Sunday, August 26, 2012

Red Sox, Dodgers Blockbuster

One of the biggest blockbuster trades in major league history happened this weekend. The Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, Ivan DeJesus, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, and Jerry Sands. Less than two years ago, the Red Sox acquired both Gonzalez and Crawford in a matter of days. Now, after a late season collapse last year and a losing season this year, both players are gone. Both teams will feel the implications of this deal for a long time.

For the Dodgers, they are adding a big time bat in Adrian Gonzalez. He is an elite hitter and a huge improvement over weak hitting James Loney. After starting the season with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and a bunch of journeyman in their lineup, they now have a deep lineup. In the last month, they have added Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Gonzalez to their lineup. Kemp now has a lot more protection in the lineup than just Ethier. With Jerry Hairston out for the season, Dee Gordon out til September, and Juan Uribe playing horribly, Nick Punto helps add some depth in the infield.

Gonzalez hit a home run in his first Dodger at bat Saturday. He was never completely comfortable in Boston, and lives in Southern California. He should be more at home in Los Angeles. He was heating up in the second half after having a down first half. I think A Gone will be pretty good with the Dodgers. The Dodgers are on the hook for the rest of his contract, but Gonzalez is the safest bet to produce.

Josh Beckett had a good run with the Red Sox, but it was time for him to go. The beer and chicken controversy and last season's collapse never went away this year, and Boston's fans were tired of him. Beckett is a pitcher who is good every other year. This season, he had a ERA over 5, and was in need of a change of scenery. I'm not sure which Josh Beckett the Dodgers are getting, the dominant postseason ace, or the struggling pitcher with a bad back. Despite last season's controversy, Beckett did post a 2.89 ERA in 2011. It's possible he could rebound, and the Dodgers have him for two more years after this one.

The biggest risk of this deal is Carl Crawford. Crawford was a big time player for Tampa Bay, and a four time All Star. Last season was a disaster for Crawford, and he had career lows in batting average(.255) and on base percentage(.289). His power numbers were down, his steals were down, and his defense wasn't as good. He missed most of this season, coming back after the All Star break only to be sidelined again. He recently underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out until sometime next year. Position players aren't sidelined as long as pitchers are, but he's likely to miss time next season.

The Dodgers are now on the hook for well over $ 250 million in contracts for this trade. New ownership is not afraid to spend money, and is looking to bring a winner to LA. The Dodgers are certainly better now, but I'm not sure if it's good long term for them. There is no guarantee how well Crawford will play, and they are stuck with him for the next five years. Will he be able to return to his Tampa Bay form? Or is he in decline? How will Beckett respond to this trade? He left Boston with a tarnished image, but the Dodgers are looking for him to revive his career in LA. They took a similar chance on Hanley Ramirez, who had questions about his character as well. He's played well so far in LA, and ironically Ramirez was part of package Boston sent to the Marlins to acquire Beckett.

As for the Red Sox, they are a vastly different team than they were a year ago, or even a few days ago. They traded Kevin Youkilis earlier in the year, and many players had issues with new manager Bobby Valentine. Gonzalez and Beckett were rumored to be some of those players. Youkilis and former catcher Kelly Shoppach also had problems with Bobby V. It looks like the Sox will re-tool in the offseason and build around Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Will Middlebrooks. David Ortiz is a free agent after the season, but he is unlikely to get a long term deal. Most likely, the Sox will offer him a one year extension.

Boston did acquire two top pitching prospects from the Dodgers in Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa. These two pitchers are the centerpiece of the deal. The Red Sox are in need of pitching, especially without Beckett and Jon Lester has been ineffective this year. They also got infielder Ivan DeJesus and outfielder Jerry Sands in this deal. James Loney will fill in at first base for the rest of the season, but I can't imagine him being the long term solution for Boston. He showed a lot of promise in 2007 and 2008, but never developed into the hitter that the Dodgers thought. He never hit for much power, but his average has nosedived.

It might be a couple of years before Boston is contending again. They have plenty of money available now to spend this offseason, but may be reluctant to do so. The Gonzalez/Crawford acquisitions of two years ago did not work out well. They were supposed to be World Series favorites in 2011, but choked down the stretch. It cost manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein their jobs. Boston had some clubhouse problems last year, and Valentine has not helped that out. I don't think Valentine is the right manager for the Red Sox, but their problems run deeper. This trade gives them a fresh slate, and they are looking for a new identity after last season's collapse.

For the Dodgers, they are in it to win now. They are currently behind the Giants in the West, but are only two games back. These additions will make them a better ballclub, but there is no guarantee of postseason success because of their additions. As we seen with the Red Sox, big spending doesn't always translate to winning.

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