More thoughts on the Boston fire sale


So the guy with the $140M contract is going to play for a guy that used to manage in Japan? Come on!

A few days ago, the Red Sox and Dodgers completed a potentially franchise-altering trade.  Boston sent underachieving malcontents Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez (who is actually still pretty good) plus Nick Punto to suddenly-loaded LA.  In return they received several solid prospects, the thoroughly mediocre James Loney, and most importantly, massive salary relief.  It was shocking to see a wealthy big market team unload all this talent for pennies on the dollar, truly a fire sale that only Tobias Funke could properly dramatize.

The deal will have a major impact on the Red Sox and Dodgers for years to come, and the reverberations could be felt throughout the league.  The Red Sox significantly increased their flexibility by shedding some $260 million in future contract obligations, allowing them to be big players on the free agent market in 2012 and in upcoming seasons.  While the 2012′s free agent class is not considered a stacked group, they could have room in the budget to sign several impact free agents.  These could include such notables as Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, both incredibly talented players (albeit with risks attached).  If the Red Sox choose to spend big this offseason, it could be reminiscent of the Yankees’ spending spree in the 2008-2009 offseason, in which they signed Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett.

As we remember, these signings contributed heavily to the Yankees’ 2009 World Series title, so a similar splurge by the Red Sox could have them back in contention in a hurry.  However, failing several big acquisitions, it is difficult to see the Red Sox being serious playoff contenders in 2013 and possibly 2014.  While they have some talent remaining on the team and some intriguing players down on the farm (Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes, and Jackie Bradley Jr. especially), it is hard to see that roster being a serious threat to win the AL East.  Consequently, they will need to decide whether they are doing a full rebuild, or a Yankees-esque reload.  If they go big on the current free agent class, they risk burdening themselves with the types of big expensive contracts that got them into this mess in the first place.  However, a rebuild will likely doom them to non-competitiveness for several years, and this may have significant financial ramifications.

Assuming Boston doesn’t go for the full reload in 2013, the Yankees should be the AL East frontrunners, with the Rays as the main competition.  This is especially the case if Baltimore comes back to earth after a 2012 season that seems somewhat fluky.  Toronto will likely not have the same number of injuries again, but I don’t think that team has enough impact talent to be a competitor yet.

The defanging of the Red Sox definitely helps the Yankees in the short term, but how about the long term?  A lot of that depends on how the Red Sox end up deploying their newly-acquired flexibility.  The Yankees likely won’t be huge spenders on the free agent market over the next two years if they are serious about adhering to the austerity budget.  If Boston hasn’t loaded up on big free agents after 2012 or 2013, they could be serious competitors for some big name players that could hit the market in 2014 , most notably Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.  The trade could also put Boston in the position to build a sustainable powerhouse if they are more fortunate with their free agent signing and hit it big on with a few of their prospects.  One question, however, could be whether Boston’s willingness to dump players recently signed to long-term contracts shows a lack of loyalty, and could make it difficult for them to attract free agents.  I think money talks ultimately, but that could be a tie-breaker.

While they are not in the same league as the Yankees, the sudden willingness of the Dodgers to spend big to acquire impact players should draw the attention of Yankee fans.  We are largely used to a unipolar landscape where the Yankees are the dominant franchise financially, capable of outbidding all comers to acquire their choice free agents.  There have been some exceptions to this paradigm of late, most notably the Yankees’ failure to sign Cliff Lee, but it largely has held true.  Seeing the new-money Dodgers throw that kind of cash around  begs the question of how much they are willing to spend to make their team a World Series contender.  Could they even outspend the Evil Empire?  After this big trade, they are pretty close, and if they are willing to spend even more money, they could be a force to be reckoned with on the free agent market.

Ultimately, the Yankees will be fine, but there is no doubt that this deal is a potential game-changer.  The Yankees may not be able to count on being able to sign all the best free agents to fill their holes, as fewer top guys have been hitting the market, and more teams have the financial resources to compete for the ones that do.  The Red Sox suddenly have huge flexibility to bring in new impact players, while the Dodgers showed a willingness to spend at Yankee-esque levels to become relevant.  In the short term, the Yankees should maintain their hold on the AL East, but they certainly can’t get too comfortable at their perch.

Categories : Musings


  1. Stopped reading after the first paragraph just to say this: You combined Arrested Development with a baseball article. You sir win. Just all the internet is to bow before you. Now, to continue reading the article.

