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J.P. Ricciardi on The Big Show: Major move unlikely for Sox

07.19.10 at 11:13 am ET
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ESPN baseball analyst J.P. Ricciardi joined The Big Show on Friday to discuss the All-Star Game, address possible MLB deadline trades, and give some insight of what its like to be a general manager in the big leagues.

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Are you happy baseball is back?

That Wednesday after the All-Star Game is a tough day. It’€™s like the end of the season. No more box scores, you go into withdrawal.

What do you think of the Red Sox?

Well, obviously, I think this is the greatest test they are going to have in the course of the year, they have done an unbelievable job up to this point. I think their mettle is going to get tested with the road trip, but I wouldn’€™t put anything past these guys. They’€™ve done a great job. I think Theo [Epstein] is going to be working the lines to make the club better and maybe some smaller moves, maybe something in the bullpen, maybe another bat in the outfield. I don’€™t think you will see anything major.

Obviously, the guys coming back are going to be an addition to the club to help them, within a two-week period, three-week period, whatever it is, but this is going to happen to be the time where everybody just pulls it up and pulls together and tries to get through it. I don’€™t see a major move coming. I just think they are pretty happy with what they have coming back and this is the time that is going to try what their mettle is all about. They have done such a great job up to this point.

Where are the GMs at with the trade deadline?

I think it all comes down to the individual team and the player and what there level of interest of certain guys are, and obviously I have to believe if Prince Fielder is going to be moved then the bar is going to be set really high. If you are talking about so many middle relievers out there and you find one you think is a better fit for your club and its not going to cost you a lot, that trade would probably be done real quick. I think from a standpoint of where teams are in trades, you know there are a lot of conversations that just go on that just keep leading to, Can we keep making progress, and sometime trades get pulled off the table and they are back on within two or three days because the other route didn’€™t just through.

Every trade is an individual trade, has its own body of work to it. Some take a long time, some take a short time, some are dead, some come back to life. That’€™s a great thing about the trade deadline. Obviously, it gets closer to you as you push for it, and as I think you get to those last four or five days the posturing is done and really the guns are out, ready to go.

Which Blue Jays reliever is the best fit for the Red Sox?

Well if you are asking me to put Theo’€™s hat on for a minute ‘€” and not speaking for him, but just evaluating ‘€” I would think [Scott] Downs would be at the top of the list to me, personally. He gets right-handers out. He gets left-handers out. He can give you an inning and two-thirds, even two innings at a time. [Jason] Frasor to me, he would be the least of the guys. The tighter the situation, the worse he pitches. I would be a little worried about that. And as far as [Kevin] Gregg goes, I don’€™t know if he’€™s a guy who could pitch outside of that closer role. They obviously have a closer, and they all come with a price tag.

We signed Downs off the scrap heap, and he is going to be the return of a Type A free agent, so he is going to cost someone a No. 1 pick whoever signs him as a free agent. And Frasor is a B, which isn’€™t much, and Gregg may be an A, too, so when you are dealing those type of guys, then in return you need to get that type of player that you think is equivalent to that high of a draft pick.

What do you think of Felix Doubront?

I like him. I think any time you take a kid from Double-A and throw them in the big leagues and he gives your team a chance to win by not walking people, pitching into the fifth, sixth, seventh inning, that shows you he has a little bit of mound demeanor. Shows you his stuff is good enough to go through the lineup more than once, so I think he is going to be a good one for them.

It’€™s unfortunate sometimes that all of us in the game have to rush guys to the big leagues, and theirs was by circumstances, not by design. I think the kid’s handled it well, and I think Dave handled it well. You’€™ve got John Farrell over there, [Terry Francona] over there, you’€™ve got some really good baseball guys that know how to keep a guy out of a tough situation, when to get them out, really balance them well. So, I like the kid. I think he has done a great job under the circumstances.

What kind of trade value does Felix Doubront have?

Well, I think what the value is for the Red Sox is it just continues to build depth on their major league staff. I mean, the more pitchers you have, obviously, the more depth you have at the major league level to keep running these guys out there or you have the ability to make some of them relievers or even deal guys. So, right now at the trading deadline that value is great, but more importantly maybe even going into the winter, that raises the challenge of, Do they keep the young kids? Do they trade someone else?  So, I think there’€™s only strength and the ability for guys to keep coming up here and pitching well.

Does it seem that the Texas Rangers are a threat to go to the World Series?

I think they are a very good club. I think we all have a tendency to be a little East Coast-oriented because that’€™s where we’€™re from and obviously we’€™re biased to the division, but I think you hit it on the head. Texas has a good club. I still think the road to the World Series in the American League goes through New York, Boston or Tampa. I think getting Cliff Lee allows them to match up with whoever Boston can run out there or New York could run out there, and I think that nullifies maybe No. 1s against No. 1s. I worry about Texas’€™ 2, 3, 4 starters and probably 2 and 3 as you get to the playoffs. When the Yankees can run out Phil Hughes, they can run out [Andy] Pettitte. I just think their rotation is a little deeper.

