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Life on the Trade Block

Clay Buchholz (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

On any given day, a Major League Baseball player could be traded away from his ball club and sent halfway across the country. This can be relieving for some players, who get traded away from cellar dwellers and sent to contenders. Some players are promising young prospects who get traded away because a big name veteran is on the trading block. Then, there are players who are involved in every rumor known just because “experts” think a team is making a run at a high profile player.

As followers of the Red Sox, we hear these rumors quite a bit more than most teams. The Sox seem to always be ready to make a move in order to provide an instant upgrade for their lineup. When SoB’s Mike, George, and myself went to a recent Reebok event, we spoke to three players who all had connections to the Red Sox organization. We spoke with former prospects David Murphy and Kelly Shoppach, as well as starting pitcher Clay Buchholz.

Each of those players has also been involved with trade rumors. Shoppach and Murphy have both been traded away from the organization. Buchholz, as we all know, has been talked about in nearly every trade rumor surrounding the Red Sox. Trade rumors surrounding baseball players really does not affect us as fans, but what goes through the players’ heads as they hear their name brought up on ESPN?

When we sat down with Murphy, Shoppach, and Buchholz, we asked them questions about being involved in trades and trade rumors to get a look at what kind of emotional toll it takes on them.

David Murphy

David Murphy was traded on July 31, 2007 at the deadline to the Texas Rangers as a part of the deal that brought Eric Gagne to the Red Sox. Murphy had not received much playing time in Boston that season, only appearing in three games for a total of two at-bats.  He knew that he was viewed as only a bench player at best in the Red Sox organization.

When Murphy was traded, he was not really involved in any trade rumors. Murphy was, however, involved in trade rumors in the 2006 season.

“In 2006, there were some rumors and it affected the way I played because I wondered if there were scouts in the stands or if what I did in that day or single at bat had anything to do with me getting traded or not,” said Murphy.

While Murphy’s play was not necessarily affected in a negative way, he had a certain pressure on him. Any mistake that he made could have hurt his chances to be traded.

“I knew that Boston valued me as a player, but I felt like they didn’t see me as anything more than a bench player when I was in the minor leagues with them.”

Murphy’s chance to show off his talent was clearly not going to come while he was a member of the Boston Red Sox. He believed that if he got to go to a new organization he could make a good impression on those around him.

Being traded in the middle of the season is also a tough situation for anyone to face. When a player is traded at the deadline, he basically changes sceneries completely in a few days. In Murphy’s case, he went from the organization he matured with to one where he did not know a single player where, as he put it, he was out of his comfort zone.

Kelly Shoppach

Kelly Shoppach was traded on January 27, 2006 to the Cleveland Indians in the deal that brought Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. Shoppach had a similar opinion on being traded.

It was great. Fresh start. I don’t know how long I would have had to play in Triple A and I got a chance to go to a place that needed a guy to come in and help out.

Like Murphy, Shoppach was stuck behind some big-name players in the Red Sox organization and did not really know when his time was going to come. When he was traded, it gave him the opportunity to gain much needed playing time at the Major League level.

Shoppach’s experience, however, was much different than Murphy’s. Shoppach was not quite mentioned in trade rumors as a member of the organization. His name came up every now and then, but not in too serious of a rumor. While Murphy was traded in the middle of the season, Shoppach was traded in the offseason, giving him much more time to get used to being on a new team. The opportunity for his play to be altered because of rumors and a mid-season deal never came about.

It was in the offseason, so I had time to prep from it. I don’t know about being traded during the season. I can imagine that would be challenging, just cause of your family. You don’t know what to do with them. I mean, you got to go leave them and say ‘good luck, get there if you can.’

Overall, Shoppach did not have too difficult of a time after being traded to the Indians. It was definitely not an easy change for him, but having time to prepare and instantly improving his opportunity to gain more playing time certainly helped.

“It was a good experience, a chance to take all the things you learned from one organization and apply them to the new one. If you did some things poorly with one organization you can improve on those. It was a good experience for me.”

Clay Buchholz

The third player we interviewed, Clay Buchholz, had a slightly different situation than Murphy and Shoppach. While Buchholz was involved in many trade rumors, he is still a member of the Red Sox organization. To this day, his name comes up in rumors involving Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, and Roy Halladay.

Buchholz had a different perspective on being involved in trade rumors than the other two players.

You can’t believe any of that stuff as far as if it’s just a rumor until if Theo [Epstein] came up to me and said ‘Hey, this is what’s going on.’ [F]or the most part every time there’s been a big trade rumor about me he’s called me into his office and he said ‘Hey that’s not what’s going on, this is what we are doing.’ So he’s let me know what’s going on and they try to keep everybody as calm as possible.

Unlike our talks with Murphy and Shoppach, Buchholz noted that he was told on numerous occasions by Theo Epstein about what was really going on. This definitely seemed to keep Buchholz from getting distracted while he was pitching.

Trade Winds

In each of these player’s stories, we heard some similarities between their trade experiences, but we also heard about three completely different situations. Murphy was traded at a hectic time at the trade deadline, Shoppach was traded at a much quieter time during the offseason, while Buchholz has not been traded (yet).

Both traded players felt relieved, in a way, after being sent off to a new team. Most players in their situation probably feel the same way because they will finally get a chance to play at the highest level instead of being stuck in the minor leagues. It is tough for four star prospects in Boston and New York because at any given time the clubs could sign the next big free agent at their position.

However, there were clear differences in the way the players were treated. Murphy knew he was involved in trade rumors, but he never mentioned anything about being called into the office and getting an explanation. Buchholz was called into Theo’s office each time his name came up and was told exactly what was happening. Murphy had said that he knew the Red Sox didn’t think of him as more than a bench player, which might show the preferential treatment the organization shows towards prospects.

In any case, being on the trading block, or even being involved in rumors, is not a fun time for a player. They do not know whether or not they will even be with the club the next week, or even the next day. Like Murphy, some players have to move away from their families in the middle of the season. Others, like Shoppach, get traded in the offseason and actually have time to settle down. It’s not always the best time for a young player to be traded, but in the end, a lot of them finally get to showcase their talents in the Show.

About A.J. Szczerbinski

I am a 20-year old sophomore at Bentley University in Waltham, MA. After living in Central Massachusetts my entire life, I moved to Northern Virginia. I've been a fan of the Red Sox and Celtics my entire life, but I also cheer for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.

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