The Morning After: Breaking up the Red SoxBy
Blame Robert Andino. Had the Orioles’ utility infielder not laced that single off Jonathan Papelbon last September, the Red Sox would have remained alive in the postseason hunt and none of this probably happens. Instead, the ball found grass and the dominoes started to fall when Terry Francona and Theo Epstein walked away from the organization last winter. Papelbon moved on as a free agent, new manager Bobby Valentine was brought in (by ownership?), and the losing resumed.
The Red Sox are mired in fourth place in the AL East, closer to having the worst record in the circuit than they are a Wild Card spot. Prior to last night’s game, Boston was 74-88 in their last 162 contests despite a payroll north of $170M. GM Ben Cherington (Epstein’s replacement) took a drastic step to improve his team yesterday, completed a trade that can be legitimately described as franchise-altering. Heading to the Dodgers are Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, and $12M. Coming back are James Loney, prospects Allen Webster, Rubby DeLaRosa, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus, and roughly $260M of cleared future payroll.
You can make a really strong case that this is one of the biggest trades in baseball history, certainly one of the biggest during my lifetime. Prior to this move, only one player with more than $100M remaining on his contract had ever been traded — Alex Rodriguez when he came to the Yankees in 2004. Both Gonzalez (~$109M) and Crawford (~$107M) are still owed nine figures after this year. A trade of this magnitude has a ripple effect throughout baseball, including an indirect impact on the Yankees. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts on the trade…
- I think the deal is just flat-out brilliant on Cherington’s part. Yes, he did surrender one truly great player in Gonzalez, but in the process he rid himself of two of the most out-of-favor players in team history. Clearing a quarter-billion dollars in payroll and getting real live prospects in return is the stuff GM dreams are made of.
- While the Red Sox made a great move for the long-term health of the franchise, the short-term damage is severe. David Ortiz may miss the rest of the season, which means they’ve have very little power in the lineup, particularly from the left side. They’ll have to find two corner outfielders, a first baseman, and maybe a DH after the season (more on that in a bit). That’s not easy to do. On top of that they have to replace Beckett in an already porous rotation.
- On the other end of the deal, pretty bad job by the Dodgers to absorb that much money and give up those kinds of prospects. That said, they just acquired an impact first baseman, a potential impact starter, and a potential impact outfielder for what amounts to one Albert Pujols financially. The future might be ugly, but that team has a phenomenal chance to win now.
- For more about the prospects involved, check out my MLBTR post. I really like DeLaRosa, that kid has a great arm. He’s not the next Pedro Martinez or anything, but his mid-90s fastball/power slider combination is true swing-and-miss stuff. Getting him alone would have been a coup for the Sox, but getting another strong pitching prospect in Webster and a useful role player in Sands is icing on the cake. DeJesus is just roster fodder in my eyes.
- I couldn’t be happier that Gonzalez is out of the AL East. He is having a down year — a 114 wRC+ with Boston after three straight years of 140+ and six straight years of 120+ — but the guy still scared the crap out of me whenever he was at the plate. Gonzalez remains a terrifyingly good hitter and not having to see him 18+ times a year is a win for the Yankees.
- It must be nice to free up all that cash, but that was only half the battle. The Red Sox have been pretty terrible when it comes to signing free agents lately, plus the new Collective Bargaining Agreements mean they can’t just dump all that money into the draft and international free agency. Reinvesting the savings wisely is much, much easier said than done.
- I fully expect Boston to pursue Nick Swisher this offseason. They’re going to be looking for a first baseman as well as corner outfield help, and he provides both in addition to being a switch-hitter and all that. He makes a ton of sense for them. If a happens, hopefully they give him that Jayson Werth contract he wants.
- There’s a pretty good chance that starting with 2010, the Red Sox could miss the playoffs for five consecutive years. This season will already be year number three, and although they have the ability to turn it around quickly, I’m not giving the new GM the benefit of the doubt just yet. This isn’t exactly a soft division. (h/t Jamal G.)
- Here’s the question: are the Red Sox done selling off players? There will absolutely be a market for Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia this winter, though I can’t imagine Pedroia would go. Ellsbury sure, Lester maybe, but not Pedroia. That would be a stunner. At the same time, I can seem them signing all three to contract extensions and move forward with them as the core. Will be interesting to watch.
Lastly, I consider the trade to be an indication that Bobby V. will be back as manager next season. Instead of firing him they got rid of Gonzalez, a great player and one of his most outspoken subordinates. These rebuild things tend to happen step-by-step — first the coaches go, then the manager goes, then finally the team realizes it’s the players who needed the change. The Sox fired their pitching coach last week, then skipped right over the “fire the manager” step and dumped some players. Regardless of what happens with Valentine, yesterday was a monumental day for the Red Sox in terms of their rebuilding effort, and that’s generally bad news for the Yankees.