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August 27, 2012

Transaction Analysis

L.A. Consequential

by R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein


IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Reportedly will acquire 1B-L James Loney, OF-R Jerry Sands, INF-R Ivan De Jesus, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, and RHP Allen Webster from the Dodgers for 1B-L Adrian Gonzalez, OF-L Carl Crawford, RHP Josh Beckett, and INF-S Nick Punto, and cash. [8/24]

Impact on playoff odds: -0.3 percent

It's not often that a team moves more than $230 million in contractual obligations with a single trade, but Ben Cherington and the Red Sox have done just that. In a way, Cherington is following a NBA formula. He had to sacrifice the potential maximum return on Gonzalez in order to hand off two potentially toxic contracts. In return, Cherington gets budget room, Webster, and a few other possibly useful pieces. It’s yet another sign that Cherington is willing to make a bold move when one presents itself as sensible.

Do Boston fans ever yearn for Doug Mientkiewicz? If so, Loney will be a welcome sight. A constant tease, Loney is a big, athletic first baseman who hits as though he were a middle infielder. Loney is a good defender and his poor season at the plate is atypical, even by his admittedly low standards. His inclusion seems based on two angles: 1) someone has to play first base for Boston and 2) his remaining salary serves as cash ballast. Boston fans would be smart to not get attached: Loney is a free agent at season’s end. His stay in Boston, like Mientkiewicz’s before, may last for only weeks.

De La Rosa will head to the Red Sox as a player to be named later. The Dodgers had placed him on waivers in anticipation of including him in the trade, but a team—believed to be Toronto—placed a claim. The Dodgers optioned him to Double-A soon thereafter, and he’s likely to sit out the remainder of the season until he can become Boston property without the assistance of waivers. De La Rosa only recently returned from Tommy John surgery. His velocity is stunning; the rest of his arsenal still needs polish. It’s possible that his long-term home is in the bullpen.

Kevin Goldstein recently shared a scout’s observations of Webster:

“It's all there,” said a National League scout who was taken off his coverage to see the team. “When everything is going, he has three average-to-plus pitches and knows what to do with them.” The scout noted that Webster's game has matured, as well. “He knows he has a really good—and potentially special—changeup, but he's not over-relying on it anymore,” the scout explained. “It's like he finally figured out that setting that pitch up with 92-94 mph heat is the best way to go about it, and his curveball has improved as well. He used to get over the ball and it wouldn't finish, but now it's breaking through the zone much better.”

The Dodgers were reluctant to include Webster in their various other trades this deadline, so for them to part with him now tells you how eager they were to get the deal done. R.J. Anderson

With his stunningly good second half, Webster had eclipsed Zach Lee as the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ system, with some scouts upping his ceiling from a potential three to a potential two. With his velocity and high-quality secondary offering, it's an understandable projection now that he seems to have harnessed his stuff.

Sands has put up big numbers at Albuquerque, but he's never quite inspired enough faith to earn a shot at replacing Loney's weak bat at first base. He fell out of favor when he struggled to make the adjustments needed at the big-league level. His career .291/.363/.557 line at Triple-A is certainly impressive, but it comes with all the warnings that are usually attached to a player at one of the minors’ best hitting environments, and his splits don’t tell us much, as his division was filled with equally wonderful places to put up numbers. He's a bit of a bat-only type as a hulking slugger with well below-average speed, but he's decent in left field, although his arm is lacking. He'll get a long look at first base, but has a peak projection for most as a second-division starter who can hold down the fort until someone better comes along.

De Jesus was a highly regarded prospect following the 2008 season, when he hit .324/.419/.423 at Double-A Jacksonville and profiled as a quality middle infielder with excellent on-base skills. He suffered a broken leg during spring training in 2009, and his prospect stock has been on a steady slide since. He's no longer a patient hitter, but he does show a solid line-drive bat. In the field, he's lost more than a step and now lacks the speed for shortstop and the offensive profile for third base. He doesn't have enough of a bat to be an everyday second baseman, which isn't happening in Boston anyway, so his best bet is to turn into a utility player who can at least handle the left side in a pinch due to his defensive fundamentals. —Kevin Goldstein

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Reportedly will acquire 1B-L Adrian Gonzalez, OF-L Carl Crawford, RHP Josh Beckett, and INF-S Nick Punto, and cash from the Red Sox for 1B-L James Loney, OF-R Jerry Sands, INF-R Ivan De Jesus, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, and RHP Allen Webster. [8/24]

Impact on playoff odds: +3.1 percent

The Dodgers have been the league’s most active buyer this season. It shows. Ned Colletti’s bunch entered July 25 with a 14.7 percent chance at making the postseason. Now, after acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League, and seemingly everyone else on the market, the Dodgers have roughly doubled their odds.

