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Gammons on The Big Show: Relievers available are ‘bottom feeders’

07.30.10 at 5:50 pm ET
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NESN baseball analyst Peter Gammons joined The Big Show on Friday afternoon to discuss the trade deadline, what is out there for relief pitching, and how trade rumors spring up out of nowhere.

Said Gammons: “A lot of times people like to guess. I think agents like to throw it out there. … Some of it makes a lot of sense, but the fact is we have so many media outlets. I find it a lot of fun, but it can also drive you crazy trying to chase them all down.”

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

What do the Red Sox do between now and the conclusion of the deadline tomorrow at 4 p.m.?

I don’t think they’ll get the outfield bat they’d like to get. There was some talk today, once the [Houston] Astros made that deal to get [Brett] Wallace to play first base, they made it clear to everybody they want to move Lance Berkman, who’s not had a good year. I think it has something to do with a knee operation he had in spring training, but apparently that doesn’t fit because he can’t play the outfield. And I’m not really sure where Berkman’s going. My guess is they don’t come up with an outfield bat and they’ll pick up a reliever or two. I was actually working on something this afternoon where I was taking 35 of the available relievers and I was going to a 30-team trade. You took all these different guys, move one for another, one for another, and then the same guy, Joe Beimel, still ends up in Colorado [Rockies], he’s the 30th trade and he ends up back in Colorado on the same day. That’s how valuable all these guys are. There isn’t a relief pitcher out there that you could say, this guy will have an ERA under 5.00 the last two months of the season. I would put Matt Capps right in that category.

Looking at Capps and what he went for, but catchers are hard to find.

Everyone that has talked to me about that trade, every general manager, that Washington [Nationals] made a great trade. [Wilson Ramos] is going to catch for them for 10 years, he’s going to hit 20 home runs in the big leagues, and call a game, which most of the college catchers never learned to do. He’s really good, that was a surprising trade. Out of all the guys out there, Scott Downs is considered to be the best, not great, not as good as Hideki Okajima his first three years in Boston, but OK. Right now Toronto [Blue Jays] want a primary guy or they’ll gamble and take the two draft choices.

Does it seem like a lot of relievers appear out of nowhere, have good years, then disappear?

Well, I mean look at Joe Borowski, he saves 47 games one year, and he’s out of baseball the next. That’s sort of the nature of relief pitchers. If you think about where the Yankees and Red Sox were two years ago, and Joba Chamberlain. We used to be on alert, “Joba Chamberlain may pitch tonight.” And now, you couldn’t possibly think about Joba Chamberlain and Daniel Bard being in the same league. Bard is three times the player Joba Chamberlain is. It’s a really unpredictable thing. The guys that are there; the [Chad] Qualls, the [Aaron] Heilmans, the [Kyle] Farnshworths. Kevin Gregg is OK, he’s been alright in the past, at least you kind of know what you’re going to get with him. He’s nothing great, but he can pitch the sixth or seventh inning. You’re right, they are bottom feeders. Even Brandon League in Seattle, I had a general manager say to me today, “Just promise me you’ll never talk about how good Brandon League’s stuff is, and just go look at his results over the last four years, and remember exactly who he really is.” It’s really hard when you’re doing this, but you can get lucky for two months. Qualls was great for the Astros in the playoffs in 2005. He currently has the worst earned run average of any relief pitcher in major league baseball, but he still throws 95 [mph]. He can go some place: Tampa, Boston, someplace, and put together two good months pitching in the sixth or seventh inning.

Does this Matt Capps set the bar for prospects in trades?

Great point Lou, that’s why I think a lot of these are going to go to 3:55 Saturday afternoon. The Tampa Bay people are absolutely convinced that one or another there’s going to be a huge deal with the Yankees, and they’re going to end up with Adam Dunn. Now, I don’t know if it will or not, I’d say if Adam Dunn was going to go anywhere it would probably be to the Yankees. I think you’re probably going to see minor deals like [Jeff] Francoeur for Farnsworth, and maybe Berkman goes. Tampa seems like they’re out of it, I could see him going to the [Chicago] White Sox. Otherwise, I think a lot of these deals are going to come down to the last few hours. Teams go in and out of races.

Looking at the Red Sox, can they make up the distance without fixing their bullpen issues?

Well, that is their great dilemma. And believe me, they spent the last 10 days really grieving over this situation, seeing how few guys are out there. I think at this point they are clearly afraid of pitching [Hideki] Okajima, [Manny] Delcarmen, or [Ramon] Ramirez after the sixth inning. You can’t blame them, the other night they have a big lead on the Angels, I was sitting behind home plate at the Cape League [All-Star] game, I see they are going to pitch Delcarmen and Ramirez in the eighth and ninth innings, and people were actually nervous all around me. I would bet that upstairs in the upper offices they were thinking the same thing. Then the question is, do you just move them and hope you get two guys in similar circumstances who might get hot for a month or six weeks. You talk about how unpredictable relief pitchers are. I remember last year, the first six or seven weeks of the season, Ramirez was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Then, every month of the season his ERA went up. And now it’s as if they are terrified to put him into a game now. He might go to Arizona [Diamondbacks] or Florida [Marlins] or some team that’s out of [playoff contention] and light it up the last two months of the season. I have always been intrigued with Aaron Heilman. A friend of mine with the [New York] Mets goes, “Oh, you don’t want him in the big city.” He has put together two or three good months in the past for the Mets. Who knows what happens here?

