10 Reasons Boston Red Sox Fans Should Be Overjoyed by Blockbuster Trade
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
With the landmark trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers completed, fans of both teams can now begin to fully digest the implications of the deal for their respective teams.
The Sox, while possibly sacrificing a few wins in 2012, have made a huge improvement to their team in myriad ways, and fans should be incredibly excited about the possibilities this trade opens up going forward.
Not only has the team managed to jettison over $270 million in contracts, but they have also taken major steps in the rehabilitation of their image around Boston. For a team as PR-conscious as the Sox, that is a huge step.
While it’s always difficult to see star players leave only to receive prospects in return, a move like this one is certainly worthy of the fans’ enthusiasm. Here are 10 reasons why:
Getting Rid of Josh Beckett
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
First and foremost, this deal gets Josh Beckett out of Boston. If that were the only thing it did, fans would still likely thrilled.
Beckett simply wore out his welcome here. It seemed that for every productive season he would put together, the next one would be equally as bad. He battled injuries throughout his time here, and his relationship with the media could be defined as combative at best.
After “fried chicken and beer,” “golfgate” and his poor performance on the mound this season, it was time for Beckett to go. That Sox fans no longer have to deal with the curmudgeonly right-hander’s antics is cause for immediate celebration.
After this season ends, the four players going from the Sox to the Dodgers (Nick Punto is also involved) are owed a combined $262.5 million. Next season alone, the Sox will be trimming $57.75 million from their payroll just by moving those four players.
These numbers are staggering in their implications for both the short and long term. While the Sox will certainly look to rebuild through their farm system, they also now have the money available to pursue a marquee free agent should they choose to.
It also enables them to keep their own players. David Ortiz, whose contract expires after this season, can finally receive the long-term deal he craves. Suddenly, keeping Jacoby Ellsbury in Boston long-term seems quite feasible.
The opportunity to create this incredible flexibility at no penalty is one GM Ben Cherington would be foolish to pass up.
Makes Room for Younger Players
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The Sox do have some young talent in their organization, and with the high-priced veterans gone, fans will finally get to see what these players can do. Ryan Kalish, who has struggled while playing sporadically, will likely get a shot to prove he is an everyday big leaguer.
Outfielders like Che-Hsuan Lin, Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley also now have a clearer path to MLB. Interestingly, while the Sox don’t have a bona-fide first base prospect, Xander Bogaerts could be a potential fit at the position due to his size and other shortstops (Deven Marrero, Jose Iglesias) already in the organization.
Ultimately, somebody has to step up into the void left by the departures of Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford. The young players in the Sox’s farm system will surely get the first crack at it.
Influx of Talent
Jeff Golden/Getty Images
The Sox’s farm system has been stripped down a bit over the last few seasons due to trades and promotions to the big leagues, but in one fell swoop, Cherington has made huge strides in restocking the minor league teams with fresh talent.
Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster are two very highly regarded pitching prospects, with De La Rosa being projected as a potential ace. Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus are both solid hitters and should immediately make an impact on the Sox’s system.
For a team so used to sending talented young players out rather than receiving them, the Sox have radically shifted roles here. However, it is vital that they do this in order to establish the long-term stability they lost when sending out players like Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly.
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Options now abound for the Sox to replace these players. Both the internal and free-agent possibilities should be enough to get fans excited, as they would likely bring a renewed energy at significantly less cost.
The Sox will surely replace Crawford with internal options, due to their abundance of strong outfield talent in their minor league system. To replace Gonzalez, there are several intriguing free agent options this offseason, especially names like Nick Swisher and Mike Napoli. Both would require a decent-sized contract, but nothing like the one Gonzalez received.
If you just look at his numbers, Beckett can be replaced by pretty much any major leaguer. However, with an ace like Zack Greinke a tantalizing option in free agency, the Sox could make a big splash if they so choose.
Makes Team More Likable
Just how loathsome this team had become cannot be understated. Between the way the 2011 season ended, the poor play of this year and incidents like the infamous July meeting in New York, the Sox had become a group that seemed unjustly spoiled to fans.
Fairly or not, Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez were often seen as at the center of these controversies. Beckett’s attitude made him a target of derision all season, and given how poorly he handled his sub-par effort, it made sense that everyone would be piling on him.
Gonzalez and Crawford, for a host of reasons, also raised the ire of fans; Gonzalez did so for his lack of power and perceived role in the Bobby Valentine-New York meeting, and Crawford was the target of criticism for his horrible 2011 that rolled right into an injury-plagued 2012.
Removing these three distractions from the team gives them the perceived restructuring it sorely needed. Ultimately, to the Sox brass, perception is what matters most.
End Crawford Experiment
Crawford is an exceptionally gifted player. There is little question about this; he can run, hit and play strong defense. He was a terror in Tampa Bay, and few fans complained when the Sox lavished him with a seven-year, $142 million contract.
However, Boston and the dynamic left-fielder simply did not mix.
Crawford’s time in Boston will be most remembered for his problems on the field and his injuries. In 161 total games for the Sox, he hit just .260 with a .292 OBP and 23 steals. While his numbers as a whole were decent, they were not of the caliber the Sox and their fans had expected.
For all parties involved, a fresh start will do Crawford some good. After all his injury problems, Sox fans had grown impatient waiting for the Crawford of old to emerge and were not going to give him any slack.
Cherington Putting His Stamp on Organization
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
When Larry Lucchino said in July that GM Ben Cherington was “empowered” to make a big trade, it’s unlikely he was thinking of something on this large a scale. Cherington has completely altered the landscape of the organization, and this move will likely be the basis for all judgments of the young GM’s career.
He needed to be assertive, though, and fans can trust his judgment. His moves have largely been successful this season; signing Cody Ross, constructing the bullpen and moving Kevin Youkilis are all indicators that he has the gumption and conviction to make wise, bold moves.
Cherington has now “undone” some of the Theo Epstein’s final, most questionable moves and has saved the organization over $260 million in the process. He also has emphasized the value of young pitching prospects, something the Sox have lacked in recent years.
Cherington is the right man for this job and, with this move, should solidify the fans’ trust.
Ownership Taking Command of Bad Situation
J. Meric/Getty Images
Never mind sellout streaks and brick sales—the way things were going with this Sox team, they would have been lucky if they had any fans left by the end of September.
Sox ownership realized that an overpaid, underperforming team that acted like little children in going behind their manager’s back to complain about him might not be especially beloved. In a town where the fans have spoken and the Patriots are now king, the Sox needed a way to begin rebuilding their image.
While management bears the responsibility for bringing in the players who created this situation, they also did well to realize what a disaster it had become and overhaul their team. They also have (for now) quieted the cries from fans that they were too distracted by their other business endeavors to pay attention to the Sox.
The Henry-Werner-Lucchino triumvirate is back and once again appears ready to steer this organization in a winning direction.
Veterans Put on Notice
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
It is one of the greatest plagues on a baseball clubhouse, one that saps players of energy and a desire to win. Not surprisingly, it often settles in once a player lands a big contract that will provide him and future generations of his family with financial security for life.
With the Sox, it seemed like this malaise had settled in with no sign of abating. However, by shipping some of the perceived offenders out of town, the organization has put the rest of their veteran players on notice that if they do not perform, they will be the next ones shipped out.
This team has lacked any sense of urgency in their play for several years, and this absence has been a huge factor in their three-year playoff drought. By emphasizing the energy that young players bring and rewarding hard-working veterans, the Sox have demonstrated a commitment to the types of players who will get them back to playing October baseball.