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
Maybe unsurprisingly in a deal of this complexity, the perception was quite different than the way things turned out. At the time, Christina Kahrl analyzed the move for Baseball Prospectus in Transaction Analysis:

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, Joe Sheehan, in his Prospectus Today column, was even less sanguine on the deal.

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.

The Players

Josh Beckett (15.2 WARP)
Of his seven seasons in Boston, roughly speaking, Beckett put up three excellent-to-good seasons. The rest ranged from mediocre to decent, depending on who is doing the characterizing and what they value. The year-to-year consistency of a great pitcher wasn’t there, but because of his age, Boston was able to pay Beckett just under $70 million (depending how much they paid of Beckett’s 2012 salary) for his 15 WARP. That comes to about $4.5 million per win, not a screaming bargain, but not bad for an occasional ace pitcher and rotation stalwart.

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)
The intended penalty for receiving Beckett, Lowell ended up adding almost as much value. While Beckett receives more credit for the ’07 title, it was Lowell who was the Series MVP. In fact, by WARP, Lowell was more valuable than Beckett in both 2006 and 2007. The $18 million Boston paid Lowell ended up being such a bargain, the Red Sox re-upped him for three more seasons at $36 million. If anything, it was that deal and not his Florida contract that was the onerous one. Lowell retired after that deal ended due to reoccurring hip problems so his transaction status is a cul-de-sac. 

Guillermo Mota (n/a)
Mota never pitched an inning for Boston. Two months after “coming to Boston” he was shipped to Cleveland, a small portion of the trade for Coco Crisp. He was sub-replacement level that year (-0.4 WARP) and hasn’t achieved so much as 0.5 WARP in any season since.

Red Sox Totals
Innings Pitched: 1240

Pitcher WARP: 15.2

Games Played: 612

Position Player WARP: 13.0

Total WARP: 28.2

Hanley Ramirez (28.1 WARP)
Lowell and Sanchez were important parts of this trade, but if you had to boil the deal down to its essence, it was Josh Beckett for Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez was, as Kahrl and Sheehan stated, a bundle of tools. In retrospect we say that Ramirez was bored in the minor leagues as he jumped to the majors in his first season in Florida, hitting .292/.353/.480, good for 4.3 WARP. Nobody save possibly Ramirez knew it at the time.

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.

In return for Ramirez, the Marlins got Scott McGough and Nathan Eovaldi*, relievers both so the buck probably stops here.

*The Marlins also got out from under their $31.5 million two-year commitment to Ramirez.

Anibal Sanchez (9.9 WARP)
The final notable piece in this complex puzzle, Sanchez’s first four seasons in teal and whatever other color were filled with shoulder injuries and therefore uneventful from a productivity standpoint. Beginning in 2010, Sanchez began putting up three-win seasons. In the end, Sanchez’s health probably kept this deal from looking even more one-sided via WARP than it already does, but then that’s the danger of employing a, well, I was going to write “a young pitcher” but really that’s the danger with employing any pitcher. Still, from a purely financial perspective, the Marlins got 10 WARP for around $14 million and three years of a mid-rotation starter. 

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.

Marlins Totals
Innings Pitched: 808.7

Pitcher WARP: 9.9

Games Played: 945

Position Player WARP: 28.1

Total WARP: 38

Final Notes on the Trade
By WARP the Marlins “won” this trade. They got more total WARP and more and bigger impact seasons out of the deal than Boston did. They got likely the best three seasons Hanley Ramirez will ever have (what they did with them is another issue) at a deep discount, then as soon as he was getting expensive, they avoided the bill by dropping him in the Dodgers’ lap. They’ll also turned a half season of Sanchez into Jacob Turner. You might say the Marlins are getting good at this.

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. 

Thank you for reading

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The Marlins also got a lot more WARP for a lot less money. Arguably the Red Sox could have gotten Lowell and Beckett equivalents on the free agent market for slightly more money and kept Ramirez and Sanchez.
Eh, really? Looking at the Red Sox forays into free agency in the same time span, and it doesn't really help your argument.
But money isn't as valuable to the Red Sox (that is, they make more of it, so there's always some laying around to pay players with). If you trade for a player, he's yours. If you count on waiting and signing a particular player as a free agent, there's a chance someone else beats you to him (or he has some personal location preference you have to buy off). The surety of having Beckett in hand was worth some $$ and the chance that Hanley would turn out, especially since there's no guarantee he would have in Boston...
If you acquire rookies and, thus, have them under team control for longer, you should have a better shot at getting more WARP.

As an aside, that Transaction Analysis brings back memories. Loria dumping Delgado and crying about a new stadium, Aaron Rowand being referred to as a center fielder, the bust of the BJ Ryan deal, etc.
Great analysis Matthew - you really covered all the bases! Do it again in a few years when we see how Turner, Eovaldi, Brantly, Webster and RDLR turn out!
Thanks, Nathan.
The trade made a lot of sense for both teams, considering their time horizons (win now vs. get younger/reload) and differing ability to absorb big contracts.
So, both teams win, leaving the losers of the trade to be, apparently, the Dodgers.
That's the truly interesting thing to me about this trade. Usually there's a winner and a loser, but here there really were two winners. The Red Sox got two valuable pieces that helped propel them to a second World Series win in four seasons, while the Marlins got out from under a contract they didn't want in Lowell and turned he and Beckett into two good, young players. Win win.
As for the Dodgers, that chapter is still being written.
"Further, if you’re a proponent of the “flags fly forever” school of thought."

Who isn't a proponent of this school of thought? Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal and if you accomplish this goal anything that it took to make it that far was worth it.
I'm not saying 'some people don't find winning the World Series to be important.' Of course we all do. The issue is what kind of import you place on the playoffs, or how you define that import. If you see the playoffs as a crap-shoot of sorts then maybe you don't credit Beckett as much for the win in 2007. In other words, maybe winning the World Series doesn't justify making the trade. Maybe it does. It depends on how you see things.
Dodgers: LOL I got Both headline players at the end, you suckers!!
They do, and they get them older and far more expensive. That's not to say they won't be productive or worth the money, just that it isn't the same as having Beckett for his age 26-31 seasons, or Hanley Ramirez for his age 22-28 seasons, and paying them at those prices.