MINNEAPOLIS -- In January, when nearly the entire Boston Red Sox roster came together for a three-day fan festival at a Connecticut casino, several of the team's best young players peppered new first base coach Ruben Amaro Jr. with questions.
"A few of them actually asked me, 'Who did you want? Who did you like?' " Amaro recalled recently. "I said, 'I liked all you guys.' "
Indeed, as general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Amaro was linked for years to the Red Sox's top prospects, usually in trade talk involving ace Cole Hamels. And every time Amaro dispatched trusted adviser Charley Kerfeld to scout the Sox, the rumor mill churned into overdrive with speculation about whether the Phillies were coveting dynamic leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, athletic catcher Blake Swihart, defensively gifted center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., or all of the above.
But in 2013, before the Phillies began to shop Hamels and when the Red Sox were last in playoff contention at the trade deadline, then-general manager Ben Cherington inquired about the availability of left-hander Cliff Lee. Amaro said he wanted shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
The conversation ended there.
And now that he works for the Red Sox, Amaro can agree with the adage that the best trades often are the ones that don't get made.
Bogaerts recorded his second consecutive four-hit game Saturday in the Red Sox's 15-4 rout of the sad-sack Minnesota Twins. He showed off his power in the eighth inning with a three-run homer against Twins reliever Ryan Pressly and his speed and baseball acumen in the sixth by alertly advancing two bases on David Ortiz's grounder to the right side of an overshifted infield in which third base was left uncovered.
Through 61 games, Bogaerts leads the American League in hitting with a .352 average. He has more hits (288) than any player in the majors since the start of the 2015 season. And none other than Ortiz believes he's the best shortstop in baseball at a time when Baltimore's Manny Machado, Houston's Carlos Correa and Cleveland's Francisco Lindor are playing the position.
"That kid is on another level," Ortiz said. "He's on top of his game like nothing I have ever seen before. His s--- is way too good to believe. The way he's playing, he's the best shortstop in the game -- by far. I'd throw my boy against anyone right now in the big leagues."
Bogaerts is undoubtedly the hottest hitter in the league's highest-scoring lineup, a juggernaut that is temporarily covering for big-time pitching problems. On Saturday, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez became the latest Red Sox starter not named David Price or Steven Wright to throw up a dud. The offense staked Rodriguez to a 4-0 lead before he threw a pitch, and he trudged off the mound two outs into the fifth inning with the score tied 4-4.
The Red Sox might be able to overcome performances like that against the 18-43 Twins. Long-term, though, constantly having to outscore your own pitching is no way to sustain a winning streak.
It's no secret, then, that the Sox are looking for arms, with manager John Farrell joking that "we've been talking about that since Day 1 [of the season]." And in the next seven weeks leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is bound to hear from teams that would love to poach Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada, touted center fielder Andrew Benintendi or any of the Red Sox's other top prospects.
Dombrowski might be tempted, too. After all, this is Ortiz's final season, the last chance the Red Sox will have to win a World Series with their iconic slugger playing alongside their talented young nucleus. Opportunities like this don't come around every year.
But watching Bogaerts evolve into a superstar is also a reminder that Dombrowski might be better off hanging up the phone, just as Cherington did on Amaro three years ago.
"Those are such tough decisions," Amaro said. "I guess it depends on what cycle you're in, where you are as an organization. Time and situations kind of dictate some of the decisions you have to make. It takes a lot of discipline not to move your kids, and as you see in the industry, the value of young talent has increased like 7,000-fold. Boston, their folks deserve a lot of credit. There's no question [the Red Sox] are chock full of talent."
In November, Dombrowski showed he was willing to trade from the farm system when he dealt center fielder Manuel Margot, infielder Javier Guerra and two other minor leaguers to the San Diego Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. But Margot and Guerra were blocked in the big leagues by Bradley and Bogaerts, respectively, and neither was as touted as Moncada, Benintendi, third baseman Rafael Devers or 18-year-old pitching prodigy Anderson Espinoza.
There's no doubt the Red Sox need help, both in the rotation and the bullpen, to beat out the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles for the AL East crown. But short of obtaining 23-year-old ace Jose Fernandez from the Miami Marlins, there's no use trading from that top-prospect stockpile.
Bogaerts is walking proof of that.