  2. TheOneWhoKnocks says:

    “While they are not in the same league as the Yankees” Not sure if you meant this figuratively(not spending as much as the Yankees) or literally(they are in the NL, Yanks in the AL)
    But I was shocked to see that the Dodgers have a higher payroll next year than the Yanks, they certainly seem willing to go to at least the $189m austerity level and maybe more.
    Point is, they are very much in the same league as the Yankees $$$ wise

    • Eric Schultz says:

      Yeah, I meant AL/NL (implying that the Dodgers wouldn’t be direct competitors for the division or a playoff spot), but I definitely agree on the payroll issue. Jonah Keri’s article for Grantland today had some comments from the Dodgers’ ownership/management that suggested that they weren’t particularly worried about the luxury tax or budgeting salary. I’m sure they have a limit, but it is a scary thought.

  3. bkight13 says:

    The Yankees need to forget about an austerity budget. Our one advantage is money and we need to use it. So what if KC and CLE pocket some revenue from us. We print money with the Stadium and YES Network and if the Steinbrennars care more about profits than rings, they should sell the team.

    You are fooling yourself if you think Boston is better off today than one year ago, when they had the best record in baseball. They have lost Youk, Francona, AGon, Crawford, Paps, Beckett and likely Ortiz. Their owners care more about their soccer team and they know the idiots and Boston will keep coming and watching for at least 5 years. This was a clear salary dump to save millions. Great, now their team stinks.

    • Eric Schultz says:

      Boston is most definitely worse than they were before, and they likely will be for the next year or two at least. However, this deal gives them an opportunity to start fresh as opposed to being crippled by some of the bad contracts (Lackey, Crawford, Beckett) remaining on the books.

      • bkight13 says:

        Who are they going to get without new large contracts? We can’t even find a reasonable replacement for Swisher. The draft and IFA rules have changed. They may be mediocre for a long time.

        • viridiana says:

          Not only will they have trouble spending that extra cash wisely, they run the risk of getting even more boxed in by even longer-term contracts. To sign premium free agents a la Gonzo and Crawford they will likely have to give seven or eight year deals. At least the contracts they had were only five or six more years. And of course Gonzo was a reasonable deal– given the going rate forAl-Star first basemen.

          Another factor: the Boston ownership really conned some if its players into amazingly “team-friendly” deals in recent years. For year, Wakefield would win 13 or 14 games and settle like a chump for for $3-4 mill per year. Pedroia, tand Lester all gave serious hometown discounts. But the bloom is off the rose on this franchise and management group and I don’t believe players will be willing to give them that sort of discount again. And evetutally they will have to pay up big-time to re-sign talents like Elsbury and Lester. A good chunk of that cash from unloaded contracts may have to go there.

          But they do have some farm talent. And I don’t know exactly how good the kids are that they got from LA, but they at least have a chance.

    • What if they care about profits AND rings?

      And.. people already aren’t going to see the sox at the same rate.

  4. AndrewYF says:

    It’s going to be really tough to see Verlander and Hernandez go to other teams than the Yankees in the name of ‘austerity’.

    Then again, they may not reach free agency to begin with. We all thought Hamels was going to cash in.

    • Eric Schultz says:

      If I had to guess, Verlander re-ups with the Tigers, but I could see Felix hit the market because he is fed up with playing on a mediocre team. If that happens, it’s hard to imagine any big-spending team not being interested, austerity or no austerity.

      • Rob says:

        i agree if a truly great player is available budget be damned go after the player

      • RetroRob says:

        That’s interesting, and I wouldn’t disagree with it at all, although King Felix keeps insisting he has no intention of leaving, loves Seattle, and wants to stay. Now that’s what any player would say, yet I think there is more truth in it than others.

        Yet that doesn’t mean he’s going to give a big discount, and that’s where these things can fall apart.

        His value is as high right now as it’s ever going to be. Seattle would be smart to at least shop him to see what they can get. If a great talent package is available, they should jump at it. Don’t know if it’s going to happen, though.

    • BeanTooth says:

      The way I understand it, the austerity budget is for 2014 only. After that, the luxury tax resets and the Yankees can go back to signing big contracts, just as Verlander and Felix possible hit free agency.

      • Paul VuvuZuvella says:

        Think I remember reading that there is financial incentive to keep budget below that threshold for 2 seasons.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

          There is. If they get under two consecutive years, their tier for the Market Disqualification rebates completely resets, so if they get under in 2014 and 2015, they would get their full share of the rebate in 2014, 2015, and 2016 (and partial shares for the next few years if the same program continues in the next CBA). If they just get under in 2014, they’d get their full rebate in 2014, 50% of the rebate in 2015, and 25% of the rebate in 2016.

        • dp says:

          The financial incentives start next year through 2016.

