When two teams make a gigantic trade like the nine-player, $260 million-plus salary dump between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, it does a lot of things. Primarily, it opened up the need to rebuild a roster for Boston, while letting the rest of the league know that the new ownership in Los Angeles is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
How could this deal affect the Cleveland Indians, though? There are several ways, strangely.
Cody Ross has hit himself into a solid contract when or if he hits free agency after the 2012 season. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston reported that the Red Sox are interested in bringing the 31-year-old back, possibly on a three-year, $21 million deal similar to Josh Willingham's with the Minnesota Twins, after the outfielder's excellent first season in Boston.
Ross may have priced himself out of the Indians payroll with his success, but he would have been a perfect fit for the club if he was to hit free agency. He can handle all three outfield positions, he mashes left-handed pitching (.940 OPS in 785 career at-bats), and he will still be affordable, due to his age, if he does hit free agency.
However, since the Red Sox just eliminated $260 million in salaries, they can spend a few extra million to keep the player who they know is a fit in Boston and their clubhouse.
Pitching is going to be a huge concern for the Red Sox going forward, as well as the Indians.
John Lackey will be returning from Tommy John surgery in 2013, but the Sox will still have to have depth in their rotation due to the potential for re-injury.
Daisuke Matsuzaka has an extensive injury history Jon Lester, Aaron Cook, Franklin Morales and Felix Doubront have been inconsistent and unproductive at times in the rotation as well.
With the need to fill so many spots or shore up the rotation, the affordable, less desired names who fall into the Tribe's budget, names like Brandon McCarthy, Scott Feldman, Jeremy Guthrie, Anibal Sanchez and Joe Saunders will suddenly be bid on to fill those spots, leaving even lesser known or wanted commodities with which the Indians will rebuild their rotation. The Indians may give another chance to Jeanmar Gomez in spring training or put their faith into the reconstructed elbow of Carlos Carrasco rather than diving into the free agency pool due to the need of other teams, such as Boston.
Do you think the Dodgers are done spending? What if the Dodgers reached out to the Indians to see about dealing for Asdrubal Cabrera? Hanley Ramirez can play third base, and the Miami Heat of Major League Baseball could continue to develop their super-team by acquiring talent such as Cabrera or even Chris Perez. While the Indians would have trouble filling the shortstop position for a few years (Francisco Lindor is not close, folks), why not capitalize on acquiring young, controllable talent for Cabrera, especially after his .250/.302/.400 production in the second half over the last two seasons? If the Dodgers offered Dee Gordon and a pitching prospect for him, it would be something for the Tribe to consider, especially if they go into rebuilding mode by dealing Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason.
If the payroll of the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees are to continue to climb, it will be harder for the Indians and other small-market clubs to compete through free agency. The quick fix will be eliminated for small-market clubs due to the presence of large revenues and passionate ownerships that exist in large cities, leaving the every-three-year fire sale as the norm for the likes of the Tribe.
It is very unlikely that Cleveland ownership will show an aggressive approach this offseason given the effort during the 2012 offseason and regular season, so if Boston returns this winter as an all-in team, the Indians could be in for another long, uneventful offseason.
If you thought that the Dodgers were crazy for taking on those contracts and that Boston was going to take a different approach to building their club...please come this way to your rubber room.