Theo Epstein: 'You can't deny what Josh Reddick is doing'
Red Sox GM offers thoughts on personnel and trade deadline
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein appeared on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan program this morning to talk about the team and his approach to the upcoming trade deadline on July 31.
Among other topics, Epstein talked about the emergence of Josh Reddick and his prospects with the team and the desire to keep Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston.
Here are excerpts from the Q&A.
Q: Do you think differently about acquisitions at the trading deadline if you're five up (in the standings) vs. five down?
TE: I think how much competition you have for the playoffs or how secure you feel about making the playoffs certainly is a factor, but I don't know how secure you can feel at this point unless you were absolutely running away with it, '84 Tigers style, and I don't see anybody doing that, especially in this division.
Obviously the current year is fundamentally important and we want to do everything we can to win the World Series, but the way we built this organization up is by, attempting to, at least, always keeping one eye on the current season to try to maximize our chances, but then one eye on the long-term outlook as well.
If you look at trade deadlines past, some of the best moves we ever made were moves where we didn't trade guys, like Jacoby Ellsbury, for example, whose name used to come up at the deadline. ... there were years where we had a lot of money invested in the club certain years and we needed the piece, but it was tough, but we had to not move guys who we felt were going to impact players and it turned out to be the right move.
There were other years where we maybe didn't make moves that helped that year's club, but were really sound moves over the long haul. I think last year, for an example, we didn't find the right moves to help that year's club -- I didn't think anything was going to fundamentally impact our chances -- but we went out and traded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia knowing there was a chance we could stabilize the catching position not in 2010 but starting in 2011 and going forward.
Q: Has Josh Reddick made the decision pretty easy about who should be playing right field right now?
TE: You can't deny what Josh Reddick is doing and you can't deny that he's a different player than he's been. Josh Reddick has always had all the talents. From the day that we drafted him, the ball jumped off his bat as well as just about any player in our system and he was always really athletic, always a really good outfielder, always a playmaker out in the outfield, always a pretty dynamic baserunner. It was simply a question with Josh, and always has been, of his plate discipline and going up there and not only repeating his swing mechanics but going up there with a plan, working the count, swinging at good pitches and putting himself in a position where he could let that explosiveness off his bat play and let his natural instincts play up there.
You can't put too much emphasis on 100 or so at bats, but the bottom line is he finished up so strong last year at Pawtucket to repeat his swing and swing at strikes and went off and hit for a ton of power. And he's been really good all year, not only up here but when he was in Triple A, I know his batting average was low but he was swinging at strikes, he was walking a lot more, he was hitting for power, so I think this is a different guy and a really exciting piece, not only now but for the future. So, again, Tito makes out the lineup, and I'm sure he's going to have a decision to make on a nightly basis, but I don't want to speak for him, but certainly Josh is somebody who's helped us win games you want to put in a position to have him continue to do that.
Q: Given J.D. Drew's struggles, is it time for the organization to cast your lot with Josh Reddick in right field for the rest of the season?
TE: I don't think you have to cast your lot on one player and completely bury the other. As I said, Tito's job is to put the best team on the field on a given night to help us win, and when you have one player who is performing so well and is so hot, and maybe demonstrating that the light has gone on for him, and the other player has struggled all year, that's something you have to really decide as a manager. We've always been an organization that gives the best players a chance that game on a given night. I know there's been a lot of discussion on these airwaves about do this 100 percent and the other guy plays zero percent. That's probably not how it's going to be. Of course, the players who are playing the best at the time get the chance to go out and win a game for the Boston Red Sox.
Q: Have you considered the possibility of locking up Jacoby Ellsbury to a longer-term deal?
TE: I think with all our young players that we see as core members of the organization, that's something we're interested in, and we certainly see Jacoby as that. This isn't the right forum to talk about it, those conversations are always behind closed doors. But it's not a secret that we sat down and tried in the past to do that, to lock Jacoby up, and we'll sit down in the future again and try to do it once more at the appropriate time. He's somebody that we've long believed in, we've long seen as a core young member of the organization that we'd like to keep around.