DALLAS (AP) – The Boston Red Sox have a surplus of pitching and just enough people in the front office to deal it away.

“One advantage we have here is we’ve got the Four Horsemen, so we can do four meetings at once,” said Craig Shipley, one of four Red Sox executives talking trade in the absence of a full-time general manager.

The Boston braintrust spent much of Tuesday trying to find a taker for left-hander David Wells. The 15-game winner has asked to be traded to a West Coast team, and the Red Sox promised to try to accommodate him.

Also on the agenda was trying to sign Johnny Damon. But the Red Sox would not confirm that they have met with the outfielder or superagent Scott Boras, who has asked for a seven-year deal worth $84 million.

“We are making an effort to re-sign Johnny,” team president Larry Lucchino said. “This is the time of year when free agents have a chance to look around and have a chance to make decisions at their own pace. We don’t really have much control in the process.”

Lucchino said the Red Sox are making contingency plans in case Damon signs elsewhere.

“It’s sort of a three-dimensional chess game that has to be played,” Lucchino said, “and we’re playing it.”

Replacing him in the outfield might be easier than finding another leadoff hitter; the team conceded that it didn’t have a ready replacement on the roster.

“There’s an effort to sign him, and there’s a parallel effort to replace him,” said Ben Cherington, the director of player development. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

One advantage for the Red Sox is that they have at least six pitchers who could go in the rotation, making them one of the few teams with pitching to deal. A.J. Burnett, who has a lifetime 49-50 record, was the top starter on the free agent market, and he signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

“That’s why we’ve been holding our pitching, just to see where that level of pitchers would fall,” senior adviser Bill Lajoie said.

Trading unhappy slugger Manny Ramirez remained an option but not a necessity, Lucchino said.

“We are in the process of doing what we said to Manny and his representatives that we would do,” Lucchino said, “which is to explore the possibilities.”

AP-ES-12-06-05 2210EST


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