Red Sox deal Beckett, Crawford, and Gonzales, Blow-up TeamFortunately for me, I'm having a banner year, which has meant less time to dissect and digest my other passion - the Boston Red Sox. I'm always thinking of columns, though, and last month - at the trade deadline - there was all this talk about trading Josh Beckett and my column would have been titled: Never, Ever, will he be traded.
My reasoning was pretty simple. Trades happen when there is value on a player. A player making $25 million a year, even if he's a perennial all-star, is FULLY VALUED. You can't "get something back" for a player that is fully valued. Or you get a "token" player. We just saw this play out with Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis was over-valued, that is to say his contract was too large for his production. Normally, that means he can't be traded - unless the owner of his contract offers to pay it, and is willing to take a bag of baseballs in return. And that's what happened. Similarly, Josh Beckett, hero of the 2007 playoff run and World Series, had ceased in anyway to live to his contract, and clearly, the Sox Brass expected that would continue. I admit, I still held out hope that he could be an effective player (and clearly the Dodgers share that view), based on his terrific campaign of last season. You can't deny that the larger set of numbers don't look good: In the past three years, Beckett has had a 4.38 ERA, while averaging just 150 innings. That would put him as #24 out of 43 qualifiers in the AL, or in the bottom level. That's no where near good enough to justify his contract, and that's why I figured he was impossible to trade. Unless of course, you give up Adrian Gonzales.
Personally, I wouldn't have done it. I still think Adrian could be a MVP player in Boston. But clearly, Cherrington had his doubts, is more comfortable with his prospects than his inherited players, and has made the move of all moves. The breakout HR season we all expected when Adrian was here will never be, and only the Sox know how much of this was admitting that Gonzales' personality was too much of a square peg in a round hole, and how much of this was just clearing house - and Adrian was the price of that house clearing.
Crawford headed out too?If the trade had stopped there, you would say that the Dodgers really gave the Sox the short-end of the stick. But Cherrington was able to throw Crawford in there. And that, in a lot of ways, is the crux of the very deal. Would Crawford have ever returned a season for the Red Sox the way he played against the Red Sox? We'll never know, but I increasingly had my doubts. It became increasingly obvious that Crawford had a thin skin, and increasingly a Nomar-like aversion to the media and media coverage he received. He was a poor fit here regardless - a number two hitter where we already had one, a great left fielder in a park where you don't need one, a base stealer in a park where it doesn't make sense to steal a lot of bases, and a guy without a lot of power in a park that begs for it - just a bad fit all around. But he was talented, and usually talented players rise above the difficulties to shine through. For all of these reasons, cutting ties with Crawford makes sense, and although his liabilities here are assets for the Dodgers - a base-stealing, gap-hitting, top of the order hitter will really help them - I'm not sure he'd ever be that player here. His contract was always too high even if he played at his top level, but he never did, and the Sox moving his contract was a smart thing.
Will the Sox Be Better?On first impression, you would say that losing Crawford, Beckett, and Gonzales would be a death blow to any team. But we already looked at Becketts numbers. How hard are they going to be to replace? There's three ways to look at this deal.
1) Replacing the players won't be hard. Beckett has been below average, and you could argue that he could be replaced by Morales, Dubront, or even Arron Cook and/or Dice-K (were he to re-sign). If you get the same production, but more innings, you'll be ahead of the game. If Dubront or Morales improve, you could really improve your team. Replacing what you've gotten out of Crawford so far is similarly easy. Ryan Sweeney could do that, at far less money. And Middlebrooks could be a replacement for Gonzales. That's the optimistic view.
2) The team takes a hit. You could certainly argue that the team will be less better off. There's a lot of talent moving to LA. Replacing Gonzales won't be easy, and Beckett last 200 inning, sub 3 ERA season in was 2011 - not 2007. He may still be a very good player. What happened this year? Beats me, but that fastball didn't look so hot.
3) The players perform in LA, but never would have in Boston. This is, of course, the sour grapes mentality. Should these players return to form in LA LA land, the grumbling about the "mistake trade" and "Cherrington's ego" will grow to a loud chorus, especially if the young players don't develop, or worse, backslide.
It's a Hell of a Bet, either way folks, and should be interesting to see how it shakes out.