tough spot to make you feel like you have to do something. Starting from a stronger position allows you to be patient, see more possibilities and see things for how they are."
As has been the case all week, those possibilities involve the bullpen and the potential addition of an outfield bat, but likely not that of Carl Crawford. Epstein would never rule that out but gave a pretty solid hint that he has moved on.
"We’re just in on the guys we’re in on but I think we got our big bat through a trade," Epstein said. "Still looking for good players but that Gonzalez acquisition put us in a different spot in terms of our need to do something. We’re still looking for the right player, right fit."
That search will probably continue back in Boston.
Here are few other tidbits from the GM:
- The bullpen market, while filled with solid arms, is slow to get moving. The big contracts issued some relievers has caused teams to back off a bit and wait for someone to make the next move, it seems. "It’s going to take a couple more signings and they’ll probably go quickly," Epstein said.
"That’s part of the dance."
This leaves some relievers in limbo. Epstein: "I think there’s sorta a rhythm to it where most players don’t want to be the first to sign for fear of getting more later but they don’t want to wait too long when there’s less resources out there."
- Epstein was asked whether the fact that Gonzalez will make just $6 million in 2011 and likely will be paid less through the course of his extension than he might’ve received on the open market in a year’s time gives the Sox any flexibility in their spending. "It helps," he said. "It’s certainly better than acquiring a player who is twice or three times as expensive. It allows us to look at more possibilities with our other needs."
- The Rule 5 Draft takes place Thursday morning. Epstein has two open spots on his 40-man roster with which to play, but he has yet to decide whether taking a player is worth the risk. He did admit that he sees some unprotected players that could offer help in the reconstruction of the bullpen, to a degree. "There could be [a reliever taken]," he said. "We’re still deciding but there might be one spot that a player is worth the gamble … a possible contributor."
Epstein anticipates that at least one of the 42 unprotected Red Sox minor leaguers could be taken but he believes there is a good chance they will be returned to the club (teams which draft someone in the process can return him later on for a $25,000 fee).
- Epstein is having ongoing discussions with Andrew Miller and Taylor Buchholz, both of whom were non-tendered last week. He said Miller knew the non-tender was part of the process and the negotiations are "going pretty well." The club has also remained in connection with Milton native Rich Hill, who threw four scoreless innings and picked up a win late last season for the Sox.