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But sometimes we all need to be reminded of what genius looks like. And watching Schuerholz work this week was like watching Einstein scrawl E =mc˛ all over again.
"I love making deals with John Schuerholz," said one GM on Tuesday. "When you're making a deal with John, he gets right to the point: 'Would you do this -- yes or no? And no hard feelings if you say no.' He's a breath of fresh air in our business. I wish more guys were like him."
So to make deals for the pieces he needed, he didn't rob anybody or hoodwink anybody. He paid retail.
But what did he get? A player whom one GM called "the Carlos Beltran of this market" -- Mark Teixeira. A late-inning strike-you-out reliever -- Octavio Dotel. And two left-handed relievers (Ron Mahay and Royce Ring) for a bullpen that had no left-handers before Tuesday.
"I guess John didn't like that empty spot out there where they didn't get to fly that championship banner from last year," laughed one NL executive. "Are they the best team in the East now? That, I don't know. They never did get that starting pitcher they needed. But did they make the best deals of anybody to get better? They sure did that."
How'd that happen?
Of the four teams duking it out for Gagne in the predeadline hours, Boston was the only team on Gagne's no-trade list. (He'd have had no choice but to go become an unhappy set-up man for the Yankees, Mets or Brewers.)
So that meant the Red Sox were the only team in that group that had to navigate through difficult negotiations with both the Rangers, over players, and with Scott Boras, over the dollars it would take to get Gagne to approve the deal.
A scout on Eric Gagne
But Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Larry Lucchino and the rest of the ever-creative people who run the Red Sox managed to pull off both of those tricks. And they made this trade while protecting all of their half-dozen best prospects. So it's hard not to salute what they did -- especially when the Yankees were one of the teams they out-maneuvered.
Does that mean the race is over, though -- and they can start planning their next big offseason Take the World Series Trophy on Tour itinerary? Hey, hold on.
Listen to one scout's assessment of Gagne, and see if he's everything you remember him being:
"His stuff isn't nearly what people think it is. He's got the experience, and he's got the aura, but the quality of his pitches right now is very ordinary. His changeup is elevated. The mistake velocity he used to have on his fastball, he no longer has. So he has to rely on that changeup, and it just doesn't have the stop and dive it used to have. For me, he's not a difference-maker. Mark Teixeira is a difference-maker. This guy -- not anymore."
Oh, don't get us wrong. The Red Sox will feel better watching Gagne stomp out there in the eighth than they would have if they'd traded for almost any of the other available bullpen dregs. But if Josh Beckett or Dice-K grabs his shoulder three days from now, how secure would Red Sox Nation feel about the season then -- Gagne or no Gagne?
But give him credit. Daniels did indeed deal them both -- plus Kenny Lofton -- and came away with nine prospects, just about all of whom project to play in the big leagues. Here are some reviews of the most notable prospects he obtained on deadline day:
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: "I don't know about the defense, but he's a man-child with that bat," said a scout who has watched him since high school. "He's going to put up big, big numbers. I'm not sure how good he's ever going to be behind the plate. But I think his bat is so good, they won't mind suffering with his defense."
Elvis Andrus: "He's a damn good player," said one AL executive. "For me, he's like an Orlando Cabrera. He won't be a superstar, but he'll be a real good, competitive, everyday player in the big leagues."
Neftali Feliz: "I think this guy is a potential closer," one scout said. "We're talking big-time power stuff, mid-to-upper 90s."
Matt Harrison: "Probably a No. 4 starter type, but with more upside," said a scout who has raved about Harrison for a couple of years. "He's 21 years old with a good feel for pitching and an out pitch. I'll take that every time."
David Murphy: "I know not everybody loves him, but I'm a David Murphy fan," said one NL executive. "At worst, he'll be a hell of a fourth outfielder. But I love the way he plays. I bet, if they put him out there every day, they might really like the results."