I think the Red Sox rotation might be a little deeper, but I think it gives Texas a chance if they could steal a game and Cliff Lee could go out there and win three, then they obviously can put themselves in a position to get to the World Series, but Cliff Lee is going to have to be very good against those teams because I just don’€™t trust second, third and fourth starters.

What is your take on sending Alex Gonzalez to Atlanta?

I understand the trade from both ends. I understand what Alex [Anthopoulos] was trying to do in Toronto, trying to get a young shortstop, buy low and hopefully hit high. And Atlanta is trying to win. Bobby Cox‘€™s last year, he wants to win. The question I raise is I struggle with a guy that’€™s playing on a first-place team and for a player’€™s manager like Bobby Cox that has tough time playing for him. That raises a little bit of a red flag for me.

But Atlanta is living in a ‘€œnow’€ mentality. I understand that, [Alex] Gonzalez is having a great year, they get to ride him. The option for him is only $2.5 million next year, which is cheap for a shortstop, and really, I like the two players Atlanta got in the trade. I think they are down-the-road prospects, but they are prospects, and the Jays didn’€™t get much in return in the way of prospects, so I know people are saying the Jays won this one, but I have a tendency to think Atlanta might have won the trade. But I see it from both ends, and I think it might address a need for both clubs as they continue to go forward.

What’€™s your perspective of matching Marco Scutaro vs. Alex Gonzalez?

Well I think they are two totally different players in a lot of way. I think Scutaro is very workmanlike, and what he gets to he’€™s going to make the play on. He’€™s got average range. Gonzalez is definitely a better defender. I think Gonzalez makes the tougher play a lot easier. I think if you graded them out you’€™d say Gonzalez is a 7 defender and Scutaro is probably a 5, which is an average defender.

I think offensively they are two totally different animals. I think Scutaro is a much better grind-it-out Boston fit. Sees a lot of pitches, higher on-base percentage, runs better, steals a few bases, can go first to third. Gonzalez, he’€™s a low on-base guy that doesn’€™t want to walk and on occasion will hit the ball in the seats.

It just comes down to what your preference is. If I had my choice, I like both of them, but I would take Scutaro because I think the offensive segment fits in well, and defensively he’€™s going to make the average play. I know a lot of people like Gonzalez, he’€™s a very good defender, but it’€™s hard to get over that .290-.300 on base percentage.

Do you think Ivan Rodriguez will be traded to the Red Sox?

I haven’€™t [thought it], but it would make sense. I see Pudge as kind of like a one-year guy, maybe a two-year guy tops, but [the Nationals] are not going anywhere and they are trying to build their club and continue to go forward, so any player like that who is on a one-year deal, I could see those type of clubs move that type of player. He would be a nice fit in Boston. He’€™s a guy you don’€™t have to be married to for a long time. Holds the fort down until those guys come back. He’€™s a veteran guy, plays with a lot of energy, can help a major league staff. That’€™s a good name if that’€™s a name being mentioned in Boston.

What are your comments toward Dan Duquette’€™s comments that there will be more evidence to come about Roger Clemens?

Oh, I didn’€™t even seem them. I didn’€™t see them today at all, but I just think with the performance-enhancing stuff I think there are more players than all of us are even aware of. And listen, I spent 30 years in the game professionally and I couldn’€™t tell you who used steroids and who didn’€™t because I never saw them. I never physically saw someone using steroids, but I think all of us that have been around the game and all of you guys have been around the game for a long time, you see a lot of bodies that have changed that have raised your skepticism about where some of this came from, and I think we would be sticking our head in the sand if we didn’€™t correlate the pitching being so well this year and the offense being down by not saying that it had something to do with performance-enhancing drugs.

So, what comes out down the road would not surprise me at this point. I am just hoping that we don’€™t hear some of the guys that I absolutely don’€™t believe did it, but I’€™m just hoping we don’€™t because I just don’€™t know where our game would go if those guys got named.

How do you defend steroids?

We had a suspicion of who all of a sudden got bigger, who got stronger, I mean I could name you 10 players, I won’€™t, but name you 10 players that we had that all of a sudden, wow. In a three-month offseason a guy gained that much weight, got that much muscle, got that much stronger and not only on our team, but on other teams and vice versa.

When you saw the guys that obviously had their bodies change the other way, but there was absolutely no way in testing, there was no way of knowing, the thing I feel bad about is all the clubs that ended up giving out money to players based on what they had done from the past with some maybe masked numbers. We were all guilty of it. Every single one of us signed a player or got involved with a player that we bought into what he was doing at 32 and 33 and then found out after we got him for a couple years that obviously the testing came in and we saw the repercussions of it.

Like I said, it was prevalent in the game, I never was in a clubhouse and saw a guy doing it, I have never seen a steroid in my life and I bet you most general managers have never had, so its an easy thing to say guys knew they were doing it, but it may sound naive, but I can’€™t tell you of a GM that knows of it.

What is your take on the All-Star Game, especially how the managers manage their respective squad?