What is the deal with Mike Lowell?

They’re trying to figure out if there’s someone who wants him. I thought Texas [Rangers] might, but then Florida ponied up the money, basically Florida is paying [Jorge] Cantu, so they took Cantu over Lowell. The Indians have a little relief, but the thing about [Jhonny] Peralta is that he can also play shortstop, that’s why the Tigers like him, they have a rookie playing shortstop, if [Brandon] Inge comes back, they can play Peralta at shortstop or second. Now the question is, is there anyone else? I don’t think I see anyone else right now.

Is he just going to languish around for a while now?

Well, he might until [Jacoby] Ellsbury comes back. [Eric] Patterson plays a lot of positions so that helps, the question is do you have room on the current roster. With so many Darnell McDonalds and Pattersons, do you have room for a second DH? I don’t think they’ve answered that question yet.

Is there any chance of the Sox getting someone like Craig Breslow or Michael Wuertz from the Oakland Athletics?

I don’t think so. I know that two teams have asked [general manager Billy Beane] about Wuertz six days ago, and he just said, “No.” And he absolutely, flat out said,  “I’m not trading Breslow, I’ve got to compete next year.” With that young starting rotation, which has a chance by this time next year to be one of the best rotations in baseball. Having those veteran guys, especially if [Andrew] Bailey comes back, they have Breslow, they’ll have Wuertz in the bullpen with him. But Billy is adamant, I was reading the Twitter thing that came up, is this team interested in Wuertz, is that team interested in Wuertz. I’m on the phone with Billy Beane, “I’m not trading Wuertz.” They make sense for the team to go after, I know the Red Sox, when Theo was in Oakland asked about him.

How many rumors are thrown out there that have no validity?

Oh, I think it’s an incredible amount. I actually, on my desk here in my office in New Jersey, I have the names of all the relievers and starting pitchers that have been thrown around in the last ten days, and it’s a riot. It looks like my normal mess of a room, I mean there are names everywhere.

Where does all this come from?

A lot of times people like to guess. I think agents like to throw it out there. For instance, one of the things I found curious of this whole notion if the White Sox can get Edwin Jackson from Arizona, then they can get Adam Dunn from Washington. It never made any sense to me. I think that is very agent-driven, in that the same people I see writing about this get it from the same place. I know that I talked to [Nationals GM] Mike Rizzo, and he said, I don’t want Edwin Jackson, he makes $8 million next season and he has a 5.00 ERA. He said, “I have four pitchers I know are going to be in my rotation next year, why would I spend $8 million on a fifth starter and trade Adam Dunn, who I might be able to sign. It just doesn’t make sense, but it gets thrown out there a lot. Colorado has clearly made certain guys available: Aaron Cook, [Joe] Beimel, who’s  been OK at times. Some of it makes a lot of sense, but the fact is we have so many media outlets. I find it a lot of fun, but it can also drive you crazy trying to chase them all down.

Should the Sox have been more proactive when the injury bug hit?

Well, we were told Victor Martinez was out for three days. There definitely is a disconnect. They did have the deal with the Mets where they were going to make a deal for a catcher, and then the catcher got hurt, so that ended that. I think they would have looked harder at Chris [Iannetta], they had a chance to get [Chris] Snyder from Arizona, they don’t consider him a frontline catcher. Iannetta, they were trying to get for a couple of years, and they did make a run at him but they weren’t going to trade Ellsbury for him. Therefore that went down the drain right there. For Pedroia, in some ways they got a little bit lucky, because they have gotten a couple guys back. I don’t know what they could have done in terms of trading for a front line second baseman, if Pedroia was going to be out a month. I think they were a little lucky [Jed] Lowrie has come back.

I sense a disconnect between the medical staff and baseball operations with the Red Sox.

Well, I think it really just started up this year. The Ellsbury thing, it’s going to be four days to a week, and it turns out it’s a couple of months. It may well be a string of bad luck. Every team has it’s own diagnoses that are more optimistic than normal, but it’s really hamstrung the Red Sox this year.

There seems to be doubt regarding players’ injuries.

I really think it’s an issue that will be resolved between now and November. It’s too bad, they’re are brilliant doctors, and I don’t know when this disconnect started, and I don’t know why it happened, but you do hear the distrust around the players, and it’s too bad. It’s something that has to be resolved with ownership, baseball operations, medical staff, all of that. Because it’s something you don’t want to have around the team. I’ve heard it for years with the Mets, players not trusting the medical team. Once players get it in their head, sometimes perception becomes reality.

Is the David Ortiz contract situation going to get ugly?

I think it has a chance to be. I mean, the fact is the contract states the Red Sox have a right to cut the option. And my guess is that is what they’re going to do. Now, that can go one of two ways. He can be very unhappy, I don’t think that’ll happen. I think he. ‘ll be extra motivated and have a huge year and leave.

Has the DH position been devalued in the the majors?

Oh, it has been. You’ve got to have guys who can hit in your order, there’s no getting around it. It’s also very hard to get teams to extend years on contracts when players are in their thirty’s. David Ortiz has been the soul of this team for a long time, he’s been one of the most popular players in the history of the franchise. It’s a very cold world when it comes to how much money people make. Look what happened to Johnny Damon. He had a very good year and a great World Series, and the Yankees said we’ll go to seven [million], that’s it. He said ,”No”, and that’s it, he’s off to Detroit [Tigers].

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