Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Epstein chooses later over sooner

Theo Epstein understands the importance of building a team through the farm system and he often eschews the quick trade at the trading deadline in favor of stockpiling young players and building talent through the draft.

That said, many people are wondering what the Boston front office might try to pull off to give the Sox an even better chance of challenging in the AL East this season -- especially given that the Yankees will (as always) pull out all the stops in their never-ending quest to win the World Series with a payroll that is so big it's embarassing.

Specifically, the Royals have made it known they are packing it in and are willing to part with Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney and the Mariners will give up Freddie Garcia for the right price.

In a story in yesterday's Boston Globe, Epstein certainly understands the interest fans might have in acquiring any of these players, but he's hesitant to try to pull off the blockbuster midseason deal. In fact, he offers another alternative:
Certainly (Epstein) understands that the Yankees will be gunning for Beltran, Garcia, or both. One thing Epstein won't do is give up the future. And getting Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon back is like completing a major trade anyway, right?

"I used to hate to hear that when I was a fan," Epstein said. "In some ways it's appropriate to say that, but if we can get all of our players healthy, that's a real gift. I know you can't always presume that, but we certainly feel we're going to be healthier than we have been."
I agree that getting Nomar and Trot back will be a big lift -- if for no other reason than it gets Millar out of the lineup.

But while Epstein thinks its important to build team depth through the minor league system, the Yankees have the blueprint for winning by acquiring players in their prime and paying top dollar to get them. And although most teams can't compete with the Yankees bankroll, the Red Sox can. Now I'm not advocating a balls-to-the-wall, acquire every available free agent approach (a la Brian Cashman with Steinbrenner watching his every move with his finger hovering over the 'eject' button), but maybe some mix of players acquired through the draft and through trades might also be beneficial.

Of course, Epstein is a 'Moneyball' guy, so I'm sure he's already considered myriad alternatives and has concluded that this is the most promising course to take. That very well may be, but if Schilling goes on the DL (as he may do any day now) and Pedro has his customary second-half injury, Freddie Garcia sure would come in handy -- unless of course there's a stud in minors that no one knows about or Trot or Nomar learned how to pitch during their respective rehab stints. If all else fails, I guess we can just put Millar on the mound and keep our fingers crossed.