by Rob Bradford/WEEI
Speaking on WEEI with John Dennis and Dale Arnold, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein touched on a variety of subjects as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, including the importance of getting pitcher Clay Buchholz back from his back injury.
"There's nobody we can go out and acquire who is going to take the place of Clay Buchholz," Epstein said. "If you ask me what player do I want out there on this club in all of baseball, if I could name one guy to acquire for this team, it would be just a healthy Clay Buchholz and I think we're going to have that.
"It's been a slower process than anybody has wanted, especially Clay, but he is getting better. We've had three opinions on it now and everybody feels it's just a matter of time and we're going to be have to really patient with it so we can let the muscle heal and let him go through his delivery without any symptoms. Let's say the news was different, and we don't expect this at all, and it's going to be a little bit longer, I'm sure it would affect how we look at it. I just don't think there's anybody out there we can acquire who can come close to what we would have to replace in Clay. And when it comes down to depth options we have a lot of those internally. I'm sure we'll look around, but I do believe Clay is going to come back healthy and be that type of acquisition that we thought we couldn't make in the trade market."
Epstein also talked about the progress of Josh Reddick, who leads all outfielders with an 1.088 OPS since June 1, and how key his improved plate discipline has been to his emergence. When asked about the outfielder's playing time, the GM suggested that if Reddick continues to perform at this level he would be afforded the opportunity to stay in the lineup.
"I don't think you have to cast your lot on one player and completely bury the other, but as I said, Tito's job is to put the best team on the field on any given night to help us win and you have one player who is performing so well and is so hot, and maybe is demonstrating that the light had gone on for him, and another player who has struggled all year, that's something you really have to massage as a manager," Epstein said. "But we've always been an organization that has given the best players a chance to impact the game for our team on that given night. I know there's been a lot of discussion on these airways, 'Do this 100 percent. The other guy plays zero percent.' That's probably not how it's going to be, but of course the players who are playing the best at the time get the chance to win a game for the Boston Red Sox."
Epstein surmised that the Red Sox still have one of the deepest systems in baseball, and, despite giving up three top-level players in the trade for Adrian Gonzalez the organization is in a good position if the right deal comes along.
"Don't think we're limited just because we made a trade last winter," he said.
Theo Epstein confirmed that the organization has previously attempted to sign Jacoby Ellsbury to a multi-year extension, and hope to still execute such a deal in the future.
"Yeah, I think with all our young players that we see as core members of the organization that's something that we're interested in, and we certainly see Jacoby as that," said Epstein when asked if he had talked to, or planned on talking to, Ellsbury about a long-term deal.
"This isn't the right forum to talk about it. Those conversations are always behind closed doors. But I guess it's not a secret we sat down and tried in the past to do that, lock Jacoby up, and I hope we'll sit down in the future again and try to do it once more at the appropriate time. He's somebody we've long believed in, we've long seen as a core young member of the organization that we would love to keep around. We have certain organizational standards that have to be met, but we worked hard and were able to meet those standards with the Pedroias, with the Youkilis' and the Lesters of the world so we would love to one day announce that Jacoby is going to stick around this organization for a really long time. This is where he should be, and, again, this is where he should be."
The 27-year-old Ellsbury is arbitration-eligible for two more years before he can become a free agent. He avoided arbitration last offseason by signing a one-year, $2.7 million deal.
One of the "organizational standards" Epstein referenced in regard to such deals was the team's insisting that any such agreement, where arbitration and free agent years are bought out, would have to include at least one club option. Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, has typically steered his clients away from such contracts.
Some of the players the Red Sox have signed before they became eligible for free agency include Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, and, most recently, Clay Buchholz.