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Theo talks Sox

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  November 29, 2006 04:50 PM

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With next week's winter meetings in Orlando on the horizon and the rumor mill working overtime, general manager Theo Epstein spoke to the media about all things Red Sox this afternoon.

Epstein refused to confirm any rumors about a potential Manny Ramirez trade or a possible J.D. Drew signing.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment at this time,” said Epstein, when asked about the possibility of moving Ramirez out of Boston. “Manny is obviously a big part of the team. No further comment unless or until there is something to announce.”

Regarding J.D. Drew, Epstein said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about potential free-agent signings. Certainly there’s a time and a place to talk about players. It’s just our policy not to talk about potential acquisitions until it’s done or not done.”

However, Epstein did say that the team is continuing to negotiate with a couple of free agents.

"We may have something done with one free agent before the winter meetings and we plan to be talking to another free agent at the winter meetings," said Epstein.

The Sox GM said he expects the meetings to be fast paced, active, and he anticipates that there will be a spike in trade activity.

“There’s still a lot of needs out there, a lot of available players,” added Epstein. “It will be fun to see how all the parts settle. They’ll be trade talks; they’ll be a lot of free agent discussion. It’s always a great place to get stuff done because everyone is under the same roof.”

When asked for an update on the ongoing negotiations with Daisuke Matsuzaka, Epstein said, “Larry [Lucchino] was in Japan and was at a point where he was meeting the Japanese media and he acknowledged that we had made an offer. That certainly is the case. We had made an offer. I don’t want to go too much more into it because I think it is important to maintain some.. a quiet and calm, confidential environment, if possible, during the negotiation for the benefits of both parties.”

As to the team’s search for a closer, Epstein said the bullpen would be the team’s top priority at the upcoming winter meetings, “We’ve had a lot of talks with teams about trades in which we’d get a closer back,” said Epstein. “We’ve dabbled in free agency but obviously haven’t gotten anything done yet. And the search continues. Our bullpen is not yet a finished product. It will look a lot different on Opening Day than it looks right now.”

More of Theo’s thoughts:

  • “The market has definitely spiked,” observed Epstein in commenting about the flurry of signings and big contracts given out recently. “There’s no doubt about it. Each signing is a data point and eventually a trend develops. And it’s clear that there’s a lot of available money to be spent and probably more holes on teams than there were players that can fill them. And the supply-demand dynamic has created a spike in the marketplace. It’s something that you try to predict. We recognized that once the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was struck that there was a very good chance there would be this spike and you try to anticipate the market as best as you possibly can and not get caught behind… I don’t know that we’re back to the days of 2000-01 per se. With the new CBA, there’s a great deal of stability and a great deal prosperity in the game.... Certainly it seems that both teams and players are doing well in the game right now. It’s a good thing. The new CBA has been certainly good for the game.”

  • When asked if the team would consider signing a free agent to a contract length of greater than four years, Epstein said, “I think market forces can sometimes dictate both AAV [average annual value] and length [of contract]. There have certainly been players signed to five year deals in this marketplace that traditionally haven’t received that kind of length and it’s just risk assessment. In terms of AAV, you have to look at what your payroll looks like, not only next year, but also 5-6-7 years down the line. And with length, you want to look at what’s coming in your minor league system. What reasonable expectation would be for player performance throughout the length of the contract and how long is necessary to go in order to secure a players services. It’s just constant risk management both in terms of both the amount of money and length of the commitment... The market is an important factor [in length of contract], the nature of the contract itself, whether there’s any protection for the team beyond four years, and the talents and the talents and the player involved and the fit for the ballclub certainly.”

  • When queried about re-signing infielder Alex Cora, Epstein said, “Cora is great protection for us at shortstop. [Dustin] Pedroia came up as shortstop and is certainly capable of moving back across the bag and playing shortstop. We do have shortstop prospects, they aren’t major league ready at this time, but we do have some coming in the minors.”

  • On rebuilding the bullpen, Epstein said he’d prefer not to lock into long term deals with middle relief candidates.

    “My personal philosophy is spending a lot of money on middle relief is always something to be avoided if possible,” said Epstein. “There’s a tremendous amount of volatility in year to year performance of non-closing relievers. So it’s important, if possible, not to fall into the trap of buying high when there’s so much volatility. It’s much better to buy low or to have less at risk in an investment whether it’s a one year deal rather than a two or three year deal. Whether it’s a solution from your own minor league system or someone who is looking to bounce back from injury or poor performance. It’s much better that way than getting locked into significant commitment with someone who might not maintain that level of performance... it may not the best use of our particular resources... The bullpen has been a sticking point for us in recent years. We haven’t been able to successfully follow through a plan of converting lower risk investments into actual performance. That’s something that we’ve taken a lot of steps this winter, with respect to our infrastructure, trying to correct.”

  • Regarding the progress pitcher of Jonathan Papelbon, Epstein said, “Everything is going very well for Jon. He’s started his offseason conditioning program. All the reports are, from him, is that his shoulder feels terrific. He’s altered his routine a little bit this winter in anticipation of a full season’s worth of innings on his shoulder as a starting pitcher. So far, so good. He’s feeling very strong and is speaking in superlatives about the condition of his shoulder.”

  • Epstein said the team would not make any final decisions on offering arbitration on Red Sox free agents until it gets close to the Friday midnight deadline.

  • Regarding the hiring of Luis Alicea as first base coach, Epstein said the former infielder and Sox minor league coach will be a great addition to the staff and it was important to the team to have made the hire in-house.

    “He’s a terrific infield instructor, very knowledgeable about base running. He’s really developed himself as a staff member during his three years managing in our system,” said Epstein. “It’s very important to the organization that we were able to promote from within. It’s a real morale booster for our player development staff and he’s an ideal fit for what we were looking for in a first base and infield coach.”

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