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What the Sox’ pursuit of David DeJesus means for Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth

11.11.10 at 9:53 am ET
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Not all offseason roads for the Red Sox lead to Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.

For the second time in four months, according to a major league source, the Red Sox made a run at acquiring outfielder David DeJesus from the Royals. In July, prior to the trade deadline, the Sox had made an aggressive bid for the 30-year-old, who was amidst a career-best season in Kansas City, hitting .318/.384/.443/.827. In the summer — with a chance to benefit from the outfielder’s services in both 2010 (for the remainder of his $4.7 million salary) and 2011 (for a $6 million option) — the Sox were willing to discuss multiple top 10 prospects with the Royals.

However, Boston drew the line on including left-hander Felix Doubront (this was at the time when the Sox committed to the idea of using Doubront as a reliever for the duration of the year in hopes of bolstering a flagging bullpen). And so, the Sox might have fallen short in their pursuit of DeJesus over the summer. That pursuit was rendered irrelevant, however, when the outfielder tore a ligament in his right thumb on July 22, just prior to the trade deadline.

This offseason, the Sox once again made a run at DeJesus, but apparently, the summer dynamic played out once again, suggesting that the Sox and Royals did not see eye-to-eye on which prospects might be included in a deal. That, in turn, set the stage for the Royals to deal DeJesus to the Athletics in exchange for right-handed starter Vin Mazzaro (expected to start the year in the Kansas City rotation) and left-hander Justin Marks (who will open the year in High-A Wilmington).

Though the Sox did not acquire DeJesus, their pursuit of him is revealing on a few of levels:

First, it is a reminder that it is not a given that the team will pursue an offseason strategy that involves the acquisition of either Crawford or Werth, the two free-agent outfielders who will command expensive long-term deals this winter. The Sox believe that they need not — and indeed cannot — rely exclusively on free agents to achieve offseason upgrades. They will approach their offseason makeover through a mix of free agents (if the way they value a player matches up with his asking price), trades and internal options.

That being the case, while both Werth and Crawford are obvious fits as upgrades for the Sox, the team clearly would be open to identifying more cost-effective alternatives, particularly a player such as DeJesus who is capable of delivering above-average impact at the plate, in the field and on the bases.

That said, unless the Dodgers decide to deal Matt Kemp or the Cardinals elect to part with Colby Rasmus, there are few players in the mold of DeJesus who are likely to be available via trade this offseason. (The Mets, according to a major league source, would certainly entertain offers to move Carlos Beltran, though his knee injuries have led multiple clubs to conclude that his once-elite defense has suffered, and that he is a corner outfielder going forward.) And so, while the Sox’ interest in DeJesus suggests that they were interested in exploring alternatives to Werth and Crawford, the fact that he is no longer on the market means that there is one fewer trade alternative to the big-ticket free agent outfielders.

Second, the team’s unwillingness to include Doubront in a potential deal over the summer highlights how highly the Sox regard the young left-hander (he turned 23 last month), and how important he is to their short-term plans. Not only could Doubront help the Sox out of the bullpen for the coming year, but he is their most advanced starting pitching prospect right now. Were the Sox to part with him, they would likely have to go outside the organization to find someone capable of filling such a role.

Finally, the fact that the Sox were in on the DeJesus derby offers further evidence that the team is committed to upgrading its outfield, following a year when Boston outfielders had the worst average (.245), second-worst OBP (.317) and third-worst OPS (.729) in the American League. Much of that, of course, was a byproduct of the injuries that limited Jacoby Ellsbury to 18 games and Mike Cameron to 48. Still, rather than relying solely on a return to health, the Sox are looking to improve their personnel if possible.

Read More: carl crawford, david dejesus, felix doubront, Jayson Werth
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