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Inside dish, 8/22 edition

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  • Inside dish, 8/22 edition

    Inside Dish: Boston's Epstein in line for a big raise
    By Ken Rosenthal - SportingNews

    No one expects general manager Theo Epstein to leave the Red Sox when his contract expires at the end of the season, but some interesting dynamics are in play.

    Epstein, who is completing a three-year contract with an annual salary believed to be in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, likely wants a deal close to the one Boston offered Billy Beane in November 2002 -- a reported $13 million over five years. The Red Sox would be more comfortable paying Epstein about $1 million per season, but Epstein possesses the ultimate leverage -- he could threaten to bolt for New York if GM Brian Cashman leaves the Yankees. ...

    Kenji Jojima, 29, could become the first Japanese catcher to play in the majors next season. The language barrier would be significant but not insurmountable; several major league catchers from Latin American countries have had to learn English as their second language.

    The Mariners, Mets and Dodgers could have interest in Jojima, a free agent who might be the best righthanded hitter in Japan. ...

    Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes figures to emerge as a candidate if the Orioles, as expected, look for a new GM. Byrnes, 33, is from the Washington, D.C., area and also could be a possibility for the Nationals if new ownership replaces GM Jim Bowden. ...

    Surprising stat of the week: The Brewers rank fourth in the majors in on-base plus slugging percentage at third base, behind the Yankees (Alex Rodriguez), Astros (Morgan Ensberg) and Cubs (Aramis Ramirez). Four Brewers have split playing time at third -- Russell Branyan, Jeff Cirillo, Bill Hall and Wes Helms. ...

    Tigers manager Alan Trammell, who played shortstop in the majors and never managed in the minors, lacks a feel for working with the pitching staff. It seems doubtful he will be fired after the season, but one solution would be to hire a more experienced bench coach.

    Kirk Gibson, Trammell's first bench coach, lacked professional coaching experience. Former hitting coach Bruce Fields, who switched jobs with Gibson earlier this season, also is a first-time major league coach. Another way to help the team? Trade self-absorbed C Ivan Rodriguez. ...

    Indians closer Bob Wickman, who converted 32 of his first 37 save chances, is adequate for a team trying to reach the postseason but not for a legitimate World Series contender. Wickman averages less than five strikeouts per nine innings, fails to hold runners on base and fields his position poorly. ...

    The emergence of rookie C Brian McCann could persuade the Braves to trade Johnny Estrada this offseason. Estrada, currently on the DL with a lumbar and cervical strain, would be attractive to many clubs -- he will be a first-time arbitration-eligible player who can't become a free agent for three years. ...

    The Mets inquired about 1B Todd Helton last offseason but never received an indication the Rockies were willing to move their franchise player. The Rockies' stance isn't likely to change this offseason, but Helton's second-half revival and a thin free-agent market at first base could raise intriguing possibilities.

    Paul Konerko of the White Sox will be the only prominent free-agent first baseman, though the Brewers' Lyle Overbay, the Phillies' Jim Thome and the Royals' Mike Sweeney could be available in trades. ...

    The Phillies could have traded RHP Vicente Padilla for either LHP Joe Kennedy or LHP Glendon Rusch earlier this season but wisely resisted, believing -- correctly -- that Padilla was due for a hot streak. He has a 2.14 ERA since the All-Star break. ...

    One scout says he has stopped timing Astros CF Willy Taveras when he runs from home to first base, noting that Taveras consistently hits 3.9 seconds from the righthanded batter's box. That matches Mariners RF Ichiro Suzuki's time from the left side.

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy
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