When the innocuous mentions of various Red Sox’ being placed on waivers, it seemed all but inevitable to be routine and nothing that would materialize. I mean, there just isn’t a market for 32 year old pitchers who have health concerns, diminished velocity, and character issues, right? There certainly can’t be a market for 31 year old outfielders who’ve produced close to replacement level in their first 2 years of a mega-contract, especially ones that have undergone Tommy John surgery within day, right? Well, the team getting rid of these players must be required to pay a large portion of their salary, right? No one is this stupid, right?
To set this whole crazy day in motion, the Los Angeles claimed Josh Beckett off waivers. A move that I’m willing to guess every other major league team would not have made. This made them vulnerable to the possibility of being left with Beckett and his entire contract should the deal have broken down. As talks intensified, it was clear this was not just about Josh Beckett. Nope, GM Ned Colletti wanted more bloated contracts for his new “Yankees-West”.
To say the events of what shall be henceforth be referred to as “Purging Epstein’s Monster” were good for the Red Sox would be an understatement. The Red Sox successfully cleared $272 million of salary (which the Dodgers would reportedly pay 95% of), and fleeced the Dodgers into giving them prospects for what the Red Sox have undoubtedly dreamt about being rid of this entire season.
This is the kind of trade you make in video games when you got too greedy in the offseason and want to start over with some new players, and then you get your pick of the young prospects on the other team to boot. This isn’t supposed to happen in the real world. There shouldn’t be teams willing to take on $272 million worth of aging, underperforming players. It doesn’t make sense. But when Magic Johnson’s group put together the $2 billion offer to buy the Dodgers earlier this season, they changed the game. They provided an empty crater for Ben Cherington to drop his enormous problem.
The name Red Sox fans will undoubtedly invoke is that of Adrian Gonzalez when they complain that Boston made a very bad decision in going through with this deal. Simply put, this is the wrong reaction. Adrian Gonzalez, as good a player as he is, is entering his decline. WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is generally regarded to be worth roughly $5 million per win. In 2011, Gonzalez compiled 6.6 WAR, worth about $33 million, vastly outperforming the $6.3 million he was paid on his previous contract. That is all well and good, but it is in the past. This season, he is on pace to compile around 4 WAR, worth about $20 million, adequate for the $21 he will be paid. This is all well and good, but this will soon be in the past.
Adrian Gonzalez is set to earn about $21 million per year until 2018 creating the potential for yet another albatross of a contract. So while Red Sox fans may writhe in pain at seeing a franchise first baseman chase an NL West pennant, the move is proactive and gets them out of another long term deal they might rather have back. Given that Gonzalez will be turning 31 next season, it is reasonable to assume a slight decline in production. While he still has good years left, expecting him to suddenly revert back to his prime-production is a pipe dream, it’s not happening. At worst, the Red Sox are coming out dead even by giving up Adrian Gonzalez for free.
This is all that needs to be agreed upon to make this a steal for Cherington. Factor in possible concerns about Gonzalez “fitting” in Boston, and it’s not an absurd idea to just let him go for nothing. Absurd would be what Dodgers GM Ned Colletti proceeded to do from there.
To accommodate the Red Sox giving up Adrian Gonzalez, Colletti kindly took on two putrid contracts in Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. I cannot think of an argument that could be raised in which either of these players produces anything close to their salary. They are both on the wrong side of 30 and both beginning a decline from their prime. Considering the Red Sox attempted to shop Beckett at the non-waiver trade deadline with the intention of paying a huge chunk of his salary, adding him in this deal seems convenient.
Carl Crawford may not be such a lost cause. He is still owed slightly over $100 million and while one could speculate he could return to form, decline is still imminent. There is also the matter of his Tommy John Surgery, performed mere days ago. While Crawford is expected to fully recover from this, it’s another question mark, and question marks on huge contracts are a problem. In a hypothetical situation, if Crawford was a free agent this off-season, it’s hard to gauge what the interest would be like. He is coming off two straight seasons of nil production and will be rehabbing an injury for the next 6-9 months. His compensation at this point in time would seem to be light years away from his current deal, and to get out from under this obligation is a massive relief for the Red Sox Front Office.
Getting out from these contracts would seem a good enough deal. Ned Colletti wanted to make it better though. The Red Sox will also reportedly receive a high-ceiling pitching prospect in Rubby De La Rosa, the Dodgers 2nd ranked prospect in Allen Webster, potential utility infielder Ivan De Jesus, and an interesting outfield/first base prospect in Jerry Sands. James Loney is also included in the deal, which will be painful to watch, but considering it’s only another month or so, it’s possible to close ones eyes whenever he comes to bat and wait for it to be over.
This represents a moment in time when Red Sox fans should rejoice. Ben Cherington committed highway robbery, got some useful pieces in return, and will now have the space to build his own team. To even fathom a team could unload these three behemoth contracts seemed unthinkable days ago. Hell, even getting rid of one seemed like it would be a miracle. The Sox are out from a whole that bad spending put them in and now can look forward to an actual future, and this move sped up the prospects. It will be interesting to see where they go from here and there is still much to be analyzed in this deal alone. Ben Cherington has his work cut out for him, but this deal might be looked back on as one of the greatest trades ever.
Check back for updates and further analysis of what this deal means for the Red Sox.