After the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch last year, they fired the manager. It didn’t work, so now the team’s brain trust has decided to fire the players.
The current edition of the Boston Red Sox was supposed to be the best team ever, but instead, they wound up being the worst money could buy. Now, less than two seasons removed from being a near unanimous favorite to win the World Series, John Henry and company have embarked on a new campaign of Nation rebuilding.
In order for the Red Sox to put their reconstruction project in motion, the team first needed to find a financial backer. Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since purchasing the franchise for a record setting sum north of $2 billion, the team’s new ownership group, led by global investment firm Guggenheim Partners, hasn’t been afraid to flex its financial muscle. However, no one could have anticipated the amount of heavy lifting they were prepared to do.
By jettisoning Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox have pushed the reset button on 2013 and made over $250 million in salary commitments disappear. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have further bolstered their playoff push with the addition of two players who only last year were All Stars, while also making a pre-emptive strike ahead of the upcoming free agent class. In many ways, the blockbuster deal is a tale of two cities.
Considering the disappointment of the past two seasons, it makes perfect sense for the Red Sox to blow up their roster. However, the exile of Crawford, Gonzalez, and Beckett isn’t the beginning, and may not be the end, of the purge. After firing Terry Francona, Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Youkilis were the next pieces to go, and, in the offseason, David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury may also be out the door. Demolition is the easiest step in the rebuilding process, but now comes the hard part.
Although some of the prospects the Red Sox received are promising, especially Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, neither is a can’t miss blue chip. Instead, what makes the deal a potential winner for the Red Sox is the massive salary relief that will extend until 2018. However, a lot will depend on what the team does with the savings. If the Red Sox plan is to retrench and wait for the farm system to yield a new crop, it could be a while before the fruits of the trade are harvested. On the other hand, Boston could immediately reinvest the savings in the upcoming free agent class, but in that case, there are no guarantees the new regime will do a better job picking the players. Keep in mind, even though Crawford, Gonzalez, and Beckett were struggling this season, the team’s ultimate goal isn’t to improve upon 2012, but restore the expectations entering 2011, when all three players were All Stars.
The question facing the Dodgers is also about money. If the new ownership group is committed to maintaining a high payroll, then the financial risk of the deal is mitigated by the team’s open wallet. Besides, the Dodgers were probably going to be big spenders during the offseason anyway, so why not do some early shopping and maybe win a World Series in the process?
Based on the remaining money on each respective deal, almost all of which will be paid by Los Angeles, the Dodgers basically signed Adrian Gonzalez for six years/$128 million, Josh Beckett for two years/$31.5million, and Carl Crawford for five years/$102.5 million. How would those contracts compare to what the market bears in the offseason? Considering the recent deals paid to slugging first basemen, the Gonzalez contract appears to be a relative bargain. Even the Beckett deal isn’t a bad short-term risk if you can put aside his last six months of poor performance. Crawford’s contract carries the biggest question mark, but with the sport awash in cash, his bloated $20 million salary could appear more reasonable after Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn sign new deals.
Since the start of last season, the Red Sox and Dodgers have experienced a reversal of fortune, which is why they were a perfect match for a blockbuster trade. Although the exchange could turn out to benefit both teams, it also has the potential to blow up for each side. In some trades, it’s easy to determine which team got the upper hand, but in this case, the eventual outcome will be based as much on what each team does after the deal than the actions that brought them both to it. As a result, it’s impossible to say whether the two sides will look back on the deal as a moment of wisdom or foolishness, but for now, at least, the trade has resulted in a summer of hope for the Dodgers and another autumn of despair in Red Sox Nation.