25 August 2012

What the blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and the Red Sox means

August is the month for some crazy trading to go on but this blockbuster between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers may just take the cake. Boston will be sending Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto to Los Angeles in exchange for James Loney and a quartet of prospects, two quality pitching prospects in Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster as well as a couple of marginal players in second baseman Ivan De Jesus and outfielder Jerry Sands. It is the largest salary dump in sports history as the Dodgers will be taking on $262.5 million in remaining salary. But it's a deal that comes with big risks for both clubs but clear rewards for both as well.

For the Dodgers, taking on this large amount of salary is not a huge problem. After all, they were bought only a year ago for $2 billion and they have a huge television contract on the horizon, the kinds of which have turned many into big spenders (like the Rangers or Angels, for example). Plus, this is also the kind of calculated risk that they have done before this season and has worked out well (see: Hanley Ramirez). The hope is that for these players, a change of scenery was all they needed as well as moving into a competitive pennant race (Los Angeles is three games back of San Francisco in the NL West, 1.5 games back of the second Wild Card slot).

The clear crown jewel of the deal is Gonzalez. The Dodgers, whose offense has been largely stagnant of late even with the moves for Ramirez and Shane Victorino, have gotten little production from the first base position and while Gonzalez has been having a down season by his standards (.300, 15 homers, 86 RBIs), he has been starting to get hot in the second half. Plus it has been clear that he has been one of the more unhappy folks in Boston this season and he has not exactly gotten off to a great start at all with embattled manager Bobby Valentine. And Gonzalez is a Southern California native and of Mexican-American descent, which will be very valuable to the franchise.

No one is quite sure how Becket fits into a very solid Dodgers rotation although one could guess that he would take the rotation spot of a struggling Joe Blanton. Beckett had become the poster-boy of Boston's collapse last season, with the whole chicken and beer fiasco, and while he was decent through the end of June, he has been a disaster since, given credence to the pattern that Beckett really struggles in even years. But he does return to the National League and traditionally pitchers that move from the Junior to Senior Circuit typically have a better go at it, and he really needed to get out of town.

The inclusion of Crawford in the deal does not make much sense for the Dodgers, as they already have given large extensions to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, plus have talented Cuban defector Yusiel Puig on the horizon. But the hope is again that Crawford, who has had a truly miserable tenure in Boston after being signed away from Tampa, once he returns from Tommy John surgery can return to his play of when he was with the Rays but considering he is 31 years old, that could be a stretch.

Punto is pretty much insurance for the injured Jerry Hairston, Jr. as a utility player and a backup infielder. He won't see much playing time.

As for Boston, the reasons to make this deal are clear. They want to clear a lot of money to get more payroll and roster flexibility as well as to get rid of some disgruntled veterans in what has been a really messy clubhouse in the first year of the Ben Cherington-Valentine braintrust. Plus the Red Sox still have some key pieces as well as a strengthened farm system, one that gets a couple of really talented arms in De La Rosa and Webber, plus the payroll flexibility to go after the big guns the offseason that gives them hope for next year and beyond while putting an end to what has been a disastrous season, one that will leave the Red Sox out of the postseason for the third straight season for the first time since the 2000-2002 stretch.

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