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May 15, 2013

Out of Left Field

Did the Dodgers Make Suckers of the Red Sox?

by Matthew Kory


A narrative about last August’s Red Sox and Dodgers trade has grown up, certainly in Boston and to a lesser extent in the national press. Essentially, the Dodgers foolishly helped the Red Sox by taking a bunch of expensive garbage off their hands. The Red Sox gladly took advantage of the Dodgers, passing off said garbage while also acquiring two top pitching prospects in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa. Weighed down by their expensive Boston detritus, the Dodgers now languish in last place while the Red Sox, freed from these obligations, have floated towards the top of their division. In short, win for Boston, loss for Los Angeles. But I’m not so sure that’s the case.

When the trade was made the players headed to Los Angeles were looked at as under-performing and expensive. That’s mostly because they were. Carl Crawford had played 161 games over two seasons for Boston, producing just over a win in the process, and had followed that up by undergoing Tommy John surgery. Adrian Gonzalez was in the midst of his worst season since his first in San Diego, and was supposedly one of the organizers of a meeting with the front office to complain about manager Bobby Valentine. In retrospect it’s hard to fault Gonzalez for that one, though the optics aren’t great. Josh Beckett had taken his reputation from World Series hero to clubhouse cancer and added the cherry on top of a five-plus ERA. Nick Punto was who cares I don’t know why he was included in the trade. Point is, the players Boston sent west were not at the peak of their trade value, yet L.A. took them, their full contracts, and handed over two pitching prospects to boot.

The season ended with more mediocrity from Gonzalez, 43 innings of decent pitching from Beckett, nothing from the still-injured Crawford, and who cares he’s Nick Punto from Nick Punto. Sometime between then and spring training the narrative took hold. What readers of Baseball Prospectus surely know though is that you can’t judge a trade after two months of baseball and one offseason, let alone one of this complexity.

I would like to make four points about the trade to at least complicate narrative.

1. The Ex-Red Sox Are Playing Well In Los Angeles

If you look up the Dodgers’ positional players this season and sort by OPS, you’ll find their best hitter is Hanley Ramirez, who is on the DL, followed by Scott Van Slyke, with six plate appearances. After those guys, their top three hitters have been Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto. While Josh Beckett has been, if not a garbage fire, then at least garbage, the other three have been every bit as good as the Dodgers could have hoped for.

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article The Stash List: The Ba... (05/15)
<< Previous Column
Out of Left Field: You... (05/08)
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Premium Article Out of Left Field: Wat... (05/23)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (05/15)

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