On July 31st, 2004, I was in a car with my family en route to Chilis. I was salivating at the thought of my upcoming basket of crispy chicken with WEEI playing in the background. Then, all of a sudden, rumors started swirling. I was just 13, but I understood the gravity of the situation. Nomar Garciaparra, who had been a constant on the Red Sox throughout my fandom to that point, was being shipped out of town. My family and I had arrived at our destination before the rumors were completed, so we waited. We sat in the car for a long time listening to the radio waiting to hear the official word on what was going and what was coming back. In my entire life as a Boston sports fan, that was the craziest transaction I can ever remember. Well, it was the craziest until yesterday happened.
We all know the details of the trade by now. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto are heading to Los Angeles. Rubby De La Rosa, James Loney, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus are coming to Boston. The Red Sox will reportedly only have to eat $12 million of the $262 million dollars remaining on the outgoing contracts.
Over the next week and more, there are going to be a ton of articles written analyzing this deal from all angles. I’ll be writing a few of those myself. However, that’s not what this article is about. This is just a reaction to the deal on the surface. As I write this at 10:20 AM, it is being reported that the trade is officially done. All season I’ve been preaching to people about how it was virtually impossible for the Red Sox to shed themselves of these contracts. Then, out of nowhere, Ben Cherington not only got rid of two bad contracts, but he got some real prospects in return as well. As Twitter friend and fellow Over the Monster writer Brendan O’Toole pointed out, Cherington went into straight-ninja mode.
I hopped on Twitter yesterday around 7:00, while these trade rumors were swirling, but specific details were few and far between. I assumed they would have to eat a fairly significant amount of money to get even one piece of value back. At first, I hated this move as it seemed like the team was overreacting to a bad first half of the season for Gonzalez. This is the problem with Twitter. I let myself fall into the trap of reacting before all of the details are in. Now that we know everything that’s going out and everything that’s coming back, it seems the Red Sox have made a great deal. They shed a tremendous amount of long-term payroll that was tied up in underperforming players (Beckett and Crawford). Gonzalez is a great player and his contract isn’t terrible, so it’s sad to see him go. However, this deal doesn’t happen without him. Losing that sweet swing was a necessary evil to get this franchise back on track.
That’s not to say they can’t mess this up, though. With this new payroll felxibility, it is imperative they use it wisely. This offseason, Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke are the biggest free agents on the market. They will both likely be commanding huge contracts. If they can be convinced to come in on short-term deals, I’d be all over that. However, that’s unlikely. This team can’t fall into the same trap of crippling long-term contracts that lead to this megadeal.
There is still a lot that needs to happen before this trade can truly be evaluated. If they don’t do anything rash this winter and set up this team for success in 2014, this is one of the best deals in recent memory. By that time, Boston hopes that top-prospects Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. will be ready for regular time in the big leagues. With the right moves, the team could be back to being a World Series contender by then. It’s all thanks to this amazing ninja move by Ben Cherington.