Gonzalez is the best player in the trade and therefore the key to the deal on the Dodgers’ end. Although he's in the midst of a down season, he still ranks 10th in True Average among first basemen. Whenever an unathletic 30-something-year-old goes through a down season, there will be concerns about his long-term viability. But whereas Gonzalez’s contract would normally viewed as an impediment, it actually looks like a potential perk when compared to the contracts signed by other top-tier first basemen in recent months:

Adrian Gonzalez Versus Other Big-Time First Basemen, 2009-12

Player

PA (2009-12)

TAv (2009-12)

Remaining Contract

Adrian Gonzalez

2,615

.317

6 years, $148m

Prince Fielder

2,659

.318

8 years, $191m

Albert Pujols

2,577

.333

9 years, $228m

Joey Votto

2,281

.335

11 years, $235m


Declines in power and walk rate are the differences between this season and Gonzalez’s past efforts. It’s possible that his numbers have been affected by a bum shoulder. It’s also possible that he’s back to being very good; nine of his 15 home runs have come in the second half, and five of those have been hit in August.

Besides being a massive upgrade at the plate over James Loney, Gonzalez brings a familiarity with the division, a very good glove, and a great hitting mind to the table. There are few batters with more smarts, and his wit is part of the reason why Gonzalez should continue to be a productive hitter, even as his physical tools fade. Surrounding Gonzalez with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and the aforementioned Ramirez gives the Dodgers one of the league’s better middle-of-the-orders.

If Gonzalez’s inclusion is the good news for Dodgers fans, then Crawford’s inclusion is the bad news. There are two large, obvious downsides in acquiring Crawford. For one, he underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday. Because Crawford is a position player, the timetable for his return is closer to Opening Day 2013 than next August or September. The other big downside is that, despite a .260/.292/.419 line these past two seasons, Crawford will be owed more than $101 million over the next five seasons.

Crawford appeared to be a legitimate MVP candidate as recently as the 2010 season. Injuries and underperformance have muddied his outlook, but there is some reason to believe he can return to decency, if not his superstar status. Crawford showed this season, albeit in a small sample, that his ability to hit big-league pitching remains. A move away from left field in Fenway should restore his plus-plus glove. The two questions Crawford will have to answer are whether he can say healthy, and whether he’ll put too much pressure on himself in an attempt to justify the contract and trade, which was one of the reasons provided to explain his struggles last season.

Beckett returns to the National League some six-plus years after the Marlins shipped him to Boston. He's no longer the 25-year-old whiz kid he was then. Despite a 2.89 ERA last season, Beckett’s gadabout ways during games were supposedly a root cause for Boston’s collapse. The criticism carried over to this season, with off-day golf rounds becoming a key piece of evidence for the first time outside of divorce court. Ascribing all of Beckett’s issues to the circus-like atmosphere is being too kind: his stuff has regressed, as Dan Brooks and Kevin Goldstein explained earlier this year.

Goldstein says that Beckett’s 70 fastball has turned into a 55/60. His once-biting curve has lost a similar amount of stuff: Goldstein reports that he would be “leery” of putting a 60 rating on it and might call it a 50-plus. His cutter, he explains, is at best a 40. Given how often he throws it, the cutter could be something of an Achilles’ heel for Beckett going forward.

Goldstein is not terribly optimistic about Beckett’s performance going forward and grades him as a no. 4 or no. 5 starter going forward.

Joe Blanton has pitched like a no. 8 or 9 starter with the Dodgers (28 hit and 18 runs over 21 innings), so the Dodgers would be upgrading if Beckett pitches as though he were a true back-end starter. The move away from Boston and Fenway Park should help, if only on a surface level. Beckett is due more than $30 million over the next two seasons.

There’s a scene, in one of Kevin Smith’s DVD specials, where an audience member asks a question about facial hair involving Jesus Christ, Chuck Norris, and Chewbacca. The absurdity of linking the three together causes Smith to laugh and recite the names again for effect. Punto’s inclusion causes the same effect here. Imagine the introductory press conference: here are three players with a combined 11 All-Star appearances between them, and here is a 34-year-old utility infielder with a career 75 OPS+.

