The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off a mega-trade over the weekend, with the Red Sox sending first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, starting pitcher Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto west in exchange for first baseman James Loney and four other players. The Red Sox clearly needed to change their mix of players as they are in the midst of a tumultuous season, so this deal should get that job done while also clearing a significant amount of salary.
It’s a little late for fantasy baseball owners to see a lot of impact from the trade this year, especially since Crawford has undergone Tommy John surgery on his elbow and is done for the season after missing the early part of the season due to a wrist issue. Gonzalez’s move to a more pitcher-friendly home park should have little impact on how he finishes the season, since prior to being traded to Boston he spent significant time with the San Diego Padres and hitting in the cavernous pitcher’s haven that is PETCO Park.
But Beckett is an interesting case, and his move to the National League could be the change of scenery he needs as well as help some fantasy owners make a late push to their league title. Assuming most of his owners have not already cut bait and either traded him away at a low point this season or perhaps simply released him outright in order to find a better option on the waiver wire.
So what can fantasy owners that have stuck with Beckett expect over the final month-plus of the season? Let’s take a look.
It’s safe to say Beckett’s 2012 season has not gone well, as he is 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA over 21 starts (127.1 innings) along with a K/9 rate (6.6) far below his career rate in that category (8.3). Not that he hasn’t had some good moments, with 10 starts where he has gone at least six innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs. But some of the bad outings have been distinctly bad, with four starts allowing at least six earned runs and pitching five or fewer innings, serving to inflate his numbers in the wrong direction. Beckett’s best stretch of pitching this year came over 12 starts spanning from May 15-July 31, when he went 3-5 with a 3.89 ERA while lasting at least six innings in 10 of those outings.
Beckett’s first start for the Dodgers will come Monday night on the road against the Colorado Rockies, which is obviously not an ideal situation pitching in the hitter-friendly environment of Coors Field. But the Rockies are without some of their best hitters, including Troy Tulowitzski, Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer, so the matchup may not be as tough as it looks. After that, pitching his home games at Dodger Stadium and facing a couple of offensively-challenged NL West teams in the Padres and the San Francisco Giants should help Beckett finish the season strongly.
The Dodgers were clearly willing to take on what remains on Beckett’s contract, and the fact he is due to make $31.5 million over the next two full seasons makes him virtually untradeable anyway. So if he can finish 2012 strong and healthy, there’s no reason to think 2013 won’t bring more good performances and a potential return to becoming a solid fantasy starting pitcher as he has been for much of his career.
A fantasy owner that can buy-low on Beckett should do so now, as his value may never be any lower with his on-field performance and alleged off-field behavior at times over the past two seasons. There is some risk he will begin to break down, since he will turn 33 next May and has over 1,800 career regular season innings on his arm prior to even throwing a pitch for the Dodgers. But there is still upside here for a fantasy owner willing to take a small measure of risk for the rest of this season or next year.