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Theo: Sox have trade chips for right deal

While acknowledging that he is always “keeping one eye on the current season and one eye on the long term outlook,” Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said Thursday that he thought the team had the depth of prospects to make a deal at the trade deadline if the right fit was there, even after sending his best prospects to San Diego in the offseason for Adrian Gonzalez.

“I think our system is in pretty good shape and if we find the right deal we can go ahead and make a deal,” Epstein said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Thursday morning. “We have significant depth and volume in the system. So from a prospect standpoint I think we should be able to match up and make a deal if we find the right fit. That fit is always difficult ... but I don’t think we’re limited because we made a trade this past winter.”

The Red Sox sent blue-chippers Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo to the Padres in the deal that landed Gonzalez in Boston, and the team currently has just one player in ESPN Insider Keith Law’s recently updated list of the top 50 prospects in baseball (Will Middlebrooks at No. 42), but Epstein predicted we’d see more Sox names emerge on prospect lists in the near future.

“I know I’m biased, but I happen to think we have one of the deeper systems in all of baseball,” Epstein said. “We don’t have the true headliners because those guys went in the Adrian deal, but I think if you check back in a few months the guys that we know well and maybe the rest of the industry is just starting to know well, will really start to pop up on top prospect lists."

Does that mean the Sox are primed to make a blockbuster deal for Carlos Beltran or someone of his ilk before July 31? Not so fast. As Epstein often cautions when the trade deadline approaches, he reiterated Thursday that the price for the immediate upgrade is often prohibitive and sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

“Obviously the current year is fundamentally important and we want to do everything we can to win the Word Series, but the way we’ve built this organization up is by attempting to at least keeping one eye on the current season and one eye on the long term outlook as well.

“If you look at trade deadlines past, some of the best moves we’ve ever made were moves where we didn’t trade guys. Like a Jacoby Ellsbury, for example, whose name used to come up at the deadline. … There were years where we’ve had a lot of money invested in the club and needed the piece, but we had to show some discipline in not moving guys we felt were going to be impact players and it turned out to be the right move.

“There are other years where we’ve made moves that maybe didn’t help that year’s club but were really sound moves for the long haul. Last year, for example, we didn’t find the right move to help that year’s club but we went out and traded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia knowing there was a chance he could stabilize the catching position not in 2010 but starting in 2011 and going forward.”