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February 28, 2013
Out of Left Field
Revisiting a Blockbuster
After the 2005 season, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein donned a gorilla costume and snuck undetected out of Fenway Park. Going back centuries, this is how Epsteins quit their jobs. A few months later owner John Henry coaxed Epstein back to work. (He wore, as is the family custom, an alligator outfit). While he was gone, the Red Sox’ reins were held jointly by three people: Jed Hoyer, now general manager of the Cubs under Epstein; Ben Cherington, Epstein’s eventual successor as general manager in Boston; and Bill Lajoie, a veteran front office man and former player who ran the Tigers in the mid-to-late ’80s. Despite persistent rumors that Epstein would come back, the Red Sox didn’t sit around waiting. While Mark Loretta and top prospect Andy Marte were intriguing acquisitions, the group’s crowing achievement was sending Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia, and Jesus Delgado to Florida for Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota, and Mike Lowell. It was a polarizing trade at the time and remains one to this day.
This past summer, seven seasons after the trade was consummated, an ending of sorts occurred. The Dodgers acquired both Ramirez and Beckett from Miami and Boston, respectively, while Miami dealt Sanchez to Detroit. Thus, as the 2013 season dawns, all of the players in the deal have moved on from their acquiring teams. This seems like the perfect time to look back at the deal.
At The Time
I never did get on the Hanley Ramirez bandwagon, since I sort of expect it's going to the same junkyard that the Rey Quinones bandwagon wound up in. This is more a case of dumping a general goody bag to get some fancy candy, with the Red Sox taking on the penalty of employing and paying Lowell as the price for adding needed help to their rotation and to their pen. I think it's also realistic of them to have dumped this particular package of prospects, because as much as I might like Sanchez, it wasn't like Boston's the best place to be a young, developing pitcher to break in.
If it's possible to not like a trade for either team, this is that trade. […] …the centerpiece of the return package, Hanley Ramirez, is an overrated prospect, a tools guy who has yet to convince me that he's going to become a baseball player. […] I'm probably more enthused about Anibal Sanchez, and consider how I feel about pitching prospects in evaluating that opinion [note: Joe hated pitching prospects].
Sheehan went on to note Beckett’s inability to stay healthy (“a highly-regarded right arm who has yet to hold up over a full major-league season”) and the high cost of acquiring him in the first place (“the Sox also had to take Mike Lowell, who fell off a cliff in 2005, but whose contract runs through 2007”).
I’m not bringing this up to bash either Ms. Kahrl or Mr. Sheehan, both of whom I consider to be outstanding analysts and without whose efforts I wouldn’t be writing here today. It might also be appropriate to note that I’m the guy who wrote that the Orioles and A’s shouldn’t bother to sign anyone last offseason because “neither team is going anywhere [in 2012].” Predicting baseball is hard.
So it’s easy to pull out old columns and point out where people were wrong, but both Kahrl and Sheehan had reasonable points. Ramirez had tools out the wazoo but was coming off a season where he’d hit .271/.335/.385 as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Lowell would have been happy with that slash line as he’d just finished a season that saw him hit .236/.298/.360. Beckett had experienced some injury woes and some inconsistency. In other words, there was not only good reason to doubt those players, but a solid reading of the situation demanded it. That’s not to say I agreed completely with both analysts at the time, just that their ideas on the trade weren’t coming out of left field.
Josh Beckett (15.2 WARP)
Further, if you’re a proponent of the “flags fly forever” school of thought, you have to credit Beckett generously for his contribution to the 2007 World Series win. That season was also his best in a Boston uniform and the second-best among all pitchers that season by WARP.
Aside from the 2007 banner, Beckett’s enduring legacy in Boston is that he, along with Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto, brought back Ruby De La Rosa and Allan Webster from the Dodgers. Webster is the 69th ranked prospect on Jason Parks’ recently released Top 101 Prospects list and was the Red Sox’ third best prospect in his Red Sox Top 10. De La Rosa isn’t eligible for either as he’s over the prospect innings limit, but according to some he’s a better prospect than Webster (for instance, BP’s own Chris Mellon’s other site, Sox Prospects thinks so).
It’s particularly interesting to compare Webster and De La Rosa to the contingent of prospects Florida received from Boston in the early winter of 2006. According to Baseball America, Hanley Ramirez was Boston’s top prospect while Anibal Sanchez was ranked fifth. Would you deal a first and fifth for two threes? That’s oversimplifying of course, but the prospect packages may not be as far off as they might seem at first.
Mike Lowell (13 WARP)
Guillermo Mota (n/a)
Red Sox Totals
Pitcher WARP: 15.2
Games Played: 612
Position Player WARP: 13.0
Total WARP: 28.2
Hanley Ramirez (28.1 WARP)
Fielding was never his strong suit and there were off-the-field issues from time to time, but six-win shortstops don’t come along every day and the Marlins got one in this trade. Florida never managed to finish above second place during his time there but that’s impossible to pin on him as Ramirez stands as the most productive hitter in Marlins history. For that Miami paid him less than $40 million. That’s the dual bonus of acquiring a young player; you get his best seasons (usually) and you pay the least for them.
*The Marlins also got out from under their $31.5 million two-year commitment to Ramirez.
Anibal Sanchez (9.9 WARP)
Then Miami took Sanchez and Omar Infante and turned them into Jacob Turner, a potential top-of-the-rotation starter, and Rob Brantly, a potential starting catcher. Oddly it will be the Sanchez branch of the trade tree and not the Ramirez trunk that will continue on for the Marlins.
Harvey Garcia (0.1 WARP) and Jesus Delgado (-0.1 WARP)
Neither was one of Boston’s top 10 prospects, and as such both were projected to do nothing in the majors. Both met that projection and did nothing in the majors.
Pitcher WARP: 9.9
Games Played: 945
Position Player WARP: 28.1
Total WARP: 38
Final Notes on the Trade
Meanwhile, despite getting out-WARPed, the Red Sox can hardly quarrel with how things turned out. They missed out on the next great (hitting) Red Sox shortstop and could have used Sanchez’s solid pitching over the past three seasons. On the other hand, they won the 2007 World Series (have I mentioned that?) and were very close to returning for another shot in 2008, two accomplishments that would have been difficult to pull off without Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Like Miami, they also have the second generation of this trade in Webster and De La Rosa to dream on.
In conclusion, it’s hard to think of a trade of this complexity that turned out as evenly for both clubs as this one did.