Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sox in no Hurry to Close Deal on Santana

With the Winter Meetings heading to the late innings, the Red Sox weren't necessarily feeling the squeeze of time in their ongoing dialogue with the Twins regarding ace left-hander Johan Santana.
Clearly, the Red Sox would like the look of their team with the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner. But they also like their team without Santana. If the sides can reach common ground, that's all well and good. But neither side seemed to be making it a necessity to happen in Nashville.

Boston general manager Theo Epstein still hasn't mentioned Santana's name in any of his dealings with the media. But he did discuss talks with Minnesota in a broad sense.

"I can't address the Twins directly. We certainly respect the position the Twins are in," Epstein said. "We've had amicable dialogue throughout. I don't think either side has had any issue with the process whatsoever. We're going to be open-minded to continue in dialogue. At this point, we don't have a deal to announce. We're going to keep an open mind going forward and continue to try to improve the club."

Though the Meetings essentially conclude following Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft, Epstein didn't want to rule out making a deal before going back to Boston.

"I don't know. That's for [the media] to speculate on," Epstein said. "I can't really tell you one way or the other. There's been no change. I know it's been reported differently anywhere you look. It's just been an open-ended dialogue the whole time, trying to see if there's a mutual fit. There's really not any change at this point and time."

It is still somewhat of a mystery which -- if any -- other teams are in pursuit of Santana. The Yankees still claim to have withdrawn from the race. The Mets could still be on the periphery, a notion that was backed by Peter Greenberg, Santana's agent.

Meanwhile, the Twins continued to mull over their best course of action, which could simply be to keep their elite pitcher.

Epstein doesn't feel as if it's his job to put on a full-court press to speed up the process.

"If it's a Red Sox player, [it's] Red Sox timetable," he said. "That's how I would look at it. They're probably doing the same thing. They're a very straightforward, earnest organization and these talks have reflected that. I don't have any problems whatsoever with what they're doing or how they've handled their business so far."

Boston's pursuit of a certain ace pitcher -- the one Epstein won't refer to by name -- has not stalled the team's other matters of business.

"I don't think we have any limitations going forward," Epstein said. "I think we have a pretty stable roster and some versatility, some different options. I don't think there's anything we're interested in pursuing that would limit other discussions that are going on at this point."

If the Red Sox don't make the big Santana splash, just about all of the moves they make this winter will be designed with improving the bench and the bullpen.

Though the Red Sox picked up the 2008 option on right-hander Julian Tavarez, there's a chance they will move the swingman. Tavarez prefers starting and it's highly doubtful he'll get that chance in Boston.

"He's been asked about by a few teams," Epstein said. "I think interest will probably crystallize more once some of the comparable free agents are off the board. He's attractive to some teams. He's on a one-year deal, he's durable, versatile and threw well when we gave him a consistent role last year."

One dynamic that has changed in these Winter Meetings is that the Red Sox have had no trade discussions regarding star slugger Manny Ramirez. That seemed to be an annual rite of passage in previous years.

"Other teams realize that Manny is very happy to be a Red Sox," said Epstein.

In other news, the Red Sox are expected to re-sign right-hander Brendan Donnelly, who can continue his rehab from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery under the watch of the team he pitched for in 2007. Donnelly might be ready to pitch in games by August or September.

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