Commentary

Red Sox need deadline spark

Epstein working to upgrade in outfield, bullpen, behind plate

Updated: July 22, 2010, 8:13 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

OAKLAND, Calif. -- With less than 10 days remaining before the July 31 deadline, the Boston Red Sox will need to be aggressive in the trade market in order to remain contenders in the highly competitive American League East.

Their needs were evident again Wednesday after the Oakland Athletics defeated them 6-4 to take two of three games in the series. The loss dropped Boston 7 games behind New York for the division lead and 4 games behind Tampa Bay in the wild card race.

General manager Theo Epstein, who is on this three-city West Coast trip with the club, has been working the phones and his needs are clear at the moment. Boston wants a catcher, an outfielder and bullpen help.

A team source said the Red Sox are not close on any deals at this point, but the team will continue to do its due diligence and try to improve before the end of the month.

The biggest name being floated at the moment is Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports the Tampa Bay Rays, among other teams, are talking with the Phillies about Werth.

The Rays could be the front-runners, but the Red Sox source indicated Boston has strong interest in Werth, along with Royals outfielder David DeJesus. A league source, however, believes DeJesus will stay in Kansas City.

In a reply to a text message sent by ESPNBoston.com, Werth's agent, Jeff Borris, said he's unable to comment at this time in regard to his client's situation.

Werth will be a free agent after this season, and the power-hitting outfielder will draw interest from many clubs. Werth, however, has scuffled of late. He is hitting .230 since July 1 and hasn't homered in a month.

There's still no timetable on a possible return for Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who has missed all but nine games with fractured ribs suffered in a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre on April 11. Ellsbury is rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla.

[+] EnlargeChris Snyder
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona's Chris Snyder could be an option for the Red Sox as a backup catcher.

Fellow outfielder Mike Cameron has been playing through a nasty abdominal injury all season, and Jeremy Hermida (ribs) will be activated from the disabled list Thursday. Even though Daniel Nava and Darnell McDonald have done a solid job filling in, if Boston wants to remain in the hunt for October baseball, Epstein needs to upgrade the outfield position.

Epstein also is focusing on upgrading the catching position, according to a source.

The Sox need a short-term catcher for the remainder of this season but also want to control that player for next year.

Since there's a strong possibility Victor Martinez (fractured left thumb) could return to the lineup early next week, Epstein won't have to sacrifice a lot to acquire another backup catcher.

The Red Sox do have interest in Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, a native Rhode Islander, but it's unlikely Colorado would deal him. It had been reported the Rockies shot down a request in which the Sox were asking for Iannetta in exchange for infielder Jed Lowrie.

Another option for the Red Sox could be the Diamondbacks' Chris Snyder. A team source said the Red Sox are interested in both Snyder and Iannetta, but there's nothing imminent.

Internally, the Red Sox have Dusty Brown (currently on recall with Boston) and Mark Wagner in the system. Wagner, a top catching prospect, missed nine weeks this season with a broken left hand and recently returned to the PawSox lineup.

After Martinez and Jason Varitek (fractured right foot) both were placed on the DL, the Red Sox reacquired catcher Kevin Cash from the Houston Astros' organization. He has served as Boston's starter, but he knows Epstein is looking for a more viable option.

[+] EnlargeDavid Aardsma
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMight Theo Epstein be traveling with the Sox to scout Seattle closer David Aardsma?

With their bullpen ERA at 4.42 (which ranks 11th out of the 14 American League teams), the Red Sox also are looking for relief help.

Boston has interest in Blue Jays reliever Scott Downs, who is on the trading block, but so do a lot of other clubs.

"Downs is solid and would be a great piece for a contender," an AL source said. "I'm sure a lot of teams are interested."

There's also some thought the Red Sox could be interested in Mariners closer (and former Red Sox pitcher) David Aardsma. That could be one reason Epstein is on the trip, since the Sox head to Seattle for a four-game set beginning Thursday.

While Epstein sat in the dugout Wednesday morning at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, it was obvious he had a lot on his mind. After Boston dropped the series to the Athletics, the GM appeared even more agitated.

Epstein knows the Yankees and Rays will be active at the trade deadline. In order to salvage the season, Epstein & Co. will need to be aggressive, too.

The Red Sox might be saying all the right things publically, but there is concern among the players that the organization needs to go out, spend some money and maybe even give up some prospects in an attempt to salvage the season.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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