Ask Nick: Will Red Sox trade for an ace?

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Welcome to this week’s mailbag.

The next thing the Red Sox could use is a veteran corner infielder like Kevin Youkilis (ha ha), who can step in and play third or first base. Right now that guy seems to be Brent Lillibridge, but they need to come up with someone else.

Guys like Brandon Inge, Mark DeRosa, Jeff Baker, Ty Wigginton, Tyler Greene, Casey McGehee, John McDonald and Adam Kennedy (a career .366 hitter at Fenway in 161 at-bats) could seem to fit the bill as quality fill-in type players who wouldn’t have to play every day.

With their abundance of outfielders, you wonder if they would make a move for a guy like this. Will Middlebrooks has some hamstring issues, and the Sox really don’t have a suitable replacement if he should miss time.

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This team will have a ton of transactions between the All-Star game and the trading deadline.
Scott Podsednik, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Sweeney, Andrew Bailey, Clay Buchholz, Rich Hill, and, perhaps further out, Daniel Bard, all have to be incorporated back on the Red Sox roster during that time frame. Should get interesting.

The general consensus of fans who have written is that the Sox did not get good value for Youkilis.

Many fans reacted favorably to my column about dealing Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury in a package for Felix Hernandez. Some didn’t, but how can you not want Felix Hernandez?

Anyway, haven’t heard much from my doctor friend from Colombia touting Ryan Sweeney as the next Fred Lynn lately. But maybe we’ll get lucky next week.

Here we go:

With Jon Lester not performing like the ace we expected, do you see the Sox making a bid for a proven ace? Zack Greinke or King Felix are the two I would love to see GM Ben Cherington pursue. I would be willing to part with Ellsbury for one of the two. Kalish is the center fielder of the future in Boston.
Thomas, Sparks, Nev.
I think they would pursue King Felix, but not Greinke. King Felix is special. He’s like Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, so he’d be worth the expenditure of players and cash. Greinke, to me, is in a different class. He’s having a great season. He had a great season in his Cy Young year, but he’s kind of up and down year to year. There are the anxiety issues that you’d have to be concerned about. His GM in KC was Allard Baird, Boston’s vice president of player personnel. Not sure that Greinke would be suited for the Boston market. Kalish may be the CF or RF of the future. Get the funny feeling you’ll be hearing the name Jackie Bradley in CF for a few years to come.

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Was pitching coach Bob McClure a pick of manager Bobby Valentine, or was he hired and given to Valentine? It seems that you never see them talking to each other in the dugout during a game. Valentine does seem to spend a lot of time chatting with the assistant coach that took over for McClure when he left the team for awhile. I thought Curt Young was a zombie, but McClure just stares off into space, at least on TV.
Allen, Venice, Fla.
Yes, McClure was already hired in a different capacity when Valentine got the job. It hasn’t been a smooth association. Randy Niemann, who is the assistant pitching coach, was hired by Valentine. He was Valentine’s bullpen coach in New York.

Why is Brent Lillibridge starting and even batting leadoff? His major league stats seem horrific. I would much rather see Kalish or Ross in center field until Ellsbury gets back.
Brent, American Fork, Utah
I see what you’re saying. Valentine needs to know whether he can depend on Lillibridge. So far, we haven’t seen much, but he has to play him occasionally because he seems to be protection for Middlebrooks at third if Middlebrooks is injured (hamstring). The Red Sox need to get themselves a veteran third baseman who can also play first to protect themselves if Middlebrooks gets hurt or slumps.

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Why don’t umpires enforce the rules in the rule book? Why don’t the players button their shirts all the way? Aren’t they are out of uniform?
Sandra, Sharon, Vt.
I think the uniform rules are enforced by the league office. They do have uniform police and players do get fined for uniform violations, but we never hear about them unless a player reveals it.

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The Phillies should be monitored for a possible trade for Cole Hamels. Kalish and Doubront would be better than draft picks if Hamels does not re-sign.
Bill, Bronx, NY
Don’t think the Red Sox would do that. They have high hopes for both players and they’ll stick with them. Don’t think they want to get involved in another big money contract with a pitcher unless that pitcher is King Felix.

Would you agree that the only difference between this year’s team and those of the last few years is the fans? People complain about the Red Sox way too much, but they play as hard as any other team and have the most exciting offense in baseball. Yet the crowd seems way less enthusiastic on a day to day basis.
Stephen, Niceville, Fla.
Yes, I have noticed that. And I agree with you that it’s the hardest working team I’ve seen here in quite some time. They hustle more than any team I can remember and I think that’s because of the Valentine influence. He emphasizes that. Not sure why there’s not more enthusiasm. That’s why I proposed a King Felix deal, because he would be like Roger and Pedro and create an electric atmosphere every time he pitched.

I think someone has to tell Salty to wear a helmet backward and throw his mask like everyone else. I have counted five times this year where Salty does not catch a throw to the plate. The Mariner loss last night was inexcusable. How does he not come up with that ball? He didn’t view it. He is obstructing his view with his mask on all the time.
John, Cedar Lake, Ind.
They supposedly have the greatest catcher instructor who ever lived in Gary Tuck, but there are areas of his game defensively that he needs improving on. Yet, I think he’s made great strides and should have made the All-Star team. He’s come around offensively to the point where he’s a force at the plate and he does a nice job handling the pitching staff. I think we can put up with a couple of things here and there.

I’ve noticed that we don’t see or hear from Ben Cherington nearly as much as we did Theo Epstein. Everything seems to be filtered through Bobby V. Is that Ben’s style, is he avoiding the hard stuff, or is he simply maturing into the role?
Jeff, Mechanicsville, Va.
I can only respond from the manner in which they both dealt with me. In that respect, they are very similar. They respond to inquiries quickly and they are as forthright as they possibly can be in their responses. I enjoyed dealing with Theo and enjoy Ben very much. I think both of them have a great grasp of media needs and they do everything they can to accommodate us. Bobby V has a media conference every day before the game and after the game because he’s the manager, so he’s going to be more out front, as was Terry Francona.

When will Will Middlebrooks get a new number and what will it be? And when our outfielders are healthy, who’s the next trade target and what Sox are on the table?
Pam, Sacramento, Calif.
Don’t know what Middlebrooks wants for a number. I’m sure at some point, either soon, or next season, he’ll get a new number, but sometimes these guys like to keep the number they have. As for trade targets, I’m guessing Scott Podsednik could be dealt. There’s interest in him already, so when he comes off the DL, he could be moved. Valentine loves him and I think he’s a terrific guy to keep, but he may be redundant with Crawford and Ellsbury there. Valentine would like to keep Nava around as the fourth outfielder. Ryan Sweeney could also be trade bait.

The Youkilis trade was the poorest I’ve ever seen. They got nothing in return and it still cost them $5.5 million. Was that the best they could do? What an insult to a man who has given us so many good years. Some GM we have!
Len, Wallingford, Conn.
I think Cherington got what he could. I doubt he tried to make the worst deal he could. As I wrote in my Sunday Baseball Notes, I was just surprised that more teams didn’t step up. He’s a proven veteran player. He’s on the downside, but he can still help someone. I think he would be a better fit for the Dodgers than Carlos Lee, who hasn’t played competitive baseball for some time.