If you're feeling sort of dizzy these days trying to keep up with all the latest baseball trade rumors, a virtual impossibility as July 31 looms ever nearer, well, you have good reason.
Here are just a few of the names most mentioned as trade targets over the past few days: Julian Tavarez, Jon Lester, Kason Gabbard, Todd Helton, Eric Gagne, Reggie Sanders, Octavio Dotel, Mark Teixeira, Todd Helton, Brian Fuentes, Ty Wigginton, Damaso Marte, Salomon Torres, Mike Piazza, Eric Byrnes, Wily Mo Pena, Jermaine Dye, Kenny Lofton, Torii Hunter, Paul Konerko, Mark Hendrickson, Jason Jennings, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls, Brad Lidge, Mark Loretta, Mike Lamb, Tadahito Iguchi, Javier Vazquez, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Clay Buchholz, Mark Grudzielanek, David Riske, Sammy Sosa, Akinori Otsuka, Joaquin Benoit, Jamey Wright, Dmitri Young, Matt Morris, Pat Burrell, and Adam Dunn. Those are almost enough names to make up the cast of "Lost."
But with all due respect to Alyssa Milano in her quest to become baseball’s real-life Annie Savoy, there is only one sexy name on the market this season, and it belongs to the switch-hitting slugger in Texas. Teixeira is certainly having a down year by his standards, just 13 home runs, but his .909 OPS is ninth-best in the American League, better than those of fellas named Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell. He’s on everybody’s most-wanted list for a reason though. He’s 27, one of the best power hitters in the league, and isn't a free agent until after 2008. He’s not only a rental player, he’s a potential building block. It's rare to see a player of this caliber available at the trading deadline when we're used to seeing the Rob Deers and Larry Parrishes of the world.
This is why Theo Epstein and friends need to think long and hard about just what Teixeira is worth to them. Next season will be Teixeira’s final arbitration-eligible season, after which Scott Boras will more than likely have him test the free-agency waters. But it’s not like the Sox have been as fearful of Boras as other teams.
It comes down to this: Would you rather have Boras client Alex Rodriguez at third, to the tune of $30 mil-plus per season, or Teixeira at first for the foreseeable future at what is likely to be $17 million to $20 million per season? Manny Ramirez’s contract is almost up and David Ortiz isn’t getting any younger.
Names like Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury -- who became an instant fan favorite in his short stint here earlier this season -- have scared the Red Sox off thus far. They seem to be playing the waiting game in order to see just what other teams might be willing to give up for Teixeira. If the Braves are indeed willing to surrender Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a pitching prospect, it just got a whole heck of a lot more expensive for the Red Sox and Yankees to compete, although one AL executive tells the New York Post’s Joel Sherman he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red Sox make an all-out run.
The thought of giving up young pitching will make many fans cringe, but think for a moment; how many hitters of Teixeira’s (once drafted by Boston in 1998, but not signed) ilk do the Red Sox currently have in the upper rungs of the farm system? Brandon Moss and David Murphy might have a little pop, but neither is on the same level. Guys like Ellsbury are a different breed of hitter altogether. And need we remind you again of Ramirez and Ortiz?
Top pitching prospects? They flow off the tongue: Michael Bowden, Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Kris Johnson, Lester. That is indeed not to tout a surplus of pitching in order to jettison some. It's just to suggest that perhaps there is enough talent to initiate a balance of sorts on the Major League level.
Does that mean a Lester and “insert name here” for Teixeira is a no-brainer? Certainly not. But from the standpoint of what you need now, in addition to what you’re going to need down the line, it does make the Ranger a target of some certain salivation. It would effectively end free-agent-to-be Mike Lowell’s tenure for future seasons in Boston.
But who are we kidding? They’ll probably just pay A-Rod $200 million come December.
In other Red Sox trade rumors…
Infield: Ty Wiggingon is the name du jour. The Rays’ Wigginton has 15 home runs this season, would add some needed pop off the bench, and would be an upgrade over nice guy but overmatched Eric Hinske. Todd Helton’s name continues to come up, but that would quite simply be a public relations disaster for the Rockies, who are actually relevant in the Denver summertime for the first time in years. Ken Rosenthal says that the Red Sox might be interested in bringing Mark Loretta back, which wouldn't be unwelcome in the clubhouse for sure.
Outfield: Bobby Kielty could be coming soon, possibly after the Sox find a taker for Wily Mo Pena. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that the Red Sox looked into acquiring the recently designated Kielty and was also close to trading for him last season. We’re not sure what to think about Kielty, seeing how when the Red Sox get obsessive about someone, it’s a mixed bag of good (Kevin Millar, Matsuzaka) and bad (Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo). Willie McGee, sorry; Jermaine Dye would be nice if the Sox were getting the 2006 version and not the awful (.288 OBP) 2007 edition. Please, do not bring up Ken Griffey’s name again. And Dunn is Pena Lite in the outfield. Kason Gabbard for Eric Byrnes? Just asking.
Bullpen: Tavarez has been mentioned again in trade talks with the Rockies, who might be willing to give up lefty Brian Fuentes, who’s due for a big pay day. But the Rockies closer is on the DL, and how are these for splits: At home (in Coors Field, mind you), his ERA is 1.40; on the road, it's 6.87. Talk about opposite day. Kansas City seems to be an overwhelmingly preferred destination for Pena, but if the Sox aren’t able to wrangle Sanders or Dotel from them, might they be willing to bring back David Riske, who has a 0.99 ERA since May 1? Frequent target Scott Linebrink went to the Brewers yesterday in a deal, so he’s out.