What the Huston Street trade says about Koji Uehara and the Red Sox' approach to the trade market

July 20, 2014 - 5:25 am
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July has already seen a number of key trades take place, most recently on Friday, when the Angels acquired closer Huston Street (and a prospect) from the Padres for four prospects. The trade of Street represented the move of one area where the Red Sox potentially could have made some intriguing noise as sellers: Closer. Koji Uehara, of course, is eligible for free agency after this season. If the Red Sox conclude that they are not in the race, he'd represent a fascinating chip -- a player who arguably did as much as anyone to secure a World Series title for the Red Sox last year. A team that feels like it's one piece away from a title would seem to have every incentive to pursue Uehara. In this case, however, it appears that the Angels weren't a match for the Sox on a couple of levels that are revealing about both the state of the trade market for closers and the Sox' approach to trade chips: 1) The Angels didn't want a rental player. The Halos not only acquire the services of Street for the duration of this year, but also hold an affordable $7 million option on him for 2015. The idea that Street could impact the team beyond the final months of this year made a deal more palatable. '€œWere it not for the fact we had the ability to control Huston for a year and two months, it would have been far more difficult to justify giving up the type of package we gave up to get him,'€ Angels GM Jerry DiPoto told the L.A. Times. Uehara would be able to impact a club for just two-plus months before he'd arrive at free agency. Any team that trades for him could not extend the qualifying offer to him, meaning that he wouldn't be able to net a draft pick as compensation. Teams may be reluctant to give up impact prospects for a reliever who would pitch no more than roughly two dozen regular season innings for them. 2) Multiple industry sources suggested that executive of other teams are being conservative in approaching the Sox about the possibility of selling pieces of their big league roster, given that the team is still sorting out its realistic chances to compete in 2014. The current run of six wins in seven games not only has the Sox more reluctant to sell players who could be helpful this year but also means that the Sox aren't getting as many phone calls as would a team in clear sell mode. 3) What the Angels gave up wouldn't have been a fit for what would interest the Red Sox if they decide to sell. The Angels sent a volume of potentially solid contributors (Taylor Lindsey, ranked as the Angels' top prospect entering the year, may be a slightly above average second baseman, shortstop Jose Rondon likewise profiles as a potential average regular, and the other two players acquired by the Padres are likely bullpen arms), but no one with a significant ceiling who would vault to the top of the Sox' minor league depth chart in any area. Given the depth of their farm system, the Sox, according to sources, would be more focused on impact than on volume if they were to contemplate a deal involving key pieces. For now, of course, with the team having crept within 8 1/2 games of first in the A.L. East and within seven games of the second wild card amidst one of its most impressive stretches of the season, the Sox will likely remain in a holding pattern. That uncertainty could peel away prospective trade partners (who address their needs elsewhere) if the Sox ultimately decide to be sellers. But given that a continued hot stretch against AL East opponents in the coming days could put the team in what seemed an unlikely position to contend just 10 days ago, the Sox appear willing to take that risk in order to give the 2014 team the chance to assert itself as a contender. At a time when the Sox have suddenly started winning one-run games, the team appears more than happy to enjoy the services of Uehara as a shutdown ninth-inning presence who could be an important part of any potential move in the standings.

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