All joking aside, Punto should improve the bottom of the Dodgers roster. Currently, Juan Uribe, Adam Kennedy, and Luis Cruz serve as the team’s third basemen and backup infielders. On performance alone, one has to believe Uribe will be out—a familiar feeling for a player with a .260 on-base percentage these past two seasons, no doubt. Punto is having a poor season, too, but he brings more to the table than Uribe, namely on-base skills and defensive chops. He is due $1.5 million next season R.J. Anderson

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

53 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Sharky

Wow.

Aug 25, 2012 04:47 AM
rating: 3
 
dwinning

This is why I LOVE BP: massive trade going down friday night, we roll out of bed saturday morning and find this great analysis.

Aug 25, 2012 05:34 AM
rating: 17
 
pobothecat

My thoughts exactly. You're all fine Americans.

Aug 25, 2012 09:54 AM
rating: 1
 
swarmee

Best player in a keeper league: Josh Beckett or Carl Crawford?

Aug 25, 2012 07:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Matthew James Geer

Beckett

Aug 25, 2012 16:24 PM
rating: 0
 
RaysProf

Why is the return of Crawford in April, i.e., opening day of 2013, rather than August a downside? Is it more likely he will not return until opening day of 2014?

Aug 25, 2012 07:22 AM
rating: 1
 
Nils J

He's saying that Tommy John surgery is a downside, not the return date. I think.

Aug 25, 2012 07:49 AM
rating: 0
 
RaysProf

Thanks - this make sense, but since I had known this fact, I assumed the downside was related to the date of return. Now it would be nice to know the success rate of Tommy John surgery for both pitchers and positional plays. What is the probability that Crawford returns to his pre-Red Sox days ability?

Aug 25, 2012 16:06 PM
rating: 0
 
accies

I have read that position players require less time to come back from TJS compared to pitchers. That might explain the early return date.

Aug 25, 2012 08:24 AM
rating: 1
 
ofMontreal

Position players usually return in 6-8 months from TJS, which puts him on for spring training. But more important is the change of scenery. Crawford needs exactly this.

Aug 25, 2012 09:32 AM
rating: 4
 
eighteen

I dunno. The last time Crawford changed scenery he fell off a cliff; and he spent so little time actually playing in Boston it's hard to attribute that to the city or the Red Sox. Why would this change necessarily be an improvement?

Aug 25, 2012 21:03 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

It couldn't hurt.

Aug 26, 2012 11:53 AM
rating: 2
 
Nils J

Because Crawford is on the disabled list, I thought he couldn't be traded. Obviously this isn't the case, could somebody clear this up for me? Thanks

Aug 25, 2012 07:45 AM
rating: 0
 
ObviouslyRob

He might be a "player to be named later" like de la Rosa.

Aug 25, 2012 09:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Asinwreck

If the receiving team is willing, there is no reason why a DL'ed player cannot be traded.

Aug 25, 2012 10:38 AM
rating: 3
 
R.A.Wagman

Very true. During the July deadline, the Cubs picked up Arodys Vizcaino from Atlanta who is in the midst of TJS recovery. Cubs were willing to take that risk, and so are, seemingly, the Dodgers with Crawford.

Aug 25, 2012 17:23 PM
rating: 0
 
Nils J

Thanks guys!

Sep 11, 2012 10:51 AM
rating: 0
 
smallflowers

If the Sox don't ask Ortiz back, that and this trade would clear something in the $65M/year range for the franchise. I suppose no one is talking about this paving the way for an Ellsbury extension because of his agent, but doesn't this deal at least pave the way for the influx of Hamilton-Greinke level players? Let's say Ross resigns for an appropriate amount, and Lavarnway assumes a Napoli/Santana/Victor style role at 1B/C/DH. They need an ace, but having a hole in LF, 1B, and SS doesn't seem like the worst outcome if you have ~$65M annually to play with.

And the influx of youth perhaps paves the way for them to creatively approach a trade for Elvis Andrus, who would be a very good long-term fit for the Sox.

Aug 25, 2012 09:25 AM
rating: -1
 
Morris Greenberg

They might not have 65 million to juggle around with. They are probably still going to swallow 20ish million to these players and it's not entirely clear if they'll be able to get up to that payroll again. After Dice-K, Lackey, Crawford, and Beckett all backfiring on them with their huge paydays, is ownership willing to just throw huge contracts right away at a bunch of other high end free agents/extensions?

Aug 25, 2012 14:36 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

Ortiz is the most popular player in Red Sox Nation, probably since Yaz was around, and is still highly productive.

With all the PR issues the front office has had, who thinks they are willing to take another hit by letting Big Papi go? And just to save a little more salary?

