The 2013 Red Sox will look nothing like the 2012 Red Sox. Of this, we are certain. Now that the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers has been completed, it is time to figure out exactly how the Red Sox move forward from this. The Red Sox front office might be the only people that actually know what the plan is, but that won’t stop millions of Red Sox fans from speculating. I might as well contribute my two cents on the matter.
First, I think this was a terrible baseball trade. The argument that the media, and some fans, have been using since the trade was first rumored is that the Red Sox desperately needed to replenish their farm system, punt 2013 and prepare to win in 2014 and beyond. My very simple question is, why?
Last time I checked, we were talking about the Boston Red Sox. You know, the team with the $160 million payroll for the last several years. I’ll be the first to admit that that payroll has not done much to get us to a World Series recently, or even into the playoffs, but does that mean you get rid of your three highest paid players and start over? That’s what the Red Sox have just done. (Average Annual Salary).
One thing that Theo Epstein always understood as the general manager of the Red Sox is that it’s OK to have bridge years, but you better make the playoffs or come damn close to the playoffs while you bridge to the future. I always viewed 2012 as a bridge year, but this trade makes me think that the front office thought that this was supposed to be a strong winning season. Why else would they decide to trade their best hitter in 2011 and their best pitcher in 2011? Were they really that sick of the attitudes?
Second, from a pure baseball standpoint, this trade makes no sense. Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best all around players in the game today and the Red Sox had him signed to a bargain considering the contracts that Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols signed last offseason. Also, you don’t see the Seattle Mariners desperate to dump Felix Hernandez on anyone to rebuild their team. Red Sox ownership (and beat writers) are going to try to sell you that this trade had to be made to get anything in return. Well, yeah, but you don’t have to trade your BEST player to rebuild. The Twins aren’t trading Joe Mauer. The Yankees never traded Derek Jeter. Someone had to go in order to get anything in return from the Dodgers. It turns out that Adrian Gonzalez was that someone, but the assumption is that the other guys had to go, too. Did they?
Josh Beckett has had a down year, but he’s still a guy that can go out there and give his team a chance to win on most nights. (It’s true, go look at his game logs.) Beckett had a terrible ERA because he had several horrific starts, but he also got no run support when he had really good starts. For example, Clay Buchholz has thrown 11 quality starts this season to Beckett’s 10. Clay Buchholz gets great (understatement) run support, and that’s why he has 11 wins and Beckett only has 5. Beckett certainly had an attitude that left a lot to be desired, but does that really mean he should be given away? And yes, he has been given away because Adrian Gonzalez brought the entire haul of prospects.
Carl Crawford is a more interesting case. He has the potential to be one of the best players in baseball and he has proven that on the Major League level. None of the players the Red Sox have received in return are proven elite players. That said, Carl Crawford has serious health concerns and he might be a bit of a head case. Sure, he came off the DL this season and performed quite well. Certainly not $20 million per season good, but a lot better than most Sox fans expected after a disappointing 2011. The question for the front office became, do we take that chance? Evidently, the answer was a resounding no.
If I were the GM, I would never make this trade. Some fans are elated with the moves, and some don’t understand how you can give up Adrian Gonzalez just to get rid of two “bad” contracts. Health was a major concern for the 2012 Red Sox, as in, they weren’t. There have also been some incredibly strange games (see: losing twice while scoring at least 12 runs) and other crazy things that can simply be chalked up to bad luck. If you gave the team at least another half a season to get it together, with some minor changes, you can get the point where you can draft another set of players. That is, more prospects in the farm system and if it doesn’t work out, then you can blow up the team. I don’t think the Red Sox were quite at the stage where it was time to trade their best player for prospects that may or may not pan out. If this trade happened next season, I’d be more accepting. I simply cannot accept that the Red Sox will not be a contender in 2013. Not even close!
Of course, there’s always the increased monetary flexibility that this trade gives them. I have no clue who they could actually spend any of this money on, but it’s freed up! The only player on the roster that needs to be locked up is Jacoby Ellsbury, and that might not be the best idea. No matter what anyone says, David Ortiz does not deserve a multi-year contract, and after his achilles injury this season, I can’t imagine him getting one anywhere else. If you look at the list of free agent first basemen and left fielders, it’s not promising. Neither are the starting pitchers, though I’d assume the Sox won’t be in the market for a big contract this offseason.
In fact, I’m not exactly sure when they’ll be ready to hand out another big contract at all. It’s going to be a long time before the Red Sox are contenders again. Buckle up, diehards. On the bright side, maybe Peter Abraham will end his non-stop complaining about “pink hats.”