Analyzing the Dodgers-Red Sox deal: The final analysis will come two years from now
The acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are huge. It makes them the best team in baseball, probably for several years to come. Expect a big rebound from Josh Beckett. Easy favorite to win the World Series.
Sounds like I’m talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers, right?
Those are actually words used by many sports writers in the spring of 2011 to describe the Boston Red Sox. Yes, less than two years ago the players expected to boost the Dodgers to great heights were the same ones expected to propel the Red Sox ahead of the Yankees and the AL East division for the better part of the 2010s.
Stars didn't shine for the Red Sox
Obviously, that failed to happen. Beckett didn’t have a rebound season, possibly because he was sidetracked by a clubhouse full of chicken and beer. Crawford’s awful hitting was surpassed only by his atrocious fielding. Gonzalez hit well in 2011 but after playing in relative anonymity in San Diego he seemed uncomfortable being the centerpiece of the Red Sox.
With these three stars, the Red Sox endured one of the biggest collapses in the history of baseball last September. The first person to pay for that disaster was manager Terry Francona. They also possibly blamed Jonathon Papelbon, since they didn’t try very hard to keep him in the off season.
Red Sox bring in Bobby V
Boston brought in Bobby Valentine as the manager, who is better known for his knowledge of Japanese than his people skills. Almost immediately he began to rub players the wrong way. The first to cross him was Kevin Youkilis and he was the first to depart. Then some players complained to management about him, among them Gonzalez. And now he’s gone. Dustin Pedroia apparently also grumbled about Bobby V, so he may be gone before next season, too.
Ironically, Red Sox fans seem as happy about the departure of Gonzalez and Crawford now as they were about their addition two years ago. The Dodger fans seem glad to welcome these disgruntled players into the fold.
Adrian Gonzalez the key to the trade
This is an interesting trade to analyze. On the surface, it appears the Dodgers gained the upper hand in the deal (for the record, the deal sends Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for first baseman James Loney (the only bona fide Major Leaguer), pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, infielder Ivan DeJesus and outfielder Jerry Sands.
The key player for the Dodgers was Gonzalez. This could be the best part of the deal all around. Gonzalez gets to return to the more relaxed atmosphere of Southern California and has stars like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez to take some of the heat off him from both pitchers and fans. The downside is that Dodger Stadium is not particularly friendly for power hitters, but Gonzalez will probably compensate with more doubles.
The other Dodger acquisitions
Beckett will be an interesting study. He has not pitched well for several years but there’s a pretty strong history of pitchers moving to the National League and experiencing immediate success, especially those coming from the AL East (A.J. Burnett is a prime example this season). So the study will be whether he was a once-good pitcher who has lost his stuff, or if he is still good, just no longer good enough for the AL East.
Crawford could be a star for the Dodgers – but I don’t think so. His defense has been so bad for a couple of seasons now that I think it’ll be hard for Los Angeles to keep him in the field all season. He might hit a little better in the NL, though, since pitchers there seem to throw a higher percentage of fast balls.
Nick Punto is a journeyman utility fielder who will be a utility fielder with the Dodgers. There’s not much else to say about him.
Who the Red Sox got
So what about the deal from the Red Sox perspective? Things don’t look as rosy from that angle.
Loney is a decent fielder at first with little power and not much of an average. He seems like an ill fit for Fenway Park. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and seems destined for some place like Houston next year.
Webster is a ground ball pitcher, a good thing at Fenway, who scouts believe should be ready for the Majors by next season. However, you never know with prospects.
De La Rosa is a fireballer coming off Tommy John surgery and may also be ready for the Majors. He will be a player to be named later, though, since another team claimed him on the waiver wire, meaning the Dodgers had to pull him back into their system.
DeJesus and Sands were both on the Dodgers’ Major League roster this season, although neither had seen much playing time. Both are a little old to be considered a true youth movement – De Jesus is 25 and Sands will turn 25 in September.
Sands could be a good fit in left field. In Triple A this season the right-handed hitter belted 24 homers with 101 RBIs and a .911 OPS. DeJesus hit .295 in Triple A and played both second and third for in 23 games after being called up by the Dodgers. The Red Sox may slot him at third until Will Middlebrooks returns. But then where will he play? Second if they dump Pedroia, too?
Real value of the trade will show up in two years
Right now it looks like the Dodgers are the clear winners in this trade. But many baseball experts thought Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett would turn the Red Sox into a super team this season and beyond. That obviously didn’t happen. So it’s possible that two years from now Dodger fans will be as eager to dump them as the Sox fans were this year.
It’s also possible that in a couple of years that the Red Sox will be winning with De La Rosa, Webster and Sands, although it’s just as likely that in two years none of them will be in the big leagues.
In other words, it’s possible that this blockbuster trade, one some are calling the Deal of the Century, could be a bare blip in our memories two years down the road, just like the trade for Gonzalez and the signing of Crawford are for us now.