Kason Gabbard: Mixed reviews on him. One AL general manager said, "I think they might have sold that stock high. He came up, pitched well and they moved him. And it enabled them to keep a bunch of arms who are going to be even better than Kason Gabbard." But a scout we surveyed had a different view, saying: "He's just a No. 5 starter. But he turns the ball over and sinks it. He's the kind of guy you've got to have pitching in that ballpark."
Not all of these guys are going to play in an All-Star Game like Teixeira did. In fact, it's possible only Saltalamacchia -- or none of them -- will. But on balance, given the position he was in, we'd give Daniels a solid "A" on his trade report card.
Luis Castillo: The Mets hunted feverishly for back-of-the-bullpen arms and top-of-the-rotation starters, and never got anywhere in their runs at the likes of Gagne, Zack Greinke, Chad Cordero, Joe Blanton and Dontrelle Willis. But they did get the second baseman they wanted, in Castillo. The question is whether the Twins' willingness to deal him was some kind of red flag. "I like that pickup, but that doesn't mean he's the same guy he used to be," said an official of one team. "His hip is starting to wear out on him, and it shows. But one thing he'll do is, he'll give [Jose] Reyes a chance to run like hell because he has no problem taking the first two strikes. And he'll help them defensively, because he still plays great defense."
Dan Wheeler: Wheeler may not be Goose Gossage reincarnate. But when your team is headed for the worst bullpen ERA in the past 50 years (6.69 going into Tuesday night), any upgrade is a potentially humungous development. In the long term, the Rays may be able to turn around this winter and deal Wheeler or Al Reyes for even more pieces. But in the short term, don't underestimate how much brain damage all those late-inning losses were inflicting on the psyches of all of the Rays talented young position players -- and how much Wheeler's presence could help stabilize the chaos. "A bad bullpen has a bigger trickle-down effect than people give it credit for," said Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's GM. "Whether it's hitters pressing to try to score 10 runs every night or it's starters pressing to last one more inning and not send the game to the bullpen, it's had a big effect. Right now, we have a lot of players in that selfish mode of 'Don't blame us. Blame the bullpen.' And we needed to change that."
Scott Proctor: We're still not sure how this trade will affect either the team that got Proctor (the Dodgers) or the team that traded him (the Yankees). But both of those clubs needed a bullpen upgrade. So it sure is fascinating that one team's upgrade was another team's addition by subtraction. "Doesn't something have to be wrong with Proctor for the Yankees to trade him?" asked an official of one AL team. And one NL executive had a similar take: "I'm very surprised at the Yankees' move, because we like Scott Proctor. Now he might be toast because they've run him out there so much, and I know they're bringing [Joba] Chamberlain up to take his place. But there's a big difference between bringing a young pitcher up and getting some innings out of him and asking him to pitch the eighth in New York. So I bet they'll miss Proctor more than they think."
Tadahito Iguchi/Kyle Lohse/Julio Mateo: At least the Phillies tried. They lost Chase Utley -- and dealt for Iguchi within 24 hours. Meanwhile, they were "crawling under every rock out there looking for starting pitching," said an official of one team -- and they wound up as the only contender that managed to trade for any kind of starter (Lohse). And they took a no-lose chance on Mateo, who had allowed just three earned runs in two months since the Mariners banished him to Tacoma after some domestic issues. But in the end, are the Phillies any better? "You can't lose Chase Utley and get better," said one GM. "That's a huge, huge loss." Nobody we surveyed had faith in Lohse, although one scout said: "Anything's better than relying on J.D. Durbin." And while we did hear one description of Iguchi as being a poor man's Placido Polanco, one NL executive put it best: "He's a nice little player. But there's only one guy who can fill Utley's shoes, and that's Utley."
Scott Hairston/Rob Mackowiak/Morgan Ensberg: Well, the Padres wanted to remodel their bench. And they sure did. Besides trading for all these guys in the last few days, they also signed Shea Hillenbrand -- and allegedly promised he'd be back in the big leagues in a week or so. So they definitely win the Transactions Column Hyperactivity trophy. On balance, they seem to have increased their versatility and ability to make contact. But are they definitively improved after all that? "I don't know if they're better," said one GM. "But they've sure got a lot more choices."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.