      • viridiana says:

        Let’s hope its 2014 only. I would actually like to see them go for the $189 M in 2013. That way we don’t have two more years where the team is shaped with financial constraints in mind on every move. I’m probably in the minority on this but I’d be willing to sacrifice 2013, perhaps doing such things as letting Sori go, trading Grandy, letting Swish go to meet $189 M target.
        Best young talent won’t be ready next year but I would still play the likes of Z. Almonte, Adams, Mustelier and Romine, perhaps builing up some trade value and uncovering one or two really solid players. Then begin bringing in the new wave beg. in 2014 (start with guys like Mason who at least can help in the field and on the bases). And get back into the free agent market after enjoying the benefits of the 2013 cutbacks.

        Are you reading this, Hal?

  5. Brian S. says:

    Long term, good move. Short term? They gonna suck unless they Swisher and Hamilton.

    • Thing is, they already kind of sucked short term.

      • thenamestsam says:

        Exactly. A lot of people who don’t love the trade for Boston seem to bring this (that they’ll now probably suck next year, and maybe the year after) up as a reason while ignoring how bad they already were.

        This is a team that was already closer to the bottom of the AL heap than the top. They had a ton of money already committed and no obvious routes to improvement. Sure they could have splurged in Free Agency again, but it’s not like they were looking for one guy to put them over the top. We’re talking about a team that’s 12.5 games back in the division. Even if they had been willing to pile Hamilton’s contract (for example) on top of what they already had, would they have been favorites in the division next year? I don’t think so.

        So yes, in all likelihood it’s going to take them a couple years to get back to true contention. But they weren’t headed there in that timeframe anyway unless they were willing to go dramatically above any budget level we’ve seen from them.

  6. Rich in NJ says:

    I don’t see how the Yankees can extend more than one of Cano, Swisher, Granderson and continue to have any real flexibility going forward given the payroll constraints they reportedly seek, unless at least one pre-existing huge contract is dumped, especially when you consider that a new contract for Jeter in 2014 could be very expensive.*

    *unless they secretly offer him the right to buy a share of the team upon retirement in exchange for agreeing to play for what could be a way below market-value contract after signing a contract that he appears to have viewed as a slight.

    • TomH says:

      Jeter-for-2014 depends considerably on how Jeter-in-2013 does. He may be having his equivalent of the 1957-58 seasons Musial put forward, just before he really entered decline almost full time.

      • Rich in NJ says:

        Anything is possible, but since it was reasonable to believe that after putting up this slash line from 5/1/10-6/13/11: .260/.334/.338/.672 that he was in an inexorable decline, and yet he has followed that up with this: .325/.370/.449/.820, I think it’s more likely than not that he continues to hit quite well for the next year or so. His age does, however, make the decision to extend him longer term somewhat risky.

      • JohnnyC says:

        Skip Bayliss recalls those Musial seasons. He was sitting in a sandbox wondering aloud if Musial was using PEDs.

  7. Reggie C. says:

    The Red Sox are lacking a marquee offensive talent and honestly I expect RS ownership to make Cherington pursue Josh Hamilton. Hamilton would revitalize a level of fan-dom diminished this season by the antics of the departed. Who knows how the market looks for Hamilton … the RS could be able to land Hamilton at a cost lower than what’s been guessed by MSM. How many teams are going to be able to make a bid anyway?

    • JohnC says:

      I don’t see a guy like Hamilton or Grienke as a good fit in Boston due to their fragile egos. Hamilton would be back on the booze in less than a month playing in that fishbowl environment. Grienke might crack also if he gets off to a bad start there and the fans get on him. As for Verlander and Hernandez, I think both will never reach free agency. No way the Tigers let him get away, and the Mariners are already talking possible extension with King Felix. He loves it in Seattle (don’t know why) and wants to stay there.

      • TomH says:

        You may be right about Verlander and Hernandez, although it’s hard to see why Verlander should stay in Detroit if a major market team, in a more congenial city, were to make a serious bid for him. As for Felix loving Seattle, well, there are apparently an awful lot of people who love Seattle.

        On Hamilton: what reason is there for thinking he would fall off the wagon in Boston? He seems to have settled down as far as that goes. Injury woes are another matter, but he would probably hit pretty well in Boston.

  8. OMG! Bagels! says:

    Pink hat fire sale! Think of the children!

  9. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    Some teams have played better after ridding themselves of big names such as Seattle after Griffey and Seattle after Arod, Texas after Arod serve as good examples of this.

  10. Mike HC says:

    One of the best articles I have read on the trade. Nice job.

  11. Gonzo says:

    So they won’t offer Ortiz a qualifying offer, right? Thoughts everyone?

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      I’d assume they will make a qualifying offer for Ortiz.

