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Time to trade promise for production

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 29, 2009 05:41 PM

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While Martinez's star isn't quite as high in the sky as Halladay's or Gonzalez's, his offensive punch and all-around versatility -- he's a switch-hitter with a lifetime .297 average who can catch and play first base -- would be of major benefit to the Sox, who have had an alarming abundance of deadwood in their batting order since the All-Star break.

So will Epstein pull off a deal for one player from among that coveted trio? The hunch is yes, that Victor Martinez will be a member of the Red Sox by tomorrow night. It simply makes too much sense, and the price in prospects won't be as steep as it would for Halladay or Gonzalez.

And make no mistake, the price is a factor. No matter whom Epstein acquires, you have to figure he'll have mixed feelings about the deal. On the day he was introduced as the Red Sox general manager six years ago, he spoke of his intent on building a "player development machine." That hope has long since become reality, but it still cannot be easy for him to part with young players the Red Sox identified and developed. He's far from the sentimental sort, but he wouldn't be the first general manager who overvalued his own prospects.

Is he doing that? You do have to wonder. We all see the promise in Buchholz, but we also realize he's almost 25 -- just seven months younger than Jon Lester -- and still hasn't established himself in the big leagues. For all of his talent and minor league success, this isn't a 22-year-old phenom we're talking about; this is a pitcher who need to prove he has the command of his excellent repertoire and poise to handle bad breaks and tough situations soon, before his value begins to wane.

Epstein is right to be hesitant to deal Lars Anderson -- he's often compared to Justin Morneau, and his Double A season at age 21 is somewhat similar to Morneau's in 2002 -- but he shouldn't be untouchable if he can bring a proven player of Halladay's or Gonzalez's caliber in return. Michael Bowden, who profiles as a mentally tough Jeff Suppan, should not be a deal-breaker. And if you heard of Ryan Westmoreland before yesterday, you're probably from Rhode Island.

Maybe the prospects will become more familiar names in the future. Maybe even a few of them will become stars. Given the Red Sox' track record recently, a few of them probably will. But right now, Theo Epstein needs to trade promise for production. If that means parting with some of his Baseball America bonus babies to bring aboard Halladay, Gonzalez, or Martinez, well, he should just consider it another benefit of his player-development machine.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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