BALTIMORE -- Eleven days before the July 31 trading deadline, the Red Sox's position on New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran has not changed, despite reports that Boston is aggressively pursuing him.
The Red Sox have made known their interest to the Mets, but at this stage are unwilling to part with the type of top-tier prospects New York is seeking in return, according to a Red Sox source.
And as much as they would like a right-handed bat, the Red Sox may have more pressing needs to address, especially on the pitching side, with three-fifths of their starting rotation out of action and reliever Bobby Jenks on the disabled list for a third time.
"We're interested in Beltran, but the price would have to be sensible," one Red Sox source said Wednesday, reiterating the position Boston maintained from the outset. "We lost a lot of good prospects for (Adrian) Gonzalez and want to protect our better minor leaguers."
Another major league source with ties to Beltran also expressed doubt that the veteran outfielder will wind up in a Boston uniform.
"I don't think they make a hard play," the source said.
The Red Sox began play Thursday 1½ games ahead of the New York Yankees in the AL East and seven games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card race with 67 games left to play. They are on pace to win 99 games, which would assure them of a return to the postseason for the seventh time in nine seasons after finishing third last season.
The Red Sox have played at a .675 pace (56-27) since starting the season 2-10. They have overcome a season-ending elbow injury to pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, a month-long stint on the DL by left fielder Carl Crawford on top of his disappointing start, and current DL stints for starters Clay Buchholz (who has missed six starts) and Jon Lester (who has missed two) and shortstop Jed Lowrie (who also has been out more than a month) .
The Red Sox have also thrived despite a season-long slump by right-fielder J.D. Drew (.223, 11 extra-base hits) and no production from his right-handed hitting complement, Mike Cameron, who was traded to the Marlins.
Thus the interest in Beltran, though that interest has been tempered by the emergence of Josh Reddick. The 24-year-old outfielder on Wednesday supplanted Drew in the starting lineup, a move that even Drew acknowledged could become permanent.
"I want to get things rolling," Drew said Tuesday night, "but this team has to win ballgames. I want to see another postseason. Tito's got a decision to make. For me, it's a matter of getting to where I'm swinging the bat well, in whatever role. They'll figure it out."
Instead of Beltran, and the price in talent he would command, the Red Sox could look for a veteran off the bench like a Ryan Ludwick, or decide that Darnell McDonald, who is batting just .160, might prove a satisfactory complement with more playing time. There's also the possibility that Reddick, batting .533 (8-for-15) in limited action against lefties, plays every day.
Still, it would make little sense for the Red Sox to risk losing one of their front-line outfielders to injury without sufficient protection, so expect the club to add an outfield bat. Just not Beltran's, unless other suitors for his services, including the Giants, Phillies and Pirates, are unable to come up with a package of prospects to satisfy the Mets. ESPNNewYork.com, among others, has reported that the Mets would be willing to absorb the remaining $6 million of his contract if they get top prospects in a deal.
The Mets have been "heavily scouting" the Red Sox's minor league system, according to another league source, spending significant time at Triple-A Pawtucket, Double-A Portland and Class A Salem.
Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi has spent the last couple of days in Portland scouting the Sea Dogs, the source said.
The players the Mets are interested in, according to the source, include outfielders Reddick and Ryan Kalish (shoulder and neck injuries), shortstop Jose Iglesias, pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Felix Doubront and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. In other words, the best the Red Sox have to offer.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Reporter Joe McDonald also contributed to this report.