Is this a trick question?
The Boston Red Sox will contend again in 2013 and beyond because, according to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, the Los Angeles Dodgers just foolishly agreed to let the Sox's front office remake its roster like a 10-year-old hitting the "reset" button in franchise mode on MLB '12: The Show.
As recently as this morning, the Red Sox were committed to these players for these years at these dollars:
- Josh Beckett, two years, $15.75 million per year.
Beckett is 5-11 this season with an ERA over five. No K/BB or WHIP manipulations can make that look any better.
- Carl Crawford, five years for a total of $122 million.
Crawford played 31 games this season, then had Tommy John surgery. So, um, yeah.
- Adrian Gonzalez, six years for a total of $127 million.
Gonzalez has actually come closest to living up to his price, but his power numbers are in sharp decline; his last three season's home run totals: 40, 31, 27. And 15 this season puts him on pace for about 20.
All three of these players were thought to be untradeable as recently as, again, this morning. Then a funny thing happened.
The Red Sox put Gonzalez on waivers, the Dodgers (as they did with Cliff Lee) put a claim on him, and the two teams started talking.
What happened next was akin to the sorts of negotiations that happen in bars between midnight and 2 a.m., when subtle cues morph into strong innuendos that eventually become full-on propositions.
And now, according to Fox Sports and ESPN Boston, which says we're waiting "for the I’s to be dotted and T’s crossed," the deal is all but done and will await league approval and the likely assents of the players involved.
Suffice it to say that the Dodgers may well wake up tomorrow morning with Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez in their clubhouse and start looking for their wallet, their phone and their car keys—not to mention some of their better prospects, like Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster.
Except it will not be as easy as sneaking out before the newly acquired players wake up to get out of this one.
"But what are we going to do now?" you, the die-hard Sox fan says. "We don't have a first baseman, or a left fielder, we need starting pitching, we need a closer, we need, we need..."
Take one more deep breath. Better? Good.
OK, Red Sox Nation, pull the needle off the Neil Diamond "Sweet Caroline" 45, take off your "YOUUUUUUK!" T-shirt, put your throwback Pedro Martinez jersey back in the closet and take a deep, cleansing breath.
Your long, regional nightmare is finally over.
No one should need to tell you what an abject disaster this season was. Players were texting ownership griping about the manager, who apparently had problems with little things like left/right pitcher/batter matchups.
The 2012 Red Sox are 60-66 and completely out of the playoff picture. So how will they contend in 2013 and beyond?
By spending all that money they don't have to give Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez on better players—that's how.
The following pitchers will be free agents after this season: Zack Greinke, Hiroki Kuroda, Ryan Dempster and Edwin Jackson. Any one of them would be an upgrade over Beckett, and except for Greinke, none of them figure to cost more.
The following outfielders will be free agents after this season: Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino and B.J. Upton. Again, any of those players project as an improvement over what Crawford provided, and except for Hamilton they will all be had for a fraction of what Crawford is promised.
The first base solution is more problematic. None of the free-agent first basemen excite anyone, though Lance Berkman might make sense short-term. Actually, they are all short-termers: Adam LaRoche, Carlos Lee, Carlos Pena, etc.
Phillies fans would love to see the Sox take Ryan Howard's deal off the team's hands, but even the Sox are not that dumb. (Are they?)
There is not a building block among the first base free agent crop...and so what? Take the $20 million per year A-Gon had coming and pour it into multiple positions. Plus James Loney, reportedly in the deal, is a serviceable first baseman and could likely benefit from hitting in Fenway Park over Dodger Stadium. With Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both solid-hitting catchers, maybe you have one play first base, or you platoon one with David Ortiz for a while. Whatever.
The bottom line is that freeing up over $275 million in salary commitments means the Red Sox have renewed ability to sign marquee free agents and/or to trade for high-salaried players from other teams.
As if all that is not enough, this deal will give Red Sox management all the latitude they need to dump Valentine if they so choose. Sometimes, the baby does go out with the bathwater.
Cheer up, Red Sox Nation. A new day—a better day—is dawning.