Epstein In Midst Of Eventful Boston Off-Season

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein hasn't been sitting at home, relaxing, with his legs up on sofa this winter. No way. First there was the issue of leading the march to finding a successor for manager Grady Little; then came the general plotting to configure a roster for 2004. Though much has been determined, many questions still remain, with a possible Alex Rodriguez trade set to display a heavily built domino effect.

As the winter meetings began last Thursday in New Orleans, that scheming had already delivered Red Sox fans right-handed pitcher Curt Schilling, springing merriment in New England and gloominess in the front offices located at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Epstein didn't stop there.

Next on the agenda was to acquire a closer and Keith Foulke, who spent last season with Oakland before leaving as a free agent, was their man. Boston issued the right-hander a three-year deal worth $24 million.

Theo still has work to do.

"We still need to address some things," he said before the winter meetings. "We need to address second base, we need to address our bench. ... We're going to have to get creative, keep an open mind, be patient, be aggressive and do what's right for the organization."

Having made the decision to not tender second basemen Todd Walker a contract, the search for a second baseman has led Epstein in more than a few directions. Though it seemed eminently possible that he would wind up dealing for a third baseman with the option of shifting current 3B Bill Mueller to second, the organization traded for Colorado's Mark Bellhorn on Tuesday.

After gaining Schilling to insert into a rotation that already includes right-handers Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, and Tim Wakefield, it has given the Red Sox as strong a starting rotation as might be found in baseball.

The financial commitment to Schilling will cause Epstein to find some creative ways to fill his other holes.

"It means that we feel pretty good about our starting rotation and we still have some other needs on the club to address and we don't have quite as many resources with which to address them," he said. "But we like the position we're in."

There is no doubt that the Red Sox have sufficiently upgraded their team so far this off-season, but he does not like Boston's position so much that he is willing to claim the upper hand on the Yankees.

This, of course, after left-hander Andy Pettitte decided to join the Houston Astros and leaving his former team left to scramble in order to complete its starting rotation.

"We knew they were going to build a great team," Epstein said. "They have tremendous, tremendous resources and a great baseball operation. That combination usually leaves them with a fantastic ballclub on Opening Day. We knew they were going to get someone, that's why it was important for us to kind of go out there first (and get Schilling)."

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