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Explaining the Red Sox Inactivity at the Trade Deadline

Theo Epstein (Michele McDonald/ Globe Staff/ File 2002)

Every year, on July 31, the trading deadline rolls around. And every year, Red Sox fans start pushing for a trade. Sometimes the trades they advocate are logical such as trading top prospects for a star pitcher such as Roy Halladay. Other times, the proposed trades are inspired by panic. Sox fans hate looking up at the Yankees in the standings, and when they see Yankees GM Brian Cashman making any moves, they look to Theo Epstein to counter.

Many of the trade proposals people throw out on WEEI likely make Theo laugh, such as when a caller last year suggested trading Clay Buchholz and an array of prospects for the Rockies’ Brad Hawpe (currently hitting .256).

Who was out there?

This year, unfortunately, there wasn’t a very good market at the trade deadline. The marquis player this year was clearly then-Mariners starter Cliff Lee, not exactly a priority for a team like the Sox with an excellent rotation.

Another attractive player was Yankees acquisition Lance Berkman, but there were several drawbacks with the former Astros player. He is already 34 year old, is having the worst year of his career, and has said he’d like to return to Houston once the season ends. In short, Berkman is the exact type of player that you want to avoid trading any prospects for.

Another player that may have been a good fit for the Red Sox is Matt Capps, a reliever who was just traded to the Twins, but he was overpriced and likely not worth the pieces the Nationals would have demanded.

The Bridge

Boston fans also may have forgotten the statements Theo made in the spring. The GM stated that 2010 would be a “bridge year,” and that saving and developing prospects was the priority. He knew the Red Sox had a playoff caliber squad set for 2010, and decided to improve in the short term (signing Adrian Beltre) without sacrificing the future (trading a stud prospect like Casey Kelly). Since the trade market was very weak this year, Theo did the right thing in standing pat. There was no need to sell the farm in a panic trade. The Red Sox have a top 10 Farm System, and Epstein has a strong track record of developing players (Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz anyone?), so we have no reason not to trust his judgment.

This past week we got get our first look at Ryan Kalish, a 21-year-old outfielder who ESPN’s Keith Law named as one of his top 100 prospects. He is currently hitting .367, and hit his first major league homer, a game-icing two-run blast in a 6-3 win in Yankee Stadium. Kalish has good tools and athleticism, and looks to be a future starter.

So relax Red Sox Nation, there was no one out there who could magically erase our five-game deficit in the standings this year. Theo Epstein knows what he’s doing and more importantly, he sees the big picture. Imagine if he had listened to everyone and traded Clay Buchholz in any number of deals the last few years, or included Jon Lester in the potential Johan Santana trade in 2007. The key is to build the team for now and the next few years, and avoid damaging the future with panic trades. There is an art to running a team, and Epstein has been a maestro the past few years.

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