The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 26, 2012

Thoma column: Red Sox, Dodgers swap players, identities

By Edward Thoma
Free Press Staff Writer

— The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers certainly went big and bold with their waiver deal last week.

The two organizations, one a recent big spender (Boston), the other long one of the more frugal of the big market franchises (the Dodgers) have essentially swapped identities.

What is less certain is that either is going to get what they want out of the transaction.

The Dodgers’ new ownership, sensing an opportunity to win now, got some big names. Adrian Gonzalez(!) Josh Beckett(!) Carl Crawford(!) Nick Punto(?) — three All-Stars and a role player.

They also extended their payroll commitments for 2013, according to Peter Gammons, to $188.7 million (with $8.3 million of that going to Manny Ramirez, who last played for the Dodgers in 2010).

This is a business plan — investing heavily in aging stars — that has been largely renounced by even the free-spending Yankees and which the Red Sox, with this trade, are trying to escape.

The Dodgers got pricey names, but whether they got the talent they’re paying for is another matter. All the veterans are 30 or older, and none has had a good season.

Crawford won’t play again this year, and Beckett in particular has looked like a shell of his former self (ERA 5.23, and a career low 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings). These two, frankly, are Dire Straits additions — Money for Nothing.

Gonzalez’s slugging percentage with Boston this year was down 89 points from 2011, and this is easily his worst season since he emerged as a regular in 2006.

For the Dodgers, this trade is largely about 2012, and Gonzalez is realistically the only useful piece for this year. Even in this down year by his standards, he does represent a significant upgrade over James Loney at first base.

The Red Sox, conceding that they aren’t making the postseason, unloaded three contracts they had come to regret, saving some $260 million in future obligations.

The chatter out of Beantown is that the Sox think they’ve “lost their way” with an emphasis on high-priced veterans as opposed to investing in their farm system, and that this trade gives them the opportunity to reverse

that.

Perhaps. Certainly the two pitchers Boston figures to get when all the pieces in this puzzle are officially moved — Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster — are talented arms. The others in the deal are marginal talents.

But the new labor agreement — with its bonus pools in the draft and limitations on international signings — figures to make it much more difficult for teams to exploit a financial edge in player development.

A year ago the Sox could have more easily plowed their savings into high-end amateur talent. Not so today.

Maybe the $260 million will largely go into the pockets of the Boston ownership group; more likely, the Sox will enter another cycle of free-agent spending.

With the Red Sox, as with their notorious rivals in New York, nothing exceeds like excess.

 

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.