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Last week, the Red Sox and Dodgers completed a nine-player blockbuster trade that reshaped both teams. The Red Sox unloaded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and the injured Carl Crawford to the Dodgers in exchange for James Loney and prospects. The biggest return the Red Sox received was that the Dodgers agreed to pay about $260 million of the remaining salary on those contracts. This virtually reset the finances of the Red Sox, giving them the opportunity to restructure the team in the coming offseason. Throughout all the troubles of the 2012 season, there was no question that this Sox team needed to do something drastic to make a change. In every trade there are winners and there are losers, so today we take a look at who fell into which category.
The Dodgers have made it clear they want to win and they want to win now. This trade gives them a gold glove defender at first, but also it gives them an offensive threat that they were missing. Adrian Gonzalez originally played for the Padres so he knows the NL West well, and the change of scenery and laid back atmosphere of Los Angeles could be the change he needed to get back to his old ways.
Josh Beckett returns to the National League and is placed into a division that is not as competitive as the AL East. Beckett achieved success and World Series victories in both leagues, but a return to the NL this late in his career is going to help him out greatly. He can now pitch to rosters that are not as deep as those found in the AL, and no longer is he looked at as an ace. He slides into the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. The lessened pressure can allow him to simply focus on his game rather than all the outside distractions.
Carl Crawford recently underwent a successful Tommy John surgery and will rehab to return for the 2013 season. It was no secret that his short tenure in Boston was riddled with criticism, especially following a dismal 2011 season. Any hopes he had to change the minds of his critics were derailed by a wrist injury, then the elbow injury that eventually ended his season. He never got comfortable in Boston and with the money they dished out to sign him he was going to be under the microscope with every move he made. He will still have the pressure of playing up to his contract in LA, but the fresh start may be just what the doctor ordered for Crawford.
This trade finally gives the Red Sox the financial flexibility to make necessary changes to the team. This past offseason they were incredibly limited in what they could do with the contracts of Crawford, Gonzalez, Beckett, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matuszaka on the books. There weren’t any big signings because there couldn’t be. Peter Gammons mentioned that with the upcoming free agent class there isn’t really an opportunity for the Sox to invest all their new-found wealth right away, but that is a good thing. What got this team in trouble was overpaying for talent and constricting itself as the years went on. Following last September, it was clear this team needed to make changes to the roster, but they just couldn’t do it with all the money tied up.
This upcoming offseason, Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton will both be free agents. Naturally I’d expect the Red Sox to explore those options, but it doesn’t seem that either would be a good fit for Boston. Hamilton is no doubt going to ask for a large contract, quite possibly Carl Crawford money, and he has a history of injuries that has seen him miss time in just about every season. Greinke will command a lot of money on the market as teams continue to overpay for starting pitching. With Greinke’s history of anxiety disorder, I find it hard to believe he would be able to handle the pressures that come along with playing in Boston.
With the prospects the Red Sox received they can make one of two choices. Go with the youth movement and start utilizing more young players, as Allen Webster and Ruby De La Rosa are both looked at as top-of-the-rotation guys who may be able to help the team as soon as next season. Option two would be to package some of their prospects to make a few trades in the offseason to fill the voids on the roster. Whatever move they decide to make, it’s no question that they are in better shape going into this offseason than last.
Lastly, what stands out in this whole deal is that the Red Sox are setting a precedent that needed to be set months ago. That is, if you’re not performing up to expectations, no one is safe. Three of the four players the Sox traded at one time seemed untouchable mostly because of how expensive their contracts were. This trade sent a message to the whole organization that they expect more from their players. A culture change was needed and I think we finally got one.
While immediately this trade looks great for the Dodgers, in a few years it may not be looked at in such a way. By then, they will be stuck paying a good amount of aging players, and paying them a lot of money at that. They are trying to win in the next couple years to make money of the brand, and even perhaps ink a lucrative television deal. However, if this trade doesn’t work out as they hope, it could be looked at as one of the most expensive busts in baseball history. Only time will tell, but at the end of Crawford and Gonzalez’s contracts, who’s to say what sort of production they will be putting out.
The 2012 Red Sox lost way before this deal took place. This all but waves the white flag on a season that everyone in Boston wish didn’t happen. This season has been clouded by negative stories, most of which had nothing to do with actually playing the game of baseball. Fans had to sit back and watch the overpaid athletes play far beneath their abilities en route to what looks to be a sub-.500 season. There has been a dark cloud cast over the Red Sox all season, and it won’t get better this season. The move puts them in a position to make changes and be better next season.
The real winner in this is Ben Cherington. He took over the role of General Manager after Theo Epstein left to Chicago. In that move, Cherington inherited a broken clubhouse and an incredibly expensive payroll. He didn’t even appear to have control in his own position. It is known that he never arranged the meeting for Bobby Valentine, and that the ownership was behind the move to make Valentine the manager. He couldn’t make any substantial roster moves because of the financial restrictions. He inherited his dream job in a nightmare scenario. Finally when Cherington was allowed to do his job, he did it perfectly. Not only did he make a culture shift and move the guys who just weren’t cutting it in Boston, he got LA to pay for most of the contracts. It was what needed to be done and now Cherington can be the GM he wants to be, and shape his team the way he wants it.
Lastly the fans of Boston win on this one. No longer are we subjected to those overpriced pieces on the diamond who couldn’t live up to the standards of winning set at the beginning of this century. There are no sure things in the coming offseason, but the one thing that is there is hope. Hope that they can make some moves and put guys on this team who are competitive and want to play the game. Most of all there is hope that 2013 can make us shrug off the disgusting year that 2012 has been.
Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Allen Webster, Ben Cherington, Bobby Valentine, Carl Crawford, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Dodgers, James Loney, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Josh Hamilton, Nick Punto, Red Sox, Ruby De La Rosa, Theo Epstein, Zach Greinke