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Deadline passes, as do Sox

There were a lot of recorders in front of Theo Epstein, but there was little for the GM to say.
There were a lot of recorders in front of Theo Epstein, but there was little for the GM to say. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis) Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / August 1, 2006

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There was tremendous excitement around Yawkey Way for at least 24 hours, because it appeared that after days of poring through scouting reports and statistical, financial, and medical data, after a couple of deals fell through, after the Yankees had made their big splash with Bobby Abreu, the Red Sox were close to landing one of the top pitchers in the game.

They thought they had Houston's Roy Oswalt.

It would have been the classic ``take that" response to the Yankees.

The Sox were willing to go pretty far by giving up one or two of their untouchables -- a list that included Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, and Manny Delcarmen -- as well as one or two everyday players. They stepped in when it appeared that the Astros' attempt to secure the Orioles' Miguel Tejada in a package for Oswalt, Willy Tavarez, and Adam Everett failed. Oswalt (8-7, 3.23 ERA), who earns $11 million, has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he becomes a free agent and perhaps gets too pricey for the Astros.

``There was some excitement around here for a few hours," said a Sox official. ``You add Oswalt to Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, now that's an unbeatable rotation. There was a lot of disappointment when it fell through."

The rejection left the Sox asking the Astros whether Roger Clemens was available and being told by Houston owner Drayton McLane that he was off-limits.

``If Drayton would have said yes to a trade, it would have been some story," said Randy Hendricks, Clemens's agent. ``My only regret is that the whole plan was to get Roger on a mound healthy in October. Now, he will be healthy in October, but probably not on any mound."

Manager Terry Francona said at his daily 4 p.m. press briefing that Theo Epstein had informed him there would be no deals. The Sox decided to protect their kids, for better or worse. Whether this will be the right choice for 2006 is anyone's guess. The Sox made a dramatic four-team deal involving Nomar Garciaparra two years ago at the trading deadline, and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.

Last year, other than some Manny Ramírez rumors, they stood pat. This year, they were in on virtually every opportunity out there and elected to walk away.

``That was pretty much everything," said Epstein of not wanting to give up prospects. ``We have a long-term plan, and as much as we desperately wanted to do something to help our big-league team, it would have been shortsighted to sacrifice that long-term plan in order to incrementally increase our chances this year.

``We were asked over and over again for a lot of our good young players -- good young players at the major league level who are part of our long-term plan -- and it just wasn't worth it.

``There were a couple of possibilities, players we can't mention by other teams that had been previously untouchable. Impact guys that caused you to look at moving some guys you didn't want to move and came close to a couple of very high-caliber starting pitchers."

Besides losing out on Oswalt, the Sox were turned down in their attempt to trade for White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle, offering only Coco Crisp.

The Sox' rule was to go all out for starting pitchers in their prime, hold back on the hitters.

When all was said and done, when literally a hundred names were floated as trade possibilities, the Sox held back.

In some corners, there will be, ``Attaboy, Theo."

In others, there will be laments that the Yankees acquired Abreu, Cory Lidle, and first baseman/outfielder Craig Wilson for virtually nothing -- four minor leaguers and Shawn Chacon, a pitcher they no longer had any use for.

Epstein insisted that the Sox tried to get creative with their offers, and explored a few three-way deals involving San Diego, Colorado, Tampa Bay, and Washington. None of it worked this time.

There's still the possibility of waiver deals, in which lesser players can slip through to the Sox if they're not blocked by teams beneath them. But the better the player, the tougher it is to get them through.

According to various major league and Red Sox sources, here are other things the Sox tried to do:

They were in on Pittsburgh righty Kip Wells as the deadline approached, but the medical staff didn't like his past shoulder problems (blood clot in his right shoulder). The Rangers, who longed for any pitcher with experience, took the chance on Wells.

The Julio Lugo sweepstakes was played up quite a bit over the past few days, but the Sox never got that serious. They looked into how tough it would be to sign him long-term and passed, just like Toronto. At 2:45 p.m., the Dodgers obtained Lugo for a couple of minor leaguers, but they did so cautiously because the Devil Rays didn't want Los Angeles to flip him to Toronto or Boston.

The Sox made a quick call to the Braves concerning Andruw Jones, but Atlanta asked for the same package of players everyone else wanted: Lester, Hansen, and Delcarmen. The Sox said no and moved on.

``That was way too pricey," said a Sox source. ``It was very quick."

The Red Sox made a call to the Dodgers concerning outfielder J.D. Drew, a player they've coveted because of his on-base percentage, but a no-trade clause in his contract ended the conversation quickly.

The Sox wanted to make the same Abreu/Lidle deal but had no takers for Trot Nixon. It was the only way they could have done it. Because the Yankees had no regular right fielder with Gary Sheffield on the disabled list, they were free to make the deal. If the deal with the Yankees had taken longer, the Sox might have landed Abreu because of Nixon's injury.

The Sox were never in the hunt for Barry Zito or Dontrelle Willis. They passed on Jon Lieber because he's getting knocked around and has been terrible against lefthanded hitters.

The Clemens situation still bears watching. While it would be tough for the Sox to make a waiver deal because the Yankees could block them, there's a slim chance for the Sox if they are below the Yankees in the standings.

Gordon Edes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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