Why Offseason Beckett-Ellsbury Deal Is Perfect Way to Replace Oswalt, Hamilton
Everyone expected the Texas Rangers to make a major move at the trade deadline. They were linked to star players such as Justin Upton, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and even old friend Cliff Lee.
They ended up with a pair of Chicago Cubs instead: catcher Geovany Soto and veteran starting pitcher Ryan Dempster.
Soto and Dempster are not bad acquisitions in and of themselves. But compared to what the Rangers were expected to do, Texas' deadline haul is a disappointment.
It's been revealed since the end of the deadline that the Rangers at least kicked around the idea of a blockbuster trade, one that would have landed them an accomplished veteran pitcher, a star outfielder and a solid backup catcher.
It's unclear how far these talks progressed. One source told Bradford that the discussions never became anything more than a "theoretical back and forth of ideas." Another source said the talks reached an "advanced stage" before breaking down.
One way or the other, things never got serious enough for the Red Sox to inform Beckett, who has 10-5 rights, that something was going on.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said that the club never came across any big opportunities worth pursuing all the way:
We did feel empowered to do something bold, we just didn't find something bold that made sense for us. We explored a lot of things that were bold, and maybe even got close to a couple of things, but we just didn't feel like there was anything of the big, bold variety that made sense for us right now.
Translation: He didn't like what Texas was offering.
One thing that's for sure is that a deal involving Beckett, Ellsbury and Shoppach made perfect sense for Texas. It would have allowed them to solve three needs in one fell swoop, and it would have set them up not just for the rest of 2012, but 2013 as well.
Though he's pitched poorly this season, Beckett would have been an upgrade for a Texas rotation that sorely needed an upgrade. Injuries have taken their toll on Texas' starting rotation, and Roy Oswalt has not panned out as the quick-fix option the Rangers hoped he would be.
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Dempster is an upgrade over Oswalt, and Beckett would have been an upgrade over Oswalt as well. The one thing Beckett has that Dempster doesn't is he's under contract through the 2014 season. In a day and age where rental players are more problematic than ever before, Beckett's value on the trade market far exceeded Dempster's.
Meanwhile, now is as good a time as ever to buy low on Ellsbury. He missed three months of the season with a shoulder injury, and he just hasn't resembled the player he was in 2011 since his return.
But Ellsbury would have been a good get for the Rangers, who have been working with a revolving door in center field all season long. Craig Gentry and Josh Hamilton have split center field duties evenly.
At the very least, one thing Ellsbury would bring to the Rangers is excellent defense. Gentry is an excellent centerfielder in his own right, but Ellsbury is coming off a Gold Glove season in which he posted the second-highest UZR of any outfielder in baseball, according to FanGraphs. He can run fly balls down with the best of them, and unlike Gentry he's proven that he can do it throughout a full season.
What makes Ellsbury a more desirable option than Gentry is just how well-rounded Ellsbury's game is offensively. He's one of the top base-stealers in the game, and he showed in 2011 that he has the ability to hit home runs and serve as a productive RBI hound. He hit .366 with runners in scoring position.
And, like Beckett, Ellsbury has controllability on his side. He has one more year of arbitration eligibility left.
Ultimately, a deal couldn't get done. My best guess is that a deal couldn't get done because Boston tried to approach the situation like they weren't trying to get rid of Beckett and deal off Ellsbury before he left as a free agent after the 2013 season. They probably placed high values on both players, values that Texas general manager Jon Daniels likely didn't agree with.
It's either this, or this deal was simply too complicated to be completed with the clock winding down before Tuesday's trade deadline. It may have had a shot of getting done if the two clubs had more time, but Bradford's report says that the Rangers made a decision to move on late in the afternoon on Monday. Had they troubled themselves with Boston any longer, they may have ended up missing out on Soto and Dempster.
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It would be a lot easier to do a deal such as this during the offseason, when both clubs will have all the time in the world to account for all the various complications that would come into play when dealing with two big-name players such as Beckett and Ellsbury.
It's a good bet that the Red Sox will be willing to re-open talks with Texas, as all signs point towards them wanting to be rid of Beckett and his contract and them wanting to trade Ellsbury rather than watch him walk as a free agent after 2013.
The Rangers should also be willing to talk about Beckett and Ellsbury again as well. They're going to need the two of them more this offseason than they did in the days before the trade deadline.
The Rangers will face some tough decisions this winter. Colby Lewis will be a free agent, and the organization may not be willing to bring him back seeing as how Lewis will be recovering from Tommy John surgery. Roy Oswalt certainly won't be back. In fact, this season could be all she wrote for him.
And then there's the Hamilton situation, which has gotten more and more problematic as the months have gone along.
No place in baseball is a better fit for Hamilton than Texas, and there's is a partnership that would continue for many more years in a perfect world.
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But it seems increasingly unlikely that Hamilton will be back in Texas in 2013. Team owner Nolan Ryan made headlines recently when he openly criticized Hamilton for giving away at-bats, giving rise to speculation that Ryan is fed up with Hamilton.
As brilliant as Hamilton can be, he goes through stretches where he looks like a player who's lucky to have an everyday spot in Ron Washington's lineup. This is to say nothing of the complications that come with controlling him away from the field.
Hamilton is due for a big payday this offseason regardless of how he finishes the season. What the Rangers have to decide is whether he's worth it or if they're better off pursuing better options.
That's why they have been linked to Upton, and Ellsbury fits into this discussion as well.
Between the two of them, Ellsbury makes more sense for Texas because he would be easier to acquire due to his injury history and the fact that he's under control for two fewer seasons than Upton. Ellsbury need not be viewed as a downgrade from Upton either, as Texas will know that it would be getting a player with explosive talent.
Keep in mind that it was Ellsbury who led all of baseball in WAR in 2011, according to FanGraphs. He was the best player in the game.
It looks like the Red Sox would prefer to trade Ellsbury as part of a package deal with Beckett, and that's not something that should deter the Rangers. They're going to need to find at least one starting pitcher this offseason with Lewis and Oswalt set to come off the books, and they could do a lot, lot worse than Beckett.
Much has been made of Beckett's poor attitude, and some have pointed out that said poor attitude would not fly in a Texas clubhouse that keeps it loose while maintaining a winning attitude. In Texas, everyone is in it to win it.
Beckett deserves this much credit, though: He's proved during his career that he's a winner. The Florida Marlins would not have won the World Series in 2003 without him. Same goes for the 2007 Red Sox. He's one of the best postseason pitchers to come along in recent memory.
Is a deal for Beckett and Ellsbury worth pursuing for Texas this offseason?
And besides, it's pretty obvious by now that Beckett is in need of a change of scenery. Going to Texas would be a chance for him to return home. He would be more in his comfort zone in Texas than he is in Boston.
Would going to Texas add a few more MPHs to his fastball? No. But it would give him a chance to work with one of the league's best pitching coaches in Mike Maddux, whose list of accomplishments includes Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando.
Maddux is one of the best in the business at finding out what works, and the fact that he's a proponent of the cut fastball is something that would allow him to gel with Beckett. The cutter has become one of his go-to pitches over the last two seasons.
If the Rangers swing a deal for Beckett and Ellsbury this offseason, they will be able to deepen their starting rotation and add a younger, cheaper, arguably more talented star to their outfield while waving goodbye to Hamilton. They can use the money saved from not re-signing Hamilton on Beckett's annual salary, and they will be able to talk seriously with Ellsbury about an extension if he proves worthy of one in 2013.
It's a deal that a well-run organization would make, and we know that Texas is a well-run organization.
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