While Daisuke Matsuzaka decided to stick around town for a few days to get acquainted with his new surroundings, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein wasted little time turning his attention to other business.
Epstein announced yesterday he'd traded for one Angels reliever -- righthander Brendan Donnelly -- and signed another as a free agent, lefthander J.C. Romero, as he continued to stockpile middle relievers and setup men.
It didn't take a great deal of imagination to think Epstein was planning to take advantage of the surplus he now has in the Sox pen to acquire the missing piece on the current roster -- a closer.
Epstein, who added to a bullpen that has veterans Mike Timlin and Julian Tavarez, kids Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, new Japanese lefty Hideki Okajima, intriguing discovery Devern Hansack, and journeymen Kyle Snyder and Bryan Corey, wasn't tipping his hand.
"With the rate of attrition with pitching in general, especially with bullpens, especially with our bullpen, I think the more quality you have, the better off you'll be," Epstein said. "We're certainly looking for another piece in the closer's role. We do like a lot of these options we have. A lot of these guys have proven track records. Hopefully, with a bit of a surplus, we can choose the best guys to break camp with us, get them in the right roles and have a successful year in the bullpen. If we maintain a surplus during the season, certainly we'd entertain the notion of a trade."
But the addition of the veterans Donnelly and Romero, both of whom appear past their best days -- Donnelly as the premier setup man on the Angels team that won the World Series in 2002 and was back in the playoffs the next season, Romero as a big-outs producer for the Twins in 2005, when the Sox explored a trade for him at the deadline -- will inevitably feed speculation the Sox might package a Hansen or Delcarmen in an attempt to land a closer.
One obvious target continues to be Chad Cordero of the Nationals. Washington GM Jim Bowden is a known fan of Wily Mo Peña, and perhaps could be enticed into dealing Cordero if the Sox throw in one of their young power arms, a list that includes Edgar Martinez. Pirates lefty Mike Gonzalez is also of prime interest to the Sox, but the Yankees are also involved and the Braves, with lefthanded hitting first baseman Adam LaRoche, may be the best match of all.
One major league source said the Sox were a leading contender for second baseman Marcus Giles, who was not tendered a contract by the Braves by Wednesday's midnight deadline and became a free agent. But indications from the Sox yesterday were that while they may make an inquiry, they expect the Padres or Mets to be willing to ante up more money for Giles, who would bump Dustin Pedroia out of a job if he came to Boston.
The 35-year-old Donnelly, a 6-foot-inch-3, 240-pounder, had requested a trade in April, unhappy he lost his role as primary setup man to Scot Shields and Hector Carrasco. But he had a pretty good season, going 6-0 with a 3.94 ERA in 62 games. Arbitration eligible, Donnelly figures to command a salary in the $1.2 million range.
"I think Donnelly can be a very interesting piece of the puzzle in our bullpen," Epstein said. "He's someone who prefers to pitch in in important situations, prefers to pitch later in the game. He always wants the ball. He's got a very tough, competitive makeup, which we think will be a very good fit for our situation."
Romero was a major disappointment for the Angels last season. He went 1-2 with a 6.70 ERA in 65 appearances. The Sox, who traded reliever Phil Seibel for Donnelly, signed Romero for $1.6 million.
"Romero is a talented guy who had a very difficult year," said Epstein. "He had trouble getting in a rhythm all year long, repeating his delivery. Certainly that's why he's available at this cost. We see him as a 'buy low' guy. [He is] somebody who is a couple of adjustments away from being a very valuable addition to our bullpen. We think he really makes sense at this cost."
The Sox also officially announced the signing of backup catcher Doug Mirabelli. His salary was cut in half from last season, to $750,000 from $1.5 million, but he has performance bonuses that could increase his total to $975,000.
The Sox have yet to officially announce the signing of free agent outfielder J.D. Drew, but his agent, Scott Boras, confirmed yesterday there were just a couple of minor contractual snags. "Theo and I have been so busy," said Boras, who just wrapped up negotiations with Epstein on Matsuzaka. "Just a couple of language snags, one on a trade clause, the others dealing with performance awards."
Epstein was reluctant to discuss what was on Matsuzaka's agenda, other than to say it was of a "personal nature." Matsuzaka is not expected to return to Japan until next week.
Sox owner Tom Werner said that on Thursday, Matsuzaka actually got to walk around Boston Common undisturbed.
"I asked him if he'd found Newbury Street yet and he said no," Werner said. "I said, 'Don't worry, [his wife] Tomoyo will.' "
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.