Now that it’s final, what should we make of the Red Sox-Dodgers mega deal?

86 Comments

I’m still shaking my head at the Dodgers-Red Sox deal, which is now finalized. Among the things that wouldn’t have made sense to me if you told me about them this time yesterday:

  • I’m surprised that the Dodgers — whose owners just paid $2 billion for that team — took on $271 million in financial obligations and actually gave up real talent to boot.
  • Though I understand the Red Sox wanting to get rid of Beckett and Crawford, I’m surprised they actually did it. There has seemed to be so little consistency and coherence in that front office over the past two years I’m frankly shocked that a consensus to start over, more or less, was reached.
  • Heck, I’m surprised that someone decided that the deal had to include Nick Punto. Like, on that call, at some point, either Ned Colletti insisted that Nick Punto was a must-have or Ben Cherington decided that Punto and his $450K or so that he’s owed for the rest of the season had to be unloaded too.

But expectations flummoxed or not, it did happen, and it’s hard to see how this isn’t a win for the Red Sox. Albeit maybe not as big a win as some folks are making it out to be.

The winning part: A cleansing purge of Josh Beckett, who no one liked anymore and who seems to be a shadow of his former self. A liberating purge of Carl Crawford’s contract which, while it seemed like an overpay when it was signed before the 2011 season, has quickly turned into an all-out albatross given two years of injury and the realization that, no, he’s not gonna age as well as some thought.

And, of course, the acquisition of some young, promising players in Rubby De La Rosa, who — even if we should never put too much hope in any one pitching prospect — could be an ace one day, and Jerry Sands who may find Fenway to his liking and should have a greater chance to play on these new-look Sox. Throwing in Ivan DeJesus as depth and Allen Webster who, while maybe a year or two away, could definitely feature in the Sox rotation one day, and you have a lot of pieces for the next good Red Sox team. I don’t think James Loney is worth mentioning, but I’m sure he’s a nice fellow.

But let’s temper our expectations. Upside or not, none of the pieces coming back is a sure thing. De La Rosa could struggle with command as so many post-Tommy John pitchers do. Sands has been a creation of the Pacific Coast League so far, so he’ll have to prove himself.  But the biggest place to temper expectations should come in the financial relief the Red Sox received. Because while, sure, it’s awesome to have $50 million+ free a year going forward, it’s not like there’s a never-ending supply of talent to spend it on.

Teams are locking up young talent so early these days, leaving far fewer blue chippers to actually hit the market.  Matthew will take a look at this in greater depth later, but let’s quickly look at who’s available this offseason: Josh Hamilton. Zack Greinke. Robinson Cano. Jhonny Peralta. David Wright. Michael Bourn. Only two of them — Cano and Wright — are unequivocal game-changers, and those two are highly unlikely to actually be available when it’s all said and done. UPDATE: Er, scratch that. I forgot that Cano and Wright have team options, so that makes it worse. The other free agents have question marks or aren’t slam dunks. They’re all basically Carl Crawford, right? And the Sox are clearly repudiating the idea of signing the Carl Crawfords of the world right now.

So, you take that $50 million and plow it into player development, right? Well, some of it. The new collective bargaining agreement prohibits teams from doing that with any sort of gusto. Between the draft and international signings you can only spend a fraction of that money. So no, you can’t use that to really go crazy on either the free agency market or player development. At least not all at once.

Put differently: the Red Sox are retrenching for the long-haul, and the days of them being somehow exempt from the success cycle that every other team but the Yankees is subject to are over.  There’s a lot of talent on this team and a lot more flexibility now, but if you overhear any Red Sox fan saying, thank god, now the team can go out and sign some real free agents, you should feel free to ignore them.  Because there’s a better chance that the biggest short term upside of this deal for Boston are increased profit margins due to decreased labor costs as opposed to some quicky-re-load of a rebuild.  That doesn’t make it a bad deal for them — I think Boston won this trade — but it’s not like there isn’t risk about it all and it’s not like there aren’t some rough days still ahead.

