BOSTON -- A week before the July 31 trading deadline, the Boston Red Sox have cast a wide net in search of pitching, which makes them not unlike most other contenders.
The hot name among starters at the moment is right-hander Jake Peavy, the best available starter on the market. The White Sox are confident there will be a buyer willing to part with an attractive package of prospects. There's Bud Norris in Houston, Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse in Milwaukee. The Sox are in on all of them, with Peavy still a prime target. Due diligence requires them to ask about Cliff Lee, even though the Phillies say they're not moving the left-hander and would have to be blown away to consider it. The same applies to Kansas City, with Ervin Santana and James Shields.
Bullpen? The Sox were in on Francisco Rodriguez before the Brewers dealt him to the Orioles. The Sox are very interested in three Padres relievers --Luke Gregerson, Dale Thayer and Huston Street -- and also are waiting to see a healthy Jesse Crain throw for the White Sox. They asked about the Royals' Luke Hochevar and would surely be in on All-Star closer Greg Holland if the Royals decided to shop him.
"We'll be aggressive in making phone calls and pursuing things and gathering information and trying to find ways to improve the team," general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday. "What that turns into, I don't know. I think we're still in a strong position. We've got a lot of good players here, good players in Pawtucket that can help us. So we'll see. It's one thing to want something; there has to be a match.
"There's got to be two to dance and if we find a partner, if it makes sense, we'll pursue it."
"That's part of our obligation," Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said.
That is not the same as saying they will get anything done, he cautioned. The Red Sox have the type of prospects that could get a deal done, but it's pretty clear there is a core group of prospects they have little or no interest in moving: Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Blake Swihart and Garin Cecchini.
"That's probably a question better addressed to Ben in terms of untouchables," Lucchino said. "But we'll be aggressive in covering the waterfront, talking to clubs. If there's a player that we hear may be available on the market, we will be there to talk about and see what the possibilities are.
"Since we got here, every year we have tried to do something in July, when we've been in a race in particular. So it doesn't mean that we always do anything but because there's a real value, particularly these days, on high-quality prospects and we have a lot of them. So there's going to have to be a pretty good deal to extract some of these high-quality prospects that we have."
A critical component of making deals is a team's ability to evaluate its own prospects, making certain to correctly identify which players can be sacrificed without measurably harming the team's future. That's as much an art form as it is a science. Mistakes can, and are, made.
"That's the artistry of it, that's where the balance comes in, that's where the sense of judgment comes in from the general manager and others," Lucchino said. "You've got to be a little careful because we're not just building for one year but Ben has talked about building the next great Red Sox team, and that would involve some of the prospects who would be sought after. So we'll be aggressive in finding out what's out there. Whether we'll be aggressive in moving prospects is a whole other question."
Henry said he believes the team is "very strong."
"We have the best offense in baseball, scoring the most runs," he said. "We've had some bad luck with pitching injuries. We're looking, but it's hard to predict. Making trades at the trade deadline is expensive, especially with regard to future talent, so it'll be tricky.
"We're not going to give up the future, because we're already going forward. This team is already doing a hell of a job of going forward now. But we'll look at what availability there is. Ben will."