Did Boston Blow Chance to Reshape Future by Nixing Adrian Gonzalez to Dodgers?
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Could the Los Angeles Dodgers' trade deadline haul have been even more impressive? With new ownership, the Dodgers showed they definitely want to go for it all this season, World Series or bust, pursuing top players and big trades aggressively.
Even after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline passed, the Dodgers still tried to make a big splash by claiming Cliff Lee off waivers. Lee will stay with the Philadelphia Phillies for the rest of this season, however, as the Dodgers couldn't work out a satisfactory deal for him.
Despite getting Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Shane Victorino, the Dodgers were looking to fill two other holes on their roster in a big way. We know they pursued Lee and Ryan Dempster. But they were also trying to upgrade first base significantly.
According to The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, the Dodgers also tried to get Boston Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Unfortunately, Shaughnessy didn't share any specifics, such as how many prospects the Red Sox asked for in return or how much of Gonzalez's remaining contract the Dodgers would have taken on.
All he said was that the Red Sox blew a chance at "a bunch of players who could help build for the future." That doesn't say much at all, but it was enough for Shaughnessy to stick with the theme of his column. The Red Sox have "lost their way," and management isn't doing anything to shake the team up.
For angry Red Sox fans who wanted some red meat to tear at with their bared teeth, maybe that was sufficient. Shaughnessy was telling them what they wanted to hear. It's so easy for him to write. Here was an opportunity to overhaul a lethargic team, and the Red Sox blew it.
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But did they really? Was a deal with the Dodgers for Gonzalez anywhere near close to happening?
ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox talked to the Dodgers about Gonzalez but those talks didn't go anywhere. ("Never serious," as he said in a subsequent Tweet.) Peter Gammons tweeted that the Dodgers wouldn't give up prospects or major leaguers in a deal. Why would the Red Sox show any interest in such a deal?
Here's my guess as to what happened, which is just as good at what Shaughnessy put in The Globe, except I can't call up anyone at Fenway Park to confirm or deny my theory.
The Dodgers wanted Gonzalez and were hoping that the Red Sox were so eager to unload his contract that they'd take next to nothing in exchange for the Dodgers taking on the full value of the remaining six years of his deal. Sure, it could have been "a bunch of players," as Shaughnessy presumed. But none of them would have been any good.
That's how the Dodgers got the Hanley Ramirez trade done. Many people were wondering how general manager Ned Colletti was able to give up so little for Ramirez. It's because the Dodgers' new ownership was willing to pay the $35 million left on the last two years of his contract.
Colletti made the same gamble when the Dodgers claimed Lee on waivers. Maybe the Phillies didn't want to pay the $95 million (which could go up to $102.5 million) left on Lee's contract through 2016. They would just let the Dodgers have him without Colletti having to surrender any top prospects in a deal.
The Dodgers weren't going to trade any of the pitchers viewed as their top four prospects—Zach Lee, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa or Chris Reed—and the Red Sox certainly weren't going to consider dealing away Gonzalez if two or three of those names weren't part of the package.
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This deal was never going to help the Red Sox build for the future because the Dodgers weren't going to give up the players necessary for such an undertaking.
By the way, all of this is presuming that the Red Sox even wanted to get rid of Gonzalez. He's owed a freight liner's worth of money, $127 million over the next six years. Though his numbers this season look fine—a .304/.349/.452 slash line with 11 home runs and 66 RBI—the Red Sox could get that kind of production elsewhere for about a third of the price.
Gonzalez isn't putting up MVP-caliber statistics as he did a year ago. But he's put up big numbers before. And to get a 30-homer, 100-RBI bat on the open market, one that can hit .300 and compile a .900 OPS, would cost as much as the Red Sox are paying Gonzalez right now.
Will Gonzalez provide that sort of production toward the end of his contract when he's 35 or 36 years old? Probably not.
But as crazy as it is, that's the cost of doing business for an elite hitter these days in baseball. A team has to pay for seven to 10 years, hoping to get four or five exceptional seasons. The Red Sox are hoping—betting an outlandish amount of money—that Gonzalez will be that kind of player for years to come.
Obviously, the Dodgers want that sort of player at first base, as well. They were hoping to take a shortcut in getting one, crossing their fingers that they could throw money at the problem and win out in the end.
That sort of approach may work in the offseason, when teams can push big money across the table at a free agent. However, to trade for that kind of player takes sacrificing the future and giving up some minor league talent a team might not want to yield.
Colletti will eventually have to make a tough decision like that, most likely. With so many top players now signing long-term contract extensions with their original teams, it's probably the only way the Dodgers will get an elite hitter or pitcher without producing one through the minor leagues themselves.
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