It’s taken a few days, but it seems as though the dust has finally settled with regards to the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers’ blockbuster trade. Adrian Gonzalez has already hit his first home run in a Dodgers uniform, and Josh Beckett is set to make his Dodgers debut against the Rockies tonight.
Make no mistake about it, this trade was absolutely historic. The caliber of players, the amount of money changing hands, and the foundation for growth established by this trade are all unique. In a very overarching statement, I’ll say that I’m generally in favor of this move. The obvious win is the nearly quarter of a billion dollars of payroll the Red Sox unloaded, with the obvious loss being Adrian Gonzalez, easily one of the best players in the game, moving on. Here are my 10 reactions to all aspects of this deal.
1) The ball is now in Ben Cherington’s court, but so is the pressure – In a town known for being overly optimistic, let’s start with the good news. Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford were owed $261 million in salary, and the Red Sox managed to unload all of that, aside from about $11 million. As a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, they now have unmatched financial flexibility. It’s very obvious that the Sox essentially looked at their three highest paid players and said, “let’s get rid of ‘em.” I like this move because it puts the ball in Ben Cherington’s court – he now basically has free reign to build a team from the ground up however he pleases. I’m happy that Cherington will be given this opportunity, but I am wary about the pressure that it will put on him. Few GMs have ever had such an unrestricted opportunity coupled with such a demanding fan base.
2) Yo Adrian, no Adrian – Adrian Gonzalez’s tenure in Boston was short-lived, and I’m certainly disappointed that he was included in the deal. Gonzalez seemed worthy of the contract, was relatively young, and nothing he did while in Boston gave me any reason to question his value to the team. I haven’t been as excited with a free-agent signing in a long time, and the 3-4 combo of Gonzalez and David Ortiz was one of the most potent in baseball. Frankly, freeing up the $130 million or so tied up in the contracts of Beckett and Crawford would have been more than enough wiggle room for Cherington to work with.
In losing Gonzalez, you lose a perennial Gold Glove first baseman, who not only hits .300 year in and year out, but does so with power. He seemed to have all the right intentions during his time in Boston, and the criticism he received for his perceived “poor” performance is absurd. Last season Gonzalez hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs. He also added 108 runs, a .410 OBP, and he led the majors with 213 hits. A Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and an All-Star nod were also included (take that Mark Teixeira). And this year despite a terribly slow start, Adrian is hitting .300 with 90 RBIs with 35+ games still to be played.
3) Josh Beckett: A fallen hero – If you’ve read anything that I write about the Red Sox, you’ll know that Josh Beckett is one of my favorites. Even for me, there’s no place to hide with regards to Beckett’s performance this year. But Beckett was a guy that I first watched dominate the Yankees in the World Series at 23 years old, only to come to Boston and help the 2007 Red Sox win a World Series of their own. I maintain, steadfastly, that when Beckett is on he’s among the best in the game. He has that rare ability to completely shut another team down – his best is simply that good. His time in Boston had run its course, and we simply couldn’t afford to pay his contract given his on-field production. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch some gutsy playoff games for the Dodgers.
4) Carl Crawford – Carl Crawford, by all accounts, is an exciting baseball player. As with Gonzalez, I was all for the deal that the Red Sox signed him to. Unfortunately, no one in Boston was ever clued in on the exciting game that Crawford supposedly brings. I do think that he had a tough time adjusting to playing in Boston last season, but I don’t think that was the debilitating factor with Crawford. Injuries would derail his season this year, but I still honestly believe that the best would have come out of Crawford eventually. It’s tough to make a case for yourself when you’re not playing and are among the highest-paid players on the team, so Crawford’s departure was not a surprise. I’ll look back at his time in Boston mostly indifferently.
5) Nick Punto gets punted – Nick Punto is not good at baseball. When I looked into the Red Sox dugout, I often confused him with the bat boy. See ya!
