BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell made a joking reference to counting down to the July 31 trade deadline, noting the days, hours and minutes to the 4 p.m. ET deadline Wednesday.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington keeps Farrell informed of developments and solicits his opinion on various players the Sox are considering. The focus has not changed: The Sox are looking for a starting pitcher and relief help, preferably a closer. An executive with another major league club said he thought the Red Sox were the favorites to land White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, although at the moment, the asking price from White Sox GM Rick Hahn remains very high.
What will it take to get a deal? The executive said he believes that in the end, the White Sox probably would take a young starting pitcher and a lesser prospect from the Red Sox in return for Peavy, who pitched into the eighth inning Thursday in his second start since coming back from a rib fracture.
The Red Sox have a number of attractive young arms in their system. The closest to being big league ready include Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton, all of whom have already pitched in the big leagues. Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo are in Double-A Portland, and left-hander Henry Owens is in Class A Salem. The Sox almost certainly have made Barnes and Owens untouchable, and when Cherington brings in his scouts to Boston on Monday for a final round of meetings, there will be continuing debate over which players they would part with in a deal.
As well as Koji Uehara has done as closer since he inherited the role June 26 -- 2-0, eight saves in 10 chances, 0.59 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings -- the Sox still feel they would be best served by having the 38-year-old Uehara serving as a setup man, assuming they could find a suitable replacement at closer.
The list of closers potentially available includes Huston Street of the Padres, Addison Reed of the White Sox, Kevin Gregg of the Cubs, Jose Veras of the Astros, Glen Perkins of the Twins and Steve Cishek of the Marlins. Perkins, Cishek and Reed are less likely to be moved because they are young and/or cheap.
A closer who is neither almost certainly is on the market, now that the Phillies have lost five in a row. Word in scouting circles is that the Phillies are more willing than ever to move Jonathan Papelbon, although the Red Sox's interest in reacquiring their former closer appears limited at best.
What is intriguing is the Phillies are now at least listening to offers for left-hander Cliff Lee, who has $50 million left on his contract after 2013, with a club option of $27.5 million in 2016. The Phillies had been adamant they wouldn’t move Lee, but the Sox are one of the few teams that (A) can afford him and (B) have the prospects to make such a deal a reality. Lee was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday with what the Phillies said was a stiff neck.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday he's keeping an open mind on Lee and numerous other Philadelphia players who might generate interest at the deadline.
"I never put any real absolutes on anything," Amaro told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. "Although we don't have any desire to move a guy like that because we view him as someone who will be key to our future, I am a businessperson as well and I'll be a good listener."
At this stage, it remains the longest of long shots, but the same could have been said of last August’s megadeal with the Dodgers.