      • Gonzo says:

        I thought so too until the trade and Papi’s second DL stint. Now I’m not sure. I’m almost leaning no, but they could deal him at the deadline for something next year if he accepts.

    • Reggie C. says:

      With the freed up money and need for a middle of the order slugger, I just dont see how Cherington doesn’t make Ortiz at least a qualifying offer. Ortiz hits too well in Fenway to just let him leave especially if Ortiz is willing to sign a QO.

      • Gonzo says:

        I guess I am weighing too much on the two DL stints and him turning 37 in November. I would imagine he accepts, right?

        • Reggie C. says:

          Yeah i would think Ortiz accepts. He’ll miss games but I doubt the RS could find a more productive, cheaper DH.

      • JohnnyC says:

        Ortiz wants a multi-year deal…which Red Sox have shown no desire to offer him. At his age, security is more important than re-setting your value for FA market. Wouldn’t surprise me to see Orioles offer him 2 years.

  12. dkidd says:

    sox contending next season is not such a longshot

    Crawford contributed nothing this year, Beckett is essentially replaced by Lackey, Gonzalez can be “replaced” by signing Laroche + healthy/full seasons from Papi, Ellsbury, Pedroia & Middlebrooks

    if Lester and Buchholtz continue to step up, they could be in the hunt for the second WC

    they could also suck, but they were sucking this year with a hateful team and zero flexibility. basically, i am in AWE of ben cherington right now

    • Gonzo says:

      Should be fun having Friedman, Cherington and Anthopoulos in the same division for years to come. Of course, Duquette is the only other GM other than Cashman in the playoffs today in the division.

      • dkidd says:

        a big talking point among my sox fan friends right now is that duquette left the sox in much better shape than theo

        turns out flags only fly for 4.5 years

        • RetroRob says:

          I still insist that 80% of the Red Sox rebuid from a decade-plus back goes to Duquette. Theo and company inherited a ship that was in very good shape. They were able to bring it home for a championship, so I wouldn’t take that away form them, but Duquette was trashed unfairly so. Then again, that is the Boston way.

          • dkidd says:

            duquette dragged a retrograde franchise kicking and screaming into the modern era, burning bridges every step of the way. he did a bunch of stuff (upgrading facilities, increasing diversity of staff) that “doesn’t show up in the box score.” he saved henry et al from 5 years of unglamourous infrastructure work

        • Gonzo says:

          This made me smile.

  13. dp says:

    You forgot to mention a very important fact. Right now the Red Sox are not a bad team they are a middle team. Being in the middle is a terrible place.

    The Sox are tied with Seattle for the 13th worst record in the game. This means if they sign a free agent that is tendered they lose their first round pick. Doing that hurts as they will be losing draft pool money.

    • RetroRob says:

      Do they lose their first-round pick? I thought the new CBA set it up so teams that make qualifying offers gain a supplemental round pick, but the signing team doesn’t actually lose a pick.

      I could be quite wrong on that.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

        The signing team does lose a pick, but the original team only gets a supplemental pick. The signing team’s lost pick just disappears.

        • RetroRob says:

          Okay, thanks. Not sure where I got that idea from, but there were so many changes in the recent CBA, I think it got muddled in my brain!

  14. RetroRob says:

    I don’t think doing a Yankees 2009 would work all that well for the Sox. First, they are not in similar states. The Yankees won 89 games in 2008, so they still had a very solid core with very clear needs that could be addressed by free agency that winter. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have been not been good for a solid year now, playing well under .500. There is no CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira type fixes. Hamilton and Greinke bring their own issues, ones that could throw the Red Sox right back in the same situation they just got out of, and I remain convinced that the latter, while good, is not the unlucky ace-in-waiting some want to paint him as. I’ve done that myself, but I’ve altered my view of him to a good pitcher and nothing more.

    I expect the Red Sox to take a more reasoned approach, realizing they had basically collapsed, the mix wasn’t working, and now they have to rebuild. They are not as far off as some Yankee fans may wish or hope, but 2013 will not be their year.

    I ex

  15. Mike Myers says:

    That money cant be spent well. So few big free agents in the next 2 years.

    Felix is already rumored re up as Seattle loves him.

    So they overpay for Verlander (if there is such a thing). They have an ace and a bunch of 3/4/5 types. This wont work out for the Sox.

  16. JScott says:

    Since the Pizza Guy has been running the Tigers who have they lost/traded because they didn’t want to/couldn’t afford to pay him? It seems to me the Tigers have been run like a Big Market team thoroughly willing/able to pay Big Market salaries. I’ll be surprised if Verlander leaves. He’s the one home grown star they have.

  17. I have to say that for the last few of hours i have been hooked by the impressive articles on this website. Keep up the wonderful work.

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