Turning to the Dodgers: man, where is all of this money coming from?  I know the new ownership is flush with cash and/or credit — how can you pay $2 billion for the team if you’re not? — but they also just jacked their payroll up to the $190 million range for 2013. I know they have a new TV deal in the offing and I know the fans are coming back to Dodger Stadium now that Frank McCourt is gone, but this is not quite the money-printing market that, say, New York is. And even the Yankees have pushed their payroll down in recent years.

But the finances of it all are between Mark Walter, Magic Johnson, their silent partners and their gods. What’s it mean for the baseball side?  An improvement, sure, but not a dramatic one, necessarily. And, like Boston, there’s risk here, albeit risk of a different kind.

Carl Crawford won’t play this year. Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez have each had down years, though Gonzalez has had a much better second half. Even assuming, however, that Gonzalez and Beckett suddenly take on vintage form, there are only 36 games left to play and they’re in a three-game hole in the west and a 1.5 game hole in the wild card. Sure, it’s possible that their addition pushes the Dodgers past San Francisco and/or the other wild card contenders, but it would take a hell of a month or so from them to do it.

The long-term is murkier. I feel like Adrian Gonzalez has several good years left in him and he may find himself rejuvenated to be back in the NL (and in his homeland of Southern California). Beckett and Crawford, however, are much shakier bets.

It’s hard to remember that Beckett is only a year removed from a season in which he put up a 2.89 ERA and a WHIP of 1.026, but that’s one year surrounded by two in which he looks like any old palooka, not the ace he once was. Nothing about him at this point suggests a pitcher who is going to age particularly well — Josh, it’s called a treadmill, please hit it — but it could happen. Crawford had Tommy John surgery just this week. I really have no idea what he’s going to be like going forward. Speed ages well and, assuming his arm isn’t toast after all of this, his defense will be a bigger plus in L.A. than it was in Boston. He could have a couple of All-Star years left in him or he could turn into Roberto Kelly.

The money here is the ultimate arbiter. If the Dodgers are like every other team in the history of baseball, they will not be able to absorb three gigantic contracts which correspond with only one elite player. There just is no way to eat that much cash and still field a consistently competitive team.  If, however, Beckett and Crawford find the fountain of youth, or if the Dodgers’ brass really has tapped into some crazy new revenue that we’re really not appreciating right now, it could all work out.

Going back and reading all of that it sounds like a bunch of negativity. I really don’t mean it to be. This deal is as exciting as all hell. It’s one of the biggest trades in baseball history, really, in terms of both big names and cash.  And with a trade so big it’s understandable that there are downsides for each side. No one ever completes a monster deal without some sort of risk or misgiving because, at the highest levels of business sophistication, no one truly gets suckered.

But on balance, if I had to say who won this one, I’d say it’s the Red Sox. Mostly because they now have far, far less to lose.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 4, Mariners 3: A pair of first inning two-run homers — from Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar — were all the Yankees needed, even with a less-sharp-than-usual Luis Severino.

In other news, reporters asked Aaron Boone after the game yesterday if the Yankees are too reliant on homers. Boone was, quite understandably, incredulous that someone was asking him that.

Can someone please tell me why people who cover the Yankees, nearly every single year, go through a “are the Yankees too reliant on home runs?” phase? Seriously, go search “Yankees” and some variation of “home run-reliant” or “home run-dependent” or whatever. It’s an evergreen. Hell, they did it TEN DAYS AGO. As if hitting homers is bad. I mean, I know I’m not a seasoned beat reporter and don’t know nothin, but I’m pretty sure homers are awesome and are literally the best thing you can do when you’re batting.

John: “I hit a double.”
Charlie: “I hit a homer.”

CHARLIE WINS

My god, if you can’t think of an angle, at least stop going back to the tired and dumb ones you take every year. Or, at the very least, if you’re going to continue to worry about the Yankees being too reliant on homers, acknowledge that the Yankees HIT A METRIC BUTT-TON of homers, they’re hit by guys who are expected to hit a lot of homers so it’s not a fluke and it’s all good.

