Epstein setting up Red Sox to win now and later

BY foxsports • July 23, 2009

They were hitting .223 for the month, and .200 for the current road trip, during which they had yet to score more than four runs in any one game. For just the second time all season, they had lost consecutive series on the road.

Their OPS had gone steadily down in each of the first four months of the season and their lead over the second-place Yankees had vanished.

Clearly, something had to be done.

So Wednesday, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein made the most prudent deal he could, obtaining Adam LaRoche from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two minor leaguers — shortstop Argenis Diaz, a defensive whiz with a suspect bat, and 20-year-old righthander Hunter Strickland.

LaRoche wasn't the biggest impact bat available, but he was affordable in terms of acquisition cost — the Sox liked Diaz for his glove but, counting soon-to-be signed Cuban émigr é Jose Iglesias and recent Dominican free agent Jose Vinicio, was no better than the fourth-rated shortstop in the system — and helped address two immediate needs — corner infield depth and a lefty bat to help against right-handed pitching.

The Sox may have gone into yesterday fourth in runs scored in the American League, but they were also ranked fourth in their division in OPS against righties. LaRoche can hit righties, and his history suggests that he's a far better offensive player in the second half with a .923 OPS after the All-Star break in the last four seasons.

Obviously, this deal can't come close to rivaling the deal Epstein made at the deadline five years ago, when he packed off Nomar Garciaparra, remade the Red Sox infield and spurred the team to a run which resulted in a World Series win. But Wednesday's deal is similar in this respect: Once again the Sox were unsure what they could get from a key member of their infield.

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