Ticktock. It was 4 o'clock, then 6 o'clock, then 8 o'clock.
We were waiting for the answer.
The answer to the question, ``What are the Red Sox going to do to trump, or at least match, the Yankees acquiring Gold Glove outfielder Bobby Abreu and veteran righthander Cory Lidle from the Phillies yesterday for four minor leaguers?"
Sorry, we are not counting the Sox' acquisition yesterday of righty reliever Brian Corey from the Texas Rangers for minor league pitcher Luis Mendoza.
``What are we doing?" asked Boston designated hitter David Ortiz. ``Abreu is a great player. He can hit, man, and people forget he's a Gold Glove outfielder. Lidle is a good pitcher. When he's on, he can be nasty, man. What did they give up?"
When told, Ortiz's face dropped. ``That's all?" he said. ``Hey, that's a good deal."
That was the reaction across the Red Sox clubhouse. The Yankees needed a right fielder in the absence of the injured Gary Sheffield and they got him for the remainder of this year, and all of next year (at $15.5 million in '07). Abreu accepted a $1.5 million bonus from the Phillies to waive his no trade clause, and the Yankees are not on the hook for his $16 million option in 2008 unless they want to be.
``He got $1.5 million? I'd take that," said Ortiz.
In Lidle, whom the Yankees will owe $1.5 million the rest of the season, they got a middle- to end-of-the-rotation starter. A streaky pitcher, Lidle is going well right now. The Red Sox scouted him along with the Yankees and Blue Jays, and the Yanks came away with him.
Could the Sox have made this deal? Absolutely. Why didn't they?
In the absence of an answer from general manager Theo Epstein, there are two assumptions: 1) the Sox are working something bigger; and 2) they didn't want to give up as many prospects as the Yankees did. We are dismissing the notion it was about the money.
``Abreu is an impact player," said the Sox' Terry Francona, who managed Abreu in Philadelphia. ``My hope is that he stinks. My concern is that he goes over there for a couple of months and that he's the best player in baseball. Because I think he has that in him. He's a good ballplayer."
According to major league sources the Sox were working on a three-way deal with Tampa Bay and San Diego.
Padres special assignment scout Ted Simmons was still in town checking out the Sox, but Boston has indicated it won't move Kevin Youkilis. Sources were indicating the deal, if consummated, would have the Sox getting Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo and Padres righty setup man Scott Linebrink, with Mike Lowell heading to San Diego and Tampa Bay receiving prospects from Boston.
Yet one of the parties involved quickly denied it.
Yesterday morning, Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said he was out of the Lugo sweepstakes. That was somewhat significant considering national reports -- and no one from the Boston side has confirmed this -- said the Sox were trying to deal for Lugo and move him to second base.
The Blue Jays weren't able to meet Tampa Bay's asking price in prospects.
The Indians, who are starting to move some players, yesterday sent second baseman Ronnie Belliard to the Cardinals for infielder Hector Luna. That seemed to squash talk of Boston's Mark Loretta going to the Cardinals to make room for Lugo, who if he wound up in Boston would play third or first.
Francona said the Sox won't make a move to answer the Yankees just for the sake of doing it.
``I think you acknowledge that they got a good player," he said. ``I think before that trade, Theo and those guys were burning up the phone lines out of an obligation to cover all their bases. I think that would be a mistake to make a trade because of what you're alluding to.
``If they feel they can make a move, they will."
The Yankees surrendered one prospect of note, shortstop C.J. Henry, their No. 1 pick in 2005, whom New York took instead of Craig Hansen. In retrospect, some in the Yankees organization have acknowledged they made a mistake.
The Yankees made a deal for the present.
``The Yankees always deal in the present," said New York manager Joe Torre. ``We made this deal for the present."
General manager Brian Cashman did a great job in this one for the Pinstripes. He made a deal without giving up any of his major prospects, especially pitcher Phillip Hughes.
``This team has worked so hard and has shown so much fight that if I could, I wanted to give it a chance to win," Cashman said.
Abreu, 32, has suffered from a power shortage (14 homers since the '05 All-Star break) similar to the one Trot Nixon has endured this season, but he's still a top on-base percentage hitter.
He will give the Yankees a good fielder with a very good arm. But when Sheffield and/or Hideki Matsui return from injuries, watch out. The Yankees will have a tough choice as to whom to play and where. Melky Cabrera likely will go back to the bench and be used at the corners as a fill-in.
``I'm thrilled to be going to a team with so many great players and a team that can win," said Abreu, who was notified of the trade in the ninth inning of yesterday's game with Florida.
The Sox, who were also after Abreu, probably wished they had gone for it when Nixon suffered what the team initially called an upper right arm strain on a swing in the third inning, which forced him out of the game.
There were later indications he hurt his biceps, and although he's day-to-day, he's going for an MRI this morning.
By 11:30 p.m., the Sox brass, led by Epstein, Ben Cherington, and Jed Hoyer, held a half-hour meeting with Francona. The group met behind closed doors and left via the back door without comment at 12:01 a.m.
By game's end -- with Curt Schilling suffering one of his worst defeats of the season -- there was word San Francisco was listening to offers for coveted righthander Jason Schmidt. Would the Sox make a bid for a front-line pitcher to get back at the Yankees? With Nixon injured, and the Sox passing on Abreu, the clock was ticking toward the end of the trading deadline at 4 p.m. today.
Ticktock . . .