I surely don't.

Aug 26, 2012 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
apbadogs

Uggh, god I hate the "Nation" stuff. The other day on local radio here in Hampton Roads Virginia sports guy was talking about Old Dominion and "Monarch Nation". When will this all go away?

Aug 27, 2012 07:33 AM
rating: 7
 
Robotey

agreed - Nation is over and done with--though you can't dis Sawx fans for this one--it was theirs first

Aug 27, 2012 11:16 AM
rating: -1
 
ofMontreal

Welcome to the salary cap era baseball. This is a full size basketball trade, just without the protected first round picks.

Aug 25, 2012 09:26 AM
rating: 5
 
ptfoley

I really doubt, after dumping these salaries, the Sox are going to go after Hamilton or Greinke.

Aug 25, 2012 13:11 PM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

Yeah, I don't see it either. I would expect that Boston is targeting 2014. If anything, I could see them trade away someone like Lester this winter for more prospects.

Aug 25, 2012 13:41 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Did everyone have to clear waivers and then be claimed by the Dodgers?

If so, if I were a GM, I'd stick my nose in and see if I can get one of them to flip me a b prospect for letting the player get through the trade.

Aug 25, 2012 14:03 PM
rating: 0
 
Sean

They did have to clear waivers, but since the waiver period is something like 48 hours, players like Loney and Punto had probably already cleared. Would you really be willing to put in a claim and risk having to take Crawford or Beckett? Plus, I just don't see how making the threat would get you a prospect -- only one team is awarded the waiver claim, so if you let a player by, you're out of the discussion. If you put in a claim and was awarded it, then congrats, you ruined the deal already anyway.

Aug 25, 2012 18:53 PM
rating: 2
 
drawbb

From the Boston end of the deal, this has to be considered as quite likely the greatest trade ever.

Aug 25, 2012 15:34 PM
rating: 3
 
HonusCobb

I'm confused about how this trade went down. All players had to clear waivers right? There were really no takers for Gonzalez? Despite the contract. You'd think he'd be a welcome addition to many rebuilding teams that have money (like the Cubs or Mets). Or how about the Orioles trying to make a playoff push? I'm jus confused about how this even happened.

Aug 26, 2012 05:39 AM
rating: 0
 
JohnnyB

Beckett and Crawford clearing waivers is not surprising. Gonzalez was labeled as instigator of the Valentine uprising (which in retrospect may now have been a plant by upper management).

If you look like a cancer, teams won't take you especially if you have a long term contract.

Prior to the Valentine story, he might have been claimed, but not after.

Aug 26, 2012 05:53 AM
rating: -2
 
drawbb

I question that assertion in this case. Under ordinary circumstances, you may be right.

The biggest surprise to me among teams that passed on claiming has to be Texas. It was Adrian's original organization, they're flush with new TV contract cash, 1B is one of the few holes on their roster and they're pushing for a third straight WS berth, plus he'd be a market-value insurance policy if Hamilton and/or Napoli depart this winter.

Unless the Rangers already made some internal decision to budget the money for an off-season signing we don't know about yet, claiming Gonzalez would seem like a slam dunk.

Aug 26, 2012 10:51 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

The Red Sox have made a habit of torching their own players in the media.

Aug 26, 2012 11:55 AM
rating: 1
 
saigonsam

Not sure about this, but I'd guess the Dodgers had a higher priority on the waiver wire than the Rangers.

Aug 26, 2012 18:27 PM
rating: 2
 
antonsirius

The rules as I understand them have every team in the same league as the waiving team getting priority last to first, then teams in the other league last to first. That would have put the Rangers ahead of the Dodgers.

Aug 26, 2012 19:20 PM
rating: 6
 
ddufourlogger

That's the way I always understood it too...

Aug 27, 2012 08:45 AM
rating: 0
 
jhensley

Texas may have put in a claim but LAD would've been awarded the claim before the Rangers due to record i believe.

Aug 27, 2012 07:16 AM
rating: 0
 
Eddie Bajek

AL Teams had priority before the Dodgers.

Aug 27, 2012 07:57 AM
rating: 3
 
apbadogs

Not too mention Gonzalez is not aging gracefully. His best days are clearly behind him.

Aug 27, 2012 07:34 AM
rating: -1
 
Behemoth

There is an article elsewhere on the site which suggests that, in practice, teams only make waiver claims if there is a reasonable likelihood that they can make a deal. So Texas probably knew that Gonzalez was only available if they gave up a load of prospects, or took on nasty contracts, and thus decided to pass. They may also have miscalculated that nobody would take on the relevant contracts, and thus that there was no need to block. Either that, or they don't currently have the cash to take on Gonzalez's salary if they were awarded him.

