The world we live in is filled with shades of commonality.
Objects that bear no visual or tangible resemblance to one another share deep and unbreakable bonds that we cannot see. Luminous, brilliant diamonds and dingy lumps of coal share the same basic molecular building blocks. The difference between the rocks lies in the way in which they bond to each other.
Baseball players aren’t much different.
Our eyes tell us narratives for each and every player we see.
Some sparkle under the lights, dazzling the crowd in their own baseball showcase. Others don’t glow but go about their work like soot-covered workers in a nameless mine.
The most-coveted players for baseball executives will always be the gemstones of the league: the Roy Halladays and Adrian Gonzalezes of the world will always garner the most attention and the most top-flite prospects.
In that vein, Theo Epstein’s public persona might be half plutomaniac, half oniomaniac.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Red Sox are trying to relocate Indians Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez to the cradle of liberty in exchange for a litany of prospects, including Clay Buchholz.
Adding 2008’s AL Cy Young Award winner and 2009’s AL starting catcher in the All-Star game will undoubtedly bolster Boston’s world series ambitions.
Another source reports that the Red Sox are willing to include Clay Buccholz, one of Justin Masterson, Lars Anderson, or Michael Bowden, and other lesser prospects in an offer for Halladay.
There’s no need for all this talent lust—and Theo Epstein knows it.
The Red Sox already own one of the best starting rotations in the majors.
Despite the injuries to All-Star Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Sox remain among the top ten in team ERA. While the prospect of facing Lee and Beckett or Halladay and Beckett on consecutive days is enough to make any big league hitter squirm, the thought underscores the difference between the Red Sox public pandering and practical purpose.
The Red Sox routinely enter the fray in the annual bidding wars over high-priced free agent talent. In 2008, the hot commodity was Mark Teixeira. In 2007 the Sox lost out on the Johan Santana sweepstakes. And in 2009 the Sox could find themselves locked in a “who’s wallet is bigger” cash clash over flame-throwing Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman.
By appearing to be continually on the cusp of pulling the big deal or inking the big name to a long-term contract, Theo Epstein has entrenched his organization in a well-protected position; he can get anyone on the market and he can make other teams pay more than they want, in cash or prospects, to acquire that player.
Epstein put two high potential pitchers and a peripheral prospect on the table. This offer easily tops the rejected counter proposal the Phillies sent to the Blue Jays over the weekend.
The practical purpose of the Sox offer to Toronto is to force Philadelphia to step up and complete the Halladay deal—sending him out of the division for the next year and a half.
The Red Sox may very well face the Phillies if they reach the Fall Classic this year. But in the interim, not having to face Halladay two more times during the stretch run serves the Red Sox better than worrying about Game One of the World Series in October.
Also, trading for Halladay would reverse Epstein’s managerial tendency to not trade for the marquee player on the market.
Additions to the roster, however, haven’t come via the blockbuster trade or the big splash in the free agent market.
Yes, this is the team that traded mega-prospect Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Yes, this is the team that dealt Manny Ramirez only a season ago for Jason Bay. Yes, this is the team that traded away Beantown icon Nomar Garciaparra. Yes, this team is not afraid to pull the trigger.
But this is a team defined by its smaller acquisitions and maximizing those players’ strengths.
Doug Mienkewicz’s sure-handed glove work. Dave Roberts’s base-stealing prowess. Hideki Okajima’s pitching deception. Jason Varitek’s signal calling mastery. All the aforementioned and a score of others were overshadowed by the bigger names and the bigger moves. All the aforementioned contributed to a World Series triumph.
In the eye of the storm, the Red Sox did make a trade Tuesday.
The Sox dealt the seldom used Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for right-handed outfielder Brian Anderson.
There’s no discernible offensive upgrade numbers wise.
Anderson hit .238 for Chicago in 65 games this season before being optioned to Triple A Charlotte on July 20 while Kotsay was hitting .257 with one home run and five RBI in 27 games before being designated for assignment on July 24.
The Sox will benefit most from Anderson’s defense.
The 27-year-old University of Arizona product is likely to head to Triple A Pawtucket. Like in the Windy City, there’s no room for him in the Boston outfield right now. Still, Anderson provides much needed depth from the right side of the plate and his defense will come in handy if J.D. Drew finds himself on the disabled list in late August.
Combined with the recent additions of Chris Duncan and Adam LaRoche, Epstein added depth—more of the hardworking types that have defined the Epstein-era Red Sox—to a roster built for a deep playoff run while preserving depth for the future.
Though the Nation is clamoring for another championship, trading for Roy Halladay will neither guarantee another parade down Yawkey Way nor cement Theo Epstein’s legacy in Boston.
He’s already done that by twice turning gritty talent into championship rings.