Did The Boston Red Sox Lose The Trade With Los Angeles Dodgers?

By Mark Hock

As you’ve heard by now, the Boston Red Sox have completed a monster deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But just in case you haven’t, to refresh your memory –  superstar Adrian Gonzalez, free agent busts Carl Crawford and Nick Punto along with struggling starter Josh Beckett were all shipped to Los Angeles. In return, the Red Sox acquired Allen Webster, James Loney, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus and Rubby De La Rosa. It’s a move that many are calling a win for the Red Sox, but I’m not so sure that’s the case.

Many are arguing that the Red Sox are saving a ton of money for next years payroll. And with those four off the books, they’ll save nearly $60 million. Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that a significant amount of cash will be sent to the Dodgers. So that $60 million figure is sure to be much lower, preventing the Red Sox from spending the money.

And while it’s true that money is quite valuable, and that overpaying for talent is generally a bad thing, it’s hard to say there is such a thing as an overpayment for elite talent. And make no mistake, Adrian Gonzalez is an elite talent. Given the price of comparable talents (over $200 million), his contract is an absolute steal. To sell low on him now in one of the worst seasons of his career is the wrong move. There’s nothing to suggest that Gonzalez has lost the ability to hit. Considering that over the past three years he’s averaged a 940 OPS along with a 33 home runs a year, it’s clear the Red Sox won’t be able to replace his production.

It’s also worth pointing out that to acquire Gonzalez, the Red Sox traded Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly. Considering what they gave up to get Gonzalez, it’s a disappointment that they weren’t able to get similar value in return.

It is a shortsighted move to flip Gonzalez at this point. The Sox don’t get better now, and they certainly don’t get better in the future. Some would argue the real advantage of this deal is getting rid of Beckett and Crawford, but doing that by dumping Gonzalez for 10 cents on the dollar isn’t the way to go about doing it.

Yes, getting Crawford’s contract off the books is a positive for the Red Sox. And it could be seen as a positive getting rid of Beckett as well, even though his strikeout to walk ratio and strong peripherals indicate that he should bounce back in the future. And while most would argue that the Red Sox can spend their way once again, they’d be ignoring the biggest problem of all.

Spending like a drunken sailor is why the Red Sox got here in the first place. You see, it was that excessive spending on players such as Carl Crawford that dragged down the payroll. The Red Sox history of acquiring players in free agency, especially when it comes to the big signings, have largely been busts. So while it’s easy to suggest that the Sox can simply spend the money and replace the lost talent, history has shown that they simply haven’t been able to do that.

To prove this, let’s take a look at some of the free agent signings or extensionsBostonhas made with a value equal to or over $10 million since the offseason in 2006/2007:

Julio Lugo – 4 years/$36 million -Lugo earned 0.4 WAR for the Red Sox before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. He managed to “hit” to the tune of a 664 OPS for the Sox. A terrible deal, and the Red Sox have been looking for a shortstop for a long time now. Lugo was supposed to be the guy, but he failed miserably.

Daisuke Matsuzaka – 6 years/52 million – This doesn’t include the $50+ million posting fee either. The 4.34 career ERA, while impressive, is quite misleading. He’s only had one season with an ERA below that. Matsuzaka has missed time and been ineffective, and it’s a perfect example of the Red Sox spending wildly and missing the mark in free agency.

JD Drew – 5 years/$70 million – Drew posted a solid 814 OPS with quality defence over the 5 years. From a WAR per dollar standpoint Drew was a solid acquisition, so we’ll call it a solid move forBoston.

Coco Crisp – 3 years $15 million – An extension was given to Crisp just before the 2007 season started. He rewarded them with a 728 OPS, good enough to be 13% below league average. Not what the Sox were hoping for.

Mike Lowell – 3 years $37 million – It would have been tough to let him go after he helped win a World Series. That being said,Lowellwasn’t very good in the final two seasons, as he was worth -10 runs in the field during the second year and couldn’t break a 700 OPS in the third. So in retrospect the deal wasn’t one in favour of the Red Sox.

Dustin Pedroia – 6 years $40.5 M, Kevin Youkilis – 4 years 41.25 M, Jon Lester 5 years $30 million – Some great extensions, but this was one where the Red Sox simply bought out arbitration and free agent years. The Sox are excellent when it comes to drafting and signing their own players, but they are not nearly as good when it comes to free agent talent.

Marco Scutaro – 2 years/$12.5 million – An excellent under the radar pick up for the Sox. They’ve been much better when it comes to the small moves, as opposed to the major signings. Scutaro was an above league average hitter with solid D for the Sox, but unfortunately they gave him away in the offseason in order to save money. Sound familiar?

Mike Cameron – 2 years $15.5 million – He wasn’t effective in his first season and was traded in the second. A talented player, the Red Sox just got him at the end of his career.

John Lackey -5 years/$82.5 million – The first major signing in years, and the Sox really whiffed on this one. Lackey’s stats were showing a pitcher in decline and the Sox bought high on him. As we’ve seen time and time again, the Sox just aren’t good at evaluating the big ticket free agents.

Adrian Beltre – 1 year $10 million – A fantastic deal for the Sox, as they let Beltre recover from a down year. Unfortunately they let him go around the same time as they traded for Gonzalez and signed Crawford. And we all know how that worked out, as Beltre continues to mash and the Sox couldn’t wait to get rid of the newly acquired duo.

Josh Beckett – 4 years $68 million – Given how little people think of Beckett, we can’t really praise this can we?

David Ortiz – 1 year $12.5 million – A fantastic deal as Ortiz has been one of the lone bright spots for the Sox. But once again, an example of how short term deals are key for success and payroll flexibility. The Sox bought originally got Ortiz on a low value deal, and it’s those kind of moves in free agency that the Sox excel at.

Carl Crawford – 7 years, $142 million – A player with little patience at the plate, whose defence wouldn’t be valuable thanks to the Green Monster, it’s no surprise Crawford didn’t work out here. The Red Sox couldn’t have picked a worse player to add to their organization. It was a bad fit from the start, and it makes you wonder if the Sox have learned their lesson when it comes to big ticket free agent signings.

Bobby Jenks – 2 years $12 million – He’s thrown 15 terrible innings for the Sox, so even this small term deal didn’t work out for them.

Clay Buchholz – 4 years $29M – He’s been somewhat effective, but missed a lot of time with injuries and isn’t that durable. Not a terrible signing all things considered.

Adrian Gonzalez – 7 years, $154M – A fantastic signing, especially given how the prices for first baseman has gone up exponentially. But giving him away for James Loney and his low ceiling prospect friends to get some cash back isn’t a good move.

At the end of the day, we have to remember the Sox got into this mess by signing the wrong players in free agency. They’ve shown no ability to sign big money free agents and turn them into a success in Boston. So while it’s an innovative trade to recoup some cash, it’s not so clear the Red Sox are a team capable of spending their way in free agency to rebuild the team. Anybody calling this trade a victory for the Sox is ignoring their history of signing free agents, or is too short sighted to remember how they got into this kind of problem in the first place.

The Sox need to stick to what they’re good at – drafting well, signing players to small deals, and making under the radar pick ups. Because when they try to play the free agent game, history has shown they simply can’t get it done. So if the Red Sox think they can simply spend their way into contention, they’re simply going back to square one. Because the definition of insanity is trying something again and again and expecting different results. And right now, insanity is at an all time high for Red Sox Nation

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