In the world we live in, we get a lot of choices to make. What do you prefer: Burger King or McDonald's? iPod’s or Zune’s? Xbox 360, Wii or PS3? Two percent or whole milk?
Ok, I’m kidding about the last one.
The Hanley Ramirez-Josh Beckett was a huge trade when it happened and still has a tremendous impact, and it surprises me that it does not get talked about very much, especially when the Sox are struggling mightily at shortstop.
I’ve had strong feelings on this deal since I heard it go down. My initial reaction was excitement because, even though Hanley was a great prospect, Beckett was a proven young player that had won the clinching game of the ’03 World Series against the YANKEES. I’ll take it.
Then, Hanley Ramirez turned into a beast (and arguably the best player in baseball) while Beckett struggled through his first year and the thought of the deal made me cringe more than watching Brian Collins speak.
Then, 2007 happened, and my thoughts got thrown into flux. Just when I was about to get back on track with the deal, Beckett decided there wasn’t enough of 2006 for him and now I’m back to cringing. So what should we take away from this deal after three and a half years?
First off, let’s look at the actual deal. Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota went to Boston while Florida landed four prospects at the time: Hanley, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia. That’s the setup. Let’s look at the Florida, namely the Hanley side, for now.
Hanley Ramirez is still one of my favorite players in all of baseball, and I’m sure if he had stayed in Boston he would easily be my favorite, hands down. He is one of the handful of guys you can make a legitimate case for being the most talented position player in baseball.
He can run and has 40+ steal potential, as well as having 40+ homer potential. That puts him in a class with guys in their prime like Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, and Barry Bonds.
Sadly, the last three’s careers have been tainted more than Britney Spears’ after marrying K-Fed.
Anyway, on top of Hanley’s 40-40 potential, he is a great contact hitter with a .308 career average coming into 2009 and hitting .348 as of today. Plus, he’s only 25, which means he has not hit his full potential as of yet and has AT LEAST 10 more solid years of production ahead of him, at a position that is so talent-scarce that it’s rivaled only by NBC’s Friday Night lineup.
But on the other side of things, Josh Beckett has not exactly been chopped liver. From the little I’ve heard analyzing the deal so far, the pro-Beckett side has relied heavily on his dominance during the 2007 playoffs, and basically boils down to this statement:
Yes, Hanley Ramirez could possibly be a major contributor to multiple championship teams down the road, but that’s not a given. Josh Beckett already has been part of a championship team, and that doesn’t even get to him winning the ring almost singlehandedly. The Beckett side of the deal has ALREADY paid off.
I’ll admit, that’s a strong argument. There’s absolutely no doubting Beckett was fantastic in October of 2007. Here’s the stat line from that postseason:
4-0 record. 1.20 ERA. One shutout. 35 K’s in 30 innings.
And guys, remember: Those numbers were against some of the best teams in baseball from 2007.
But what has he done outside of those four games?
His first year with the Sox was in 2006. In that year he went 16-11, had 158 K’s in 204 innings, and a 5.01 ERA. After Ramirez’s 2006 campaign, where he won ROY, I’m sure Beckett counted his lucky stars that the Sox won in 2004, because that deal would have been beaten to death in the media as Babe Ruth II.
However, that’s only 2006. We’ve already made it clear that Beckett was worth his weight in gold in 2007 just from his postseason performance, but do you remember how good he was in the regular season? Let me refresh your memory:
20-7 record. 3.27 ERA. 194 K’s in 200 innings. Fantastic numbers.
He regressed a bit (well, a lot) last year, going 12-10 with a 4.03 ERA.
Now, so far this year, he’s pitching like he was in ’07, with a 9-3 record and a 3.48 ERA.
Do you see a pattern emerging? I don’t like it. If this trade is ever going to be seen as fair, he is going to have to pitch in his ’07 and half ’09 body (and his last three years with the Marlins), and not in his ’06 and ’08 body.
The only fair way to look at a deal is to look at all the pieces involved, so let’s do that. The only piece that has had a real impact for Florida is Anibal Sanchez, and he started off with a bang.
He went 10-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 2006, and on top of that, he threw a no-hitter in September. Needless to say, Florida absolutely had won the trade through 2006.
Since then, Sanchez has done a whole lot of nothing. He was injured early in ’07 and only threw 30 innings during the season. Between this year and last year, he has only thrown 80 innings.
He still has a chance to regain his ’06 form, and he was a top prospect in the Red Sox organization, but I haven’t heard any chatter that he will be dominant any time soon.
As for the Red Sox side of the deal, Mike Lowell has been a revelation. He was just a throw in to the deal, but has had a much greater impact than anyone would’ve thought. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty statistics, I’ll just let one all-star game appearance and a World Series MVP trophy speak for themselves.
So does that mean Boston has won the deal? You know what, after thinking about it a lot and finally analyzing things, this isn’t about who won. It’s about philosophy and building a team.
Boston could have put faith in Ramirez being the next great star he has become, while possibly sacrificing a ring because their pitching staff would not have been as deep, or they could have done what they chose to do and put together a grade A rotation with a possible anchor for years to come, while leaving a gaping hole (still gaping) at shortstop.
Speaking of shortstop, some proponents of the Beckett side of the deal will say that one of the reasons Ramirez was shipped out of town was because the team wasn’t sure he was going to be a shortstop in the future and might have to move to third or centerfield. I’ll just say this: with his offensive ability, he can throw away his glove forever and never play defense again and he still would have a place in Boston.
So there you have it. Yes, it would have been nice if the team could’ve kept Hanley Ramirez. If you held me at gunpoint, I would probably rather gamble on Hanley and what he can bring later on. But Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell have more than held their end of the bargain at times.
It all comes down to preference.