But, hey, congratulations on getting a quote out of Boone. Your copy is complete and turned in and you can go home now.

Red Sox 9, Twins 2: Rick Porcello tossed one-hit shutout ball for seven innings. No one asked him if he’s too “getting guys out”-reliant. Missed opportunity, really. Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi went deep and the Sox racked up 16 hits in all.

Rockies 6, Mets 4: Nolan Arenado hit a three-run jack early — his third homer in as many days — and knocked in five runs in all. Dude drove in nine runs against the Mets over the past three games, in fact, so I imagine New York is happy to be leaving town. Kyle Freeland went six innings, allowing two, and got out of jams with double plays on three occasions.

Nationals 4, Orioles 2: Max Scherzer allowed two over seven and struck out nine but didn’t get the win because his mates decided not to take a lead until the eighth inning. It happens. That lead came via a two-run double from Juan Soto, who is now batting .326 with 16 RBI in 28 games, despite the fact that I literally — yes, literally — have t-shirts in my regular rotation that are older than he is. Anthony Rendon homered.

Diamondbacks 9, Pirates 3: Arizona jumped out with eight runs before the third inning was even over, giving license to my friends in Pittsburgh for the SABR convention this weekend to leave early and go raise hell. And believe me, you do NOT want to get in the way of a bunch of baseball historians when they’ve had a few drinks and have time on their hands. You’ll just be walking down the street and then all of a sudden you’re cornered by some guys in dad jeans lecturing you about Hank Greenberg’s season with the 1932 Beaumont Explorers of the Texas League and asking you if there’s a good place to find some beer nearby, but “nothing too hoppy because, man, my system just can’t take that since I hit 50.”

Reds 6, Cubs 2: Cincinnati enjoyed a six-run sixth inning, thanks to a bases-loaded walk drawn by Eugenio Suarez, a grand slam by Jesse Winker and an RBI single from Billy Hamilton. In other news, yesterday on Twitter there was a lot of discussion about how MLB could do a better job of marketing players. My friend Jeff, who works in P.R. and used to work for Major League Baseball, said a lot of very smart things about that, explaining why it’s not so simple as to say “MLB should market its stars better.” One of the minor points in that is that ballplayers, by virtue of the culture of the game, are conditioned to not draw attention to themselves and to downplay their stardom lest someone think they’re a hot dog or a glory hound or whatever. I’m not going to suggest that Jesse Winker is a budding superstar which MLB should be marketing hard, but his quote after the game illustrates the point:

“Guys put together great at-bats in front of me. Obviously, you can’t hit a grand slam unless guys get on base.”

There’s a certain admirable humility to that. It’s also nothing that’s gonna sell t-shirts, posters or make 12-year-olds say “WOW, WINKER IS THE MAN!”

Brewers 11, Cardinals 3: Brent Suter allowed two over seven and the Cardinals threw and bobbled the ball all over the place, allowing the Brewers to score six unearned runs. Eric Thames drove in three and Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar knocked in a couple a piece.

Angels 8, Blue Jays 5: Luis Valbuena homered twice and Kole Calhoun connected for the second consecutive game. The Jays have lost nine of ten on the road. Also, this happened:

That was the first tweet I saw when I woke up this morning and I’m still chuckling. It’s John Lamb, by the way. I hope he has a good sense of humor about this.

Giants 3, Padres 0: Madison Bumgarner is back. I mean, he’s been back, but now he’s BACK. The Giants’ ace tossed eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits and struck out eight. He also knocked in the Giants’ first and, as it happens, only necessary run, with a sac fly. Giants fans can finally relax, knowing that, in some ways at least, the old order has been restored.

Athletics vs. White Sox — POSTPONED:

Hmmm
Sunshine, blue skies, please go away.
My girl has found another and gone away.
With her went my future, my life is filled with gloom.
So day after day, I stayed locked up in my room.
I know to you it might sound strange.
But I wish it would rain. (How I wish that it would rain)
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah