Breaking down the Red Sox-Dodgers megadeal

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If FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi is correct, the Red Sox and Dodgers have agreed to the following nine-player deal:

To L.A.: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto
To Boston: Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, Ivan De Jesus, James Loney

It’s not official yet, as the Red Sox still need Crawford and Beckett to waive their trade protection. However, here the breakdown of the deal:

Going to the Dodgers:

Adrian Gonzalez (1B, age 30): Of the three huge pieces getting sent the Dodgers’ way, Gonzalez is the one most teams would probably view as being worth his contract. He’s currently in the first year of his monster extension, so he’s due $127 million in the six years from 2013-18. While Gonzalez had a disappointing first half of 2012, he’s hit .338/.378/.593 with nine homers and 41 RBI in 37 games since the All-Star break.  He also hit .338 last year in his first season with Boston. Needless to say, he’d be a huge upgrade over James Loney at first base in Los Angeles. He’d likely supplant Andre Ethier in the cleanup spot behind Matt Kemp.

Carl Crawford (LF, age 31): Crawford is out for the season after Tommy John surgery, so he won’t make any sort of immediate impact in Los Angeles. Still, he should be ready next year, and he played pretty well while healthy this year, hitting .282/.306/.479 with three homers in 117 at-bats. That was a big step forward from a tremendously disappointing first year in Boston. Crawford may yet have a couple of All-Star appearances going forward, but the Red Sox could essentially start over by shedding his contract. He’ll make $102.5 million from 2013-17. With Shane Victorino likely to leave in free agency, the Dodgers would use Crawford in left field next year.

Josh Beckett (SP, age 32): Beckett has turned into public enemy No. 1 in Boston of late, with the results to match; he’s 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts this season. Beckett, though, was one of the AL’s best pitchers just one year ago, finishing 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 30 starts in 2011. His velocity is down, so he’s not necessarily going to rebound completely in the National League. Still, he’d be a better bet than Aaron Harang or Joe Blanton in a postseason rotation. Beckett is owed $31.5 million for 2013-14. The Dodgers would have him replace Joe Blanton in the rotation.

Nick Punto (INF, age 34): Foolishly given a two-year, $3 million contract last winter, Punto has found himself made obsolete in Boston by Pedro Ciriaco’s emergence. In Los Angeles, he’d join Luis Cruz and Juan Uribe in the mix at third base. Punto is hitting just .200/.301/.272 in 125 at-bats this season, but he is a plus defender at third and he hit .278/.388/.421 for the Cardinals last year.

Going to the Red Sox:

Rubby De La Rosa (SP, age 23): De La Rosa blossomed into a top prospect in 2011, jumping from Double-A to the majors and going 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA and a 60/31 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings for the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery last August. He just returned this week, as the Dodgers activated him from the disabled list following a successful rehab stint. The Dodgers then sent him back down to the minors today, but that was a move to facilitate the trade; De La Rosa didn’t clear waivers, so he can only be included in the deal as a “player to be named” and he has to be in the minors to make that happen. Therefore, he won’t officially become Boston property until the season ends.

A short right-hander (5’11”) with a big mid-90s fastball and a quality changeup, De La Rosa has drawn some comparisons to Pedro Martinez. That’s overselling it, but he has No. 2 or 3 starter potential, and he should make an impact next year.

Allen Webster (SP, age 22): Webster, a right-hander with a very good sinker and a plus changeup, was the prospect the Cubs wanted from the Dodgers for Ryan Dempster. He’s gone 6-8 with a 3.55 ERA and a 117/57 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings for Double-A Chattanooga this season. Most impressive is that he’s allowed just one homer all year. He and fellow righty Zach Lee were prospects 1 and 1a in the Dodger farm system. Most prefer Lee, but I like Webster a bit better.

Jerry Sands (1B/OF, age 24): It seemed obvious that Sands should be in the deal, given that he plays the positions that will be occupied by Gonzalez and Crawford in Los Angeles. His stock is down since he’s hit a modest .244/.325/.376 with 60 strikeouts in 221 major league at-bats to date. He also lacks defensive value. Still, as a right-handed doubles hitter, he could work out nicely in Fenway. He’ll get a long look over the rest of the year to determine whether he fits into the plans for 2013. I’m skeptical that he’s a long-term regular, but it can’t be ruled out.

Ivan De Jesus (INF, age 25): De Jesus is essentially a junior Nick Punto. It’s doubtful that he’ll hit enough to be of use as a regular, but he’s a fine infielder with a history of pretty good OBPs in the minors. Oddly, his walk rate is well down in Triple-A this year, as he’s hit .295/.333/.415 with a 53/14 K/BB ratio in 224 at-bats for Albuquerque. Last year, he came in at .310/.389/.432 with the same club.

James Loney (1B, age 28): The Dodgers certainly have no further use for Loney after making the deal, and they probably forced the Red Sox to take him on for salary purposes. The Red Sox almost surely will let him leave as a free agent this winter if they don’t simply release him before then, so there’s no 2013 commitment here. Loney has hit .254/.403/.344 in 334 at-bats this season, leaving him with a .284/.341/.423 career line. Maybe the Red Sox will give him a shot, but it’d make more sense to play Sands, Mauro Gomez and maybe Ryan Lavarnway at first base.