Aug 27, 2012 03:43 AM
rating: 3
 
Ric Size

By not claiming Gonzalez on waivers, Texas is allowing a competitor to tear itself apart. It seems to me a prudent strategy to pass on AG to allow that to happen. The Red Sox are now rebuilding during Texas' championship window. Boston only had to eat $11 million in the deal, plus they received prospects, so it's a great deal for them.

Aug 26, 2012 11:01 AM
rating: 1
 
drawbb

If, by "competitor", you mean Boston then I seriously doubt that was much of a consideration from the Texas point of view. The Red Sox are not a competitor to Texas in 2012 at all.

At the time Gonzalez passed through waivers a few days ago, there would've been no realistic way to envision Boston finding a trading partner who'd willingly and enthusiastically assume the Crawford AND Beckett deals as an acquisition cost in a massive multi-player swap. Perhaps the latter, but certainly not the former. We're talking about an unprecedented event.

Given the totality of circumstances, I don't see any way Texas could've reasonably anticipated Boston being able to hit the reset button and clear the decks for the 2013 right now in August 2012--or why Texas should've taken 2013 into consideration even if they had known.

Furthermore, even if Boston's 2013 situation was a consideration in Texas's 2012 thinking, wouldn't taking Gonzalez directly from a 2013 competitor HELP the Rangers' chances next season?

Aug 26, 2012 12:55 PM
rating: 1
 
Ric Size

My bad. I hadn't realized that AG passed through waivers before Beckett & Crawford.

Aug 26, 2012 19:50 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I never thought I'd see an article at BP that said Punto was a relative asset on offense.

Aug 26, 2012 11:54 AM
rating: 6
 
sbnirish77

The overspending by the Red Sox in an attempt to keep up with the Yankees resulted in a demise similar to that suffered by the Soviet Union in trying to match the spending of a Ronald Reagan-inspired defense budget.

Eventually they ran out of bullets and collpased under their own weight.

The Red Sox, like the Soviet Union, will return, but never to the same prominence they once held.

Hey but they always have those 4 games in October to remember.

Aug 26, 2012 19:38 PM
rating: -3
 
smallflowers

8 games, bub.

Aug 26, 2012 20:19 PM
rating: 1
 
Duranimal

Excellent analogy. One of Reagan's greatest accomplishments.

Aug 26, 2012 20:41 PM
rating: -3
 
Robotey

One of? Are there others?

Aug 27, 2012 11:18 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The overspending by the Dodgers in an attempt to keep up with the Giants resulted in a demise similar to that suffered by MySpace in trying to match the spending of a Mark Zuckerberg-inspired technology budget.

Eventually they ran out of adspace and collapsed under their own weight.

The MySpace, like the Facebook, will linger, but never to the same prominence they once held.

Hey but they always have Justin Timberlake to remember.

Aug 27, 2012 02:50 AM
rating: 8
 
SGreenwell

Jesus, this seems like a ridiculously dire stance to take, especially when the Rays are competing year in and year out on a $50M to $100M payroll, and the Orioles and Pirates have managed to come back from the dead - finally - to be competitors this year. In baseball and sports in general, no team is ever dead. The freakin' Clippers are still alive.

Aug 27, 2012 05:58 AM
rating: 2
 
Shaun P.
(676)

I don't think the analogy really works the entire way, and perhaps you didn't realize this, but Nicholas Thompson at the New Yorker made it a day before you did:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2012/08/the-red-sox-trade-adrian-gonzalez.html

Aug 27, 2012 15:51 PM
rating: 1
 
Robotey

Facebook and the Dodgers make for an intriguing comparison, but I 'd say it's apples and oranges. Though MLB teams are not immune to overspending, big cash cows like the Sawx and the Dodgers maintain bankable revenue streams that even now are on the rise. The Dodgers sold for $2 billion because of the potential of their impending TV deal. Dodgers ownership anticipates becoming Yankees West Coast. The Sawx will spend like sailors again shortly. The Rays will never be able to do anything approaching that.

Aug 27, 2012 11:21 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

It is apples and oranges for a lemonade parody.

Aug 27, 2012 16:06 PM
rating: 0
 
juiced

Sox made out like bandits. Dodgers made out with their sister.

Aug 27, 2012 21:43 PM
rating: -1
 
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