07/31/05 8:39 PM ET
Red Sox stand pat as deadline passes
Cruz, Kapler, Graffanino and Cora add depth to champs
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Unlike last year at this time when Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein thought the defense was a fatal flaw, this year's team is in first place in the American League East heading into the final two months. And Epstein simply didn't see a deal out there that was worth making.
"We came pretty close to some things the last few days and then again today," said Epstein. "But there was a really slow market. This was the least activity I ever remember at the deadline. Not only the deals completed, but also potential deals and phone calls across baseball. It was just slow. We tried hard to make some things happen and get some complementary pieces in here for this club. We weren't able to make it happen."
Manny Ramirez is staying put, and so are some of the other Red Sox players who have been involved in rumors in recent weeks, a list that includes Bronson Arroyo, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar.
There's a chance Epstein can find some more pitching help in a non-waiver trade, but the core will remain intact.
"I feel great," said Sox slugger David Ortiz. "I'm excited, man. It's a wonderful thing that [Ramirez is] still around here. I still have my man Millar around. Bill Mueller. We heard some people talking about those guys getting traded. The deadline went away, they're still around. That's what I like to see."
Players such as A.J. Burnett, Jason Schmidt and Billy Wagner that the Sox were said to have interest in weren't moved anywhere before the deadline expired.
The plus side was that the Red Sox got to keep their farm system, which is in its best shape in years, intact.
"Why make a deal that hurts you more than it helps?" Epstein said. "We balance the present with the future at all times here and that was part of the equation this year. I think it was the ultimate seller's market. We have a stocked farm system now."
And a pretty formidable Major League team, one that rides a five-game winning streak into Monday's off-day.
The Red Sox did make a smaller scale deal on Saturday night, acquiring outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. from the Diamondbacks for Minor Leaguers Kenny Perez and Kyle Bono.
"Hopefully he's a guy who can help our right field situation and supplement what we have and help us win games," said manager Terry Francona.
With Trot Nixon on the disabled list for an unspecified amount of time, the Red Sox hope Cruz can give them some production with his switch-hitting bat, which has had bursts of power in the past.
The Red Sox had already deepened themselves with several other moves in recent weeks.
Outfielder Gabe Kapler, re-acquired as a free agent after a tough experience in Japan, was activated Saturday and will help with his speed, arm and leadership skills.
Because second baseman Mark Bellhorn struggled mightily and then got injured, the Red Sox got middle infielder Tony Graffanino from the Royals on July 19. He has been used as the primary second baseman of late, with Alex Cora (acquired from Cleveland) on July 7, also helping out.
The bullpen also received a righty specialist on July 14, when Chad Bradford was brought over from Oakland in a trade for Jay Payton. The side-armer figures to become more of a factor as the season develops, and he continues to get stronger following back surgery.
"Taking a broader look at the trade deadline, we did do some things," said Epstein. "We acquired new players to support this big league team. From Gabe Kapler coming back from Japan to Chad Bradford to Graffanino and Cora and Jose Cruz Jr. ... There's been quite a bit of turnover, so to speak, during the month of July. It just wasn't quite as dramatic as you might see with a last-minute deal. I feel pretty good about the nature of this roster right now and the depth that we have."
The players, many of whom brought the Red Sox their first championship in 86 years, were happy that the current nucleus can go after another trophy come October.
"It's awesome," said Millar. "It's the same group of guys that brought so many smiles last year. It's the same nucleus, the same team. It's awesome playing here. It's time to rock."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.