Sunday, August 26, 2012

Big Deal

The Dodgers get:
Former All-Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez, a SoCal guy who could single-handedly double the production they get out of that spot
Former All-Star and World Series hero Josh Beckett, who looks primed to get a boost by returning to the NL
Former All-Star OF Carl Crawford, who was a lousy fit in Fenway's tiny left field, and who should do much better in the wide-open spaces of the NL West, once he recovers from Tommy John surgery
Infielder Nick Punto, who is Nick Punto, and was once part of a trade for Eric Milton
$11M in cash to help deal with the $260M in salary obligations they just took on, or, as some folks call it, "piss in the ocean".

The Red Sox get:
Sub-par 1B James Loney
Pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster
Infield sorta-prospect Ivan DeJesus, Jr. As someone who watched Ivan DeJesus, Sr. for many years, I'm not bullish
OF not-really-a-prospect-any-more Jerry Sands, who looks to be a AAAA-style tweener.

What the Sox really get out of this, though, has very little to do with the players who came back. They dumped hundreds of millions off payroll, recognizing that this team wasn't going to win as it was constructed, and they might as well come in fourth for $70M as for $170M. They cleared the decks of just about all of the last regime's big-ticket free agent purchases (and Nick Punto), making it clear that this is Ben Cherington's team now, and nobody - regardless of contract - was safe. They off-loaded the guys who supposedly led the mutiny against divisive manager Bobby Valentine - with the way the Red Sox seem to excel at mudslinging their own people on their way out of town, we'll never know the truth, but at least the optics are good - and made a strong effort to make the team "likeable" again. I'm not sure you can run an ad campaign on "We traded the jerks who wrote mean texts about the manager!" outside of middle school, but what the hey. Give them points for trying. They did all these things and got all of these intangible goods out of the deal, except...

...there is no way to spin this. The trade made the team worse, both in the short term and potentially for the next couple of years. A-Gon may not have been the Ruthian uber-masher the team envisioned when plucking him from the wide-open pastures of San Diego, but he still produced a hell of a lot more than James Loney ever will. Webster and De La Rosa aren't ready to contribute. Sands and DeJesus don't seem terribly likely to produce much of anything.  The team as it had been constructed was flawed, and subtracting a big bat from the middle of the order isn't going to help. Nor does this year's free agent market look likely to provide a quick turnaround. The best bat - Josh Hamilton - comes with all sorts of questions about durability. The second-best bat is Michael Bourn. All those zillion-dollar deals cleared off the payroll don't mean anything if there's nowhere else to spend the money.

And so, it remains to be seen how Boston's really going to react to the deal once they figure out what it means day-to-day. Sully from the Cape (long time listener, first time caller) may be crowing to Dale and Holley on WEEI about how they finally got rid of the guys who were screwing the Sox up, but give him a season of no-hope noncontention, and he just might change his tune. Loudly.

There's a strong sense that at least part of this deal was done to provide a sop to a fan base that found the team "unlikeable" because of all of its shenanigans. It remains to be seen what the team will do when its fan base says the Red Sox are unlikeable because they're losing.
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