Sunday wasn’t exactly the most encouraging of days over on Yawkey Way, now was it? Hours after the Yankees made the biggest splash on the trade deadline ticker, Curt Schilling was hammered, Trot Nixon was injured, and rumors continued to swirl as to the possible new addresses of players both coming and going.
Since finishing their dominant stretch against the National League, the Red Sox have gone just 12-12, and cling to a half-game lead over the retooled Yankees, who acquired Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle yesterday for nothing more than a couple of rubber bands and a glue stick (a deal even New Yorkers see as gluttony). In Boston, the rotation is tattered, the lineup is top-heavy, and the front office is at a crossroads in terms of what it's willing to do prior to today's 4 p.m. trade deadline.
The kids (Craig Hansen, Jon Lester, Manny Delcarmen, and Jonathan Papelbon) are seemingly untouchable, as is Kevin Youkilis and the obvious suspects (David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, duh). Other than that, it's anyone's guess.
There's the three-way involving Mike Lowell, Scott Linebrink, and Julio Lugo. There's the Jason Schmidt possibility. There could be a sudden need for another outfielder, depending on the severity of Trot Nixon's latest injury. There's a collective deep breath being taken from New Shoreham to Old Saybrook that David Wells can pitch effectively in his return to the rotation tonight.
And of course, there is the one-ton Texan who refuses to leave the room.
We've all scoffed at it over the past week, but perhaps the best deadline deal Theo Epstein and Co. could possibly make today is the one that puts Roger Clemens back in a Red Sox uniform. It's like fighting a bad cold only to succumb to it in the end, knowing a day in bed is going to be good for you in the long run.
Twenty-four hours ago, no way. Clemens had made his $22 million decision to go home for one more season in Houston, and everybody lived happily ever after. Except, it seems, Clemens and the Astros.
After yesterday's no-decision against the Diamondbacks, a game in which Clemens allowed just two hits and a run over seven innings, one might inquire whether it's high time the soon-to-be-44-year-old pitcher toss up his arms in surrender. Clemens is just 2-4 on the season with Houston despite a 2.09 ERA. In seven of his eight starts, he has allowed two runs or fewer. Yet Houston's anemic run support has provided him with nothing but frustration.
The Providence Journal's Sean McAdam reports today that friends of Clemens say that he is sorry he chose Houston over Boston earlier this year, and that he would love to be dealt to Boston for the stretch run. The problem? It's all about PR.
"Clemens would love to be dealt to the Red Sox, but doesn't want to antagonize his hometown by asking for a trade," McAdam writes. "Similarly, owner Drayton McLane, having won the furious bidding war for Clemens two months ago, doesn't want to alienate Astros fans by dealing Clemens. If Clemens could make a trade seem like the Astros' idea, he'd be all for it. And if the Astros got cover from Clemens and could say that a deal was made at Clemens' request, they'd make it."
Clemens also once said he'd like to move closer to home and ended up North of the Border, so take it for what it's worth.
Let's face it, while the Lugo-Linebrink-Lowell trade has been burning up the message boards and the talk shows, how many problems does that one really solve? The Sox get a dearly needed setup man in Linebrink, but lose defensive superiority at third in Lowell. And if anything, the defense is one aspect that doesn't necessarily need tweaking. Lugo is a stud, but he'll be a free agent at the end of year, too. The option remains to go after him in the offseason.
In fact, this proposal makes just as little sense as it did earlier in the week, considering the Red Sox needs are likely ranked as follows.
1. Starting pitching
Depending on the severity of Nixon's biceps injury, it could be Wily Mo Pena and Gabe Kapler in right field for the foreseeable future, barring a trade. Nixon is scheduled for an MRI today, and you have to assume his name has quieted down all of a sudden in possible trade talks.
Depending on whether the Giants are indeed buying or selling (signs are mixed), it's going to take a strong package to wrestle Schmidt (7-7, 3.18 ERA) away from them, a price that might be far too steep when the Mets are rumored to be dangling Lastings Milledge for the righty's services. Schmidt will also be a free agent at the end of the year.
What would the Red Sox have to give up for Clemens? Assumedly, not too much in that Clemens would be forcing the hand, and the Red Sox would be on the hook for more than $11 million of his salary, a price not too many other teams would be willing to pay. There remains the possibility that they could get him through waivers after today, but if the Yankees are still in second place, they could easily put in a claim on him and deny Boston its prize.
The Astros are done. At 49-56, they're six games out of the wild card race, which all things considered isn't terrible, but with stiff competition from the Braves, Reds, Brewers, and the entire NL West, the likelihood of Houston making it back to the postseason is slim.
According to Richard Justice at the Houston Chronicle, Clemens reportedly went to McLane earlier in the week pleading for help. McLane then ordered GM Tim Purpua to get a deal done. The Astros have yet to make one, but are rumored to be heavily after Baltimore's Miguel Tejada (the asking price of Roy Oswalt though is considered far too steep). Purpua tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post that he's given "zero" thought to trading Clemens, but a number of executives admit they wouldn't be surprised to see him wearing his old No. 21 in Boston one day soon.
After yesterday, yet another frustrating day at the park for Clemens, everything might have changed. The Astros' price tag might be a little more lenient than anyone else out there is charging for pitching these days. The Red Sox keep their arms. They keep the infield defense intact. They remain poised for the future, even as they look to their past for another postseason run.
It's the deal everybody wants to avoid discussing for the sheer unlikelihood of it all. But with scant hours until 4 o'clock rolls around, it's probably the best one the Red Sox can make. If Clemens wants it, he'll get it. And we have to wonder if yesterday was the final straw.
Schilling-Beckett-Clemens? Yes, please.