With the July 31 trade deadline just weeks away, Red Sox Nation has been buzzing about possible trades and acquisitions. What players might the club pursue in its push for another pennant? Much has been made of the depth in the Sox farm system, and there's been plenty of speculation about whether the team might give up some of that future potential in exchange for an established big leaguer who could deliver an immediate impact in the second half.
It seems that the organization wants to make it clear that they won't "sell the farm" in a myopic deal. Everybody remembers the Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell trade. Not willing to make the same mistake again, the Sox undoubtedly have long term plans for remaining a viable contender for years to come. "We're simply not trading certain prospects, period," said Red Sox GM Theo Epstein.
Epstein was recently quoted as saying, "Eventually what we want to build is an organization where we have a couple of players coming to the big leagues every year, players who have come through our system as teammates, who are Red Sox. There's a culture that has to be developed to make that work and make the organization healthy and vibrant for a long period of time, and I'm not going to alter and make a dumb move."
When pitcher Curt Schilling volunteered to come out of the pen in relief, the team gladly accepted. Management appreciates the veteran's selfless offer. "This helps us avoid doing something desperate and shortsighted," Epstein said. So far the organization has been able to avoid parting with any of its highly valued minor league assets.
Last week, the team announced the signing of first round draft pick (#23 overall) Jacob Ellsbury, from Oregon State. The 21-year-old centerfielder, noted for his speed and hitting prowess, earned Pac-10 co-player of the year honors this season. Ellsbury batted .415 in his final year, and hit .368 over his three year college career. Baseball America called him the fastest baserunner among draft-eligible college players.
The Sox are also quite interested in seeing what 25-year-old centerfielder Adam Stern can do at the major league level. The team is expected to keep Stern on the big league roster, perhaps keeping that spot from a now available Gabe Kapler. After an uneventful season, Kapler was recently released by Japan's Yomiuri Giants, and although the Sox will soon sign him, he'll likely be assigned to Pawtucket.
Johnny Damon will be a free agent at season's end, and whether or not he'll return has also been the source of much speculation. Damon, who will be 32 at the start of next season, and ostensibly in the prime of his career, has had two consecutive career years for the Sox. He stands to cash in for those performances, and is said to be seeking a five or six year deal. The Sox new management and ownership have previously balked at deals of that length. Recognizing this, Damon has said he'd be willing to accept a four year offer from the team to stay in Boston.
But Damon won't come cheap. He's already making more than $8 million per season, and he'll likely be looking for at least $10-12 million each year under a new contract. The question is, do the Sox think that Stern can be an every day centerfielder for the team - at least a stop gap for the immediate future? And furthermore, when do they believe that Ellsbury will be ready to join the big league club? Some sources have said they think he'll be ready as soon as 2007. Might that play into whether or not the team decides to negotiate with Damon? It's certainly possible, and time will tell.
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