Well, I think the managers do take it serious, I think they are put in a really bad spot. You’€™ve got all these guys in the dugout, they all want to play in the game and they are trying to think, How do I get these guys in the game? I think a couple of things. One, either give them more players, which I think is a little bit asinine because now you are starting to make the All-Star Game 40 players on each side. The second thing they may want to do is just tell the starters, “Hey, listen, you guys are playing six or seven innings and the other guys, its great, I love you, I’€™d love to get you in the game, but it is all based on how the game is played out, we’€™ve got to hold our bench back a little bit.”

So, if we do get into a situation where in fairness to David Ortiz, you get the big hit there to get on base, he shouldn’€™t be running in that situation, but [Joe] Girardi‘€™s hands for the most part are tied, so I think let the starters go six or seven innings and then you just tell the other guys, “Hey, be ready to go, if I can get you in, I can get you in.”

There is no easy solution to any of this, even having a starting pitcher go six or seven innings.

Let me just back up a little bit. I don’€™t mean the starting pitcher, they send enough pitchers. The lineup should stay out there, because you look at the National League side, Yadier Molina comes up, he gets one at-bat, he’€™s on deck, they pinch hit [Brian] McCann for him, now McCann is in the game for the fifth inning on. They don’€™t have another catcher and Yadier, he probably wants to catch a plane and get out of there, but he can’€™t get out of there because if McCann gets hurt he has to go back as a re-entry. Either give them the extra player or say to the starters, “Hey listen, you guys are going to play seven innings and then we are going to start working our bench from there.” But the starting pitchers, two innings, one inning, that’€™s fine.

Can you tell us about a major deal that you were a part of and why we may have never heard about it?

I can’€™t say monumental, there has been enough stories of really come close and not pull things off on just different types of players. But I had a trade done a couple of years ago where the trade was finalized, I won’€™t mention the players, but a pretty prominent player. Had him traded, everything was all set, told the president this is what we are trying to do, kept him in the loop. I went back, already signed off with the team, I said, I’€™ll just get right back to finalize, let me run it by my president.

I went and told the president and the president told me, You know what, I’€™m a really big fan of that guy, and I think the fans are, too. I think if we trade him, we’€™re really going to catch it. And I said, OK, it’€™s your call. I said I recommend we do this, but he said no, and we didn’€™t trade him and the guy we could have traded him for is absolutely tearing it up right now. So, that’€™s why you can’€™t be a fan when you make those choices.

Isn’€™t it tough as a GM with rumors or creating them?

It’€™s a damned if you and a damned if you don’€™t. These next two weeks if you walk in the clubhouse, the guys absolutely change. They morph into something that they get very standoffish; you can feel the tension when you walk into the clubhouse. Then all of a sudden they see you in the clubhouse at this point, you know, it’€™s like the executioner coming through and guys are just really, really uptight and you can just see it and feel it. And then what happens is at 4 o’clock, the whole clubhouse is like, bang, they just relax and everybody is let’€™s go and starts coming back to what they were before. It’€™s really not a fun time at all.

And don’€™t forget, players are talking to each other; their wives are talking to each other. They are going home and their wife is like, You think you’re going to be traded? Should we pack? Should we do this? Should we do that? Their friends are texting them, calling them. I mean, they are getting it from every possible angle. What I tried to do is if we had a situation where we thought we had something that had a really good chance of going, the guy approached me, I would just be honest with him and say, Listen, we are in talks right now, if it comes through, obviously we are going to take advantage of it, but right now its at a 50-50. Just so they know you are not coming out of the blue with something they are caught off guard with.

Would you let players know, instead of reading or hearing about it from a reporter?

It depends on if we really thought it was going to happen. We’€™ve had players that wanted to be moved and we kept them in the loop. Scott Rolen wanted to be moved because his family did not like being in Toronto, so I would keep him abreast as we went down the process, just to tell him, Hey, this might not happen, but here’€™s what’€™s going on. Don’€™t get your hopes up. I’€™m just trying to keep you in the loop.

We’€™ve also had players, this is another big-name player that I can’€™t mention right now, but that had a chance to go to the Red Sox the year they won the World Series in ‘€™04 and he exercised his no-trade clause. He had a chance to play on a World Series team, but he didn’€™t want to opt out of his no trade, so that’€™s the other thing that happened at the trade deadline. A lot of guys have no-trades and you go to them and say, “Hey, we have an opportunity to move you, would you be interested.” “Let me know what team it is.” And you come back with a team and then they sit their for 24 hours and say, “No, I am not interested.”

What other team do you like besides the White Sox and Rays in the second half? Can the White Sox keep this up?

I think they can. One thing about [general manager] Kenny Williams is that they really come back from a big hole and Kenny is not afraid to make a deal. I think he is going to feel good walking in that clubhouse at some point being able to make a trade. When I look at the Tigers, I look at the Twins, I look at the White Sox, Kenny is the one guy in that division that will make a trade. Dave Dombrowski will make a trade. I think both [Jerry] Reinsdorf and obviously the Tigers owner, [Mike] Ilitch, those guys want to win, so they are not afraid to make a move and I wouldn’€™t put past the White Sox or Tigers to make a move in that division and I think the White Sox are for real, I think they are starting to play the way they were capable of playing early in the year and they’€™re starting to click a little bit now. Credit to those guys, they dug a hole and dug themselves out of it.

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