In making the trade, the Red Sox would shed $58.25 million in 2013 salaries, without taking on anyone making more than the minimum. They’re left with just $42.375 million in obligations for 2013 (John Lackey, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz), plus about $32.5 million for 10 arbitration-eligible players. That should make them big players in free agency, and it also gives them plenty of flexibility to make Jacoby Ellsbury a big offer this winter before he hits free agency after 2013.

Rob Manfred is prepared to implement a pitch clock unilaterally for 2018

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Rob Manfred has long been on record wanting to speed up the pace of play in baseball and, to that end, last year proposed a 20-second pitch clock. Pursuant to baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, he could not implement that unilaterally last year. However if, one year after a proposed rules change, no agreement can be reached with the union, he has the power to impose the originally-proposed change unilaterally.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says today that he is prepared to do just that — imposing that pitch clock and a rule limiting mound visits — for the 2018 season. He further says that the players might very well allow him to do that, despite the fact that they and Manfred are currently negotiating an agreed set of rule changes.

Why? Because, Rosenthal says, if they step aside and let Manfred do it by himself and the rules changes prove unpopular, he’ll take the blame for it:

If enough players oppose the changes, they could absolve themselves of responsibility and allow Manfred to force the issue by introducing the two key elements of MLB’s plan: a 20-second pitch clock and reduction in mound visits. The onus then would be on Manfred to deal with any public fallout and unintended consequences the new rules might trigger.

I’m not sure, based on the story itself, if that’s just Rosenthal’s speculation or if it’s actually a potential union strategy to do nothing and let Manfred own the rules changes. If it’s the latter, though, it’s a monumentally stupid strategy. For a few reasons.

The first and biggest reason is that it is not a union’s job to play public relations games. It’s a union’s job to make workplace conditions as good as possible for its membership via bargaining. Rob Manfred is required to engage with the union on these rules changes for a limited time and is doing so, apparently in good faith. The union, while not possessing great leverage here, has at least some ability to put its two cents in on a rule that impacts all of its members and could, conceivably, make the rules a bit better for them. Barring that, they could at least attempt to obtain some sort of concession in another area in order to get their agreement to the rule. Blowing the chance to have input on work rules because of a chance to win a public relations fight is an abdication of responsibility for a labor union.

Second: there is not going to be any sort of public relations win for the union regardless of what happens. Indeed, to even think there could be one is to ignore what has happened with every rules change in baseball history and how they have played with the public.

No matter how much some people complain about a change in baseball — and some people love to complain — most folks eventually get used them. The DH rule just celebrated its 50th anniversary. People moan, but it’s just part of life. Same with interleague play and divisional realignment and expanded playoffs and no-pitch intentional walks and the takeout slide rules and everything else. The complaints about such things are loud, but they’re not deeply felt or widely felt by any but a handful of self-proclaimed traditionalists. The game chugs on and most people get used to it without there ever being the kind of P.R. fallout that puts egg on the league’s face or which puts the players in some better light. If the pitch clock rule is imposed, people will complain a lot and lot of ink will be spilled about it, but it won’t do anything to substantially harm the league let alone help the players.

That speaks to a larger historical lesson about public relations and players, of course: they’re almost always going to be seen as the bad guys by fans, no matter what they do.

Owners abused their power for a century and fans didn’t care. Starting in the 1960s, when the players finally began to effectively assert their leverage, the players were cast as greedy mercenaries. An owner gives out a foolishly large contract and the player is blamed for taking it. The owners band together in an illegal scheme to harm the players’ interest and the owner who orchestrated it is inducted into the Hall of Fame. The DH rule gets imposed and players who excel as designated hitters are viewed poorly by the writers and the public when it comes time to consider their Hall of Fame case. A new rule gets implemented to deal with slides and it’s not “The Rob Manfred slide rule” it’s “The Chase Utley Rule.” The players are the visible ones. They bear the brunt of just about anything that happens.

Which is to say, if the pitch clock creates some weird situations or controversies, the players involved in those situations and controversies are going to be the ones to take the blame. Just imagine a Dodgers-Giants game that turns on some weirdness involving Madison Bumgarner taking too long to deliver a pitch to Yasiel Puig, forcing in the walkoff run. Imagine that both Bumgarner and Puig saying the other was to blame. Imagine that the umpires messed up the application of the rule. You think Rob Manfred is going to catch hell for it as opposed to the players and the umpires involved? Hell no. Giants fans will yell that Puig did something that should’ve caused the clock to be reset. Dodgers fans will blame Bumgarner for taking too long. It’ll dominate the news for a couple of days but it won’t be the league and its owners taking crap for it.

Against that backdrop, why in the heck would the union try to win some P.R. battle? Screw the P.R. battle. Union leadership — including Tony Clark and the player reps — should negotiate for the best rules possible for the players they represent and let the public relations chips fall where they may.

Will they do that? Based on how the last few management-labor battles have gone, I don’t have a lot of confidence. In recent years the union has seemed far more focused on relatively short term and picayune concerns while trying not to look like the bad guys to fans. Meanwhile, the meat and potatoes labor issues which sometimes require a union to take unpopular stances in the long term, big picture interests of the players have been dominated by the owners. Ask the free agents who can’t find a team because the luxury tax is far lower, compared to revenues, now than it was 15 years ago and is serving as a defacto salary cap. Ask the guys who are being lowballed because of the qualifying offer.

It appears as though we’ll have a pitch clock in 2018 one way or another. The players need to decide pretty quickly if they’re going to have some say in that process or if they’re going to allow themselves to be marginalized in the management of the game even more than they already have been.