6) Wow, we got NOTHING in return – When I initially looked at this trade, my reaction went something like this: James Loney, meh. Allen Webster, scrub. Ivan De Jesus, scrub. Two players to be named later? Rubby De La Rosa could be interesting, Jerry Sands, scrub. And we’re trading Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett for these guys? These three guys have been named to 11 All-Star teams combined. James Loney has never touched an All-Star team, and the rest of these guys might not even be big league talent.
Now I understand that Beckett had lost almost all of his trade value, but Gonzalez and Crawford most certainly had not. I’m still a bit hard-pressed to think that the Sox couldn’t have gotten something of more value in return for these guys. But at the end of the day, I’m increasingly comfortable with the trade because it wasn’t about getting anybody in return. The Red Sox didn’t absorb any substantial contracts from the Dodgers, which is great. They’re also somewhat lucky that they found one team willing to absorb three monster contracts. Freeing up payroll will allow them to make the moves they need to – this deal was not about personnel moves. Couldn’t we have packaged up Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey as well?
7) Let’s not get all hot and bothered over James Loney – To be honest with you, I didn’t know a whole lot about James Loney prior to this trade. Once thought to be an untouchable prospect, Loney’s best year was likely 2008 when he hit .289 with 13 home runs, 35 doubles, and 90 RBIs. He’s a very solid defensive player, and apparently he’s genuinely psyched about heading to Boston. That’s really all there is to say about him – he’s simply not that exciting and we’ll have to see how the Sox can further his development. Looking for an upside? He’s 22-63 (.349 AVG) in his postseason career.
8) Rubby in the rough? – It’s still very much speculation, but several sources tend to believe that 23-year-old Dominican pitcher Rubby De La Rosa is one of the “players to be named later” in this deal. If that’s the case, he’s at the very least an interesting piece of the puzzle. Although he underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011, he’s since returned. Prior to surgery De La Rosa had appeared in 13 major league games, sporting a 3.71 ERA. As a starter he throws a 95-96 mph fastball, but has hit 102 when throwing out of the pen. He also features a change-up, slider, and curve.
9) Bobby Valentine is still here… – While this trade is essentially the Red Sox organization jumping up and down screaming “time to rebuild!”, it seems incredibly apparent to me that a big part of the problem remains – Bobby Valentine. I understand that management often has a hard time admitting to mistakes. I understand that ditching Valentine after a single season could be seen as creating even more instability. Whatever the front office’s take is, even they can’t deny that many players have cited Valentine as a problem. They’re certainly not doing anything resembling rallying around him, and for a team with a highly positive run differential yet a losing record, the writing would seem to be on the wall – Bobby Valentine has gotten about as few wins out of this team as humanly possible.
10) The Red Sox commitment is unwavering – Believe it or not, this move is reassuring to me in the sense that I fully believe the Red Sox organization is committed to putting the best product on the field that they can. Ben Cherington harped on this endlessly during his press conferences. “As we look forward to this offseason,” Cherington said, “we felt like the opportunity to build the team that we need, that the fans deserve, required a more bold move to give us the opportunity to really reshape the roster, reshape the team.”
While my criticism of Larry Lucchino may never die, I’ve never seriously questioned the others in the Red Sox ownership group. I continue to feel as though they’re fully dedicated to the team, and I see this trade as them giving Ben Cherington the flexibility he needs to do his thing. Cherington was named the Red Sox GM largely due to his prowess in evaluating talent, and now he’s got the ultimate opportunity to do just that right in from of him.
I, for one, am looking forward to what should be a tantalizing offseason for Red Sox fans. I’d brace for a slew of what I call major-minor signings – deals involving prospects that don’t seem that thrilling but might be a few years down the road. I’d also expect the Red Sox to target Jacoby Ellsbury, although with Scott Boras as his agent they may not pony up the money required to keep him. Cody Ross will get signed. And once again, David Ortiz will seek a multi-year deal. It’ll sure be interesting to see who’s out there on the field in 2013 as Ben Cherington begins building what we all hope will be the next Red Sox championship team.
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston Red Sox blog.