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The Most Expensive Trade Ever: Day 2

Goog note: Space sent me a message last night, explaining that he’s reversed his position on the Crawford/Beckett/Adrian trade. (That needs a name, by the way. I wanted to call it the Soxpocalypse, but got shot down.) I, on the other hand, remain steadfast in my belief the Sox have shot themselves in the foot with the cheapest gun and ammo they could find.

Space: In the light of a new day, I’ve changed my stance on the Great Dodgers Dump Of 2012. I remain highly skeptical that Ben Cherington’s track record of targeting relief pitching above all else makes him the man to turn the team around, and I’m certainly no fan of Larry Lucchino’s meddling.

However, one cannot understate just how much payroll the Red Sox will clear with this deal. Aside from arbitration-eligible players, Gonzalez and Crawford represent 62% of the team’s financial commitments from 2013 to 2017; with Beckett included, that number goes to 72%. My negativity about the trade came largely from pessimism about the current front office and ownership, but was also predicated on a simple notion that had become engrained in my mind: the Red Sox window to contend was now, and they needed to open up the checkbook to better complement their stars.

Goog: Now, the Red Sox’ window to compete is “some indeterminate point in the future,” and they don’t need to spend any money at all! Liverpool fans, rejoice!

Space: Now, of course, the 2013 Red Sox have holes everywhere but second, third, and center field, and it’s unlikely that even $60 million is enough to fix all those problems. But how much would they have had to spend if they kept the three big-money players? As difficult as it is to say, the failure of the team’s minor league system to provide impact players (Middlebrooks aside) has put them in a position where contending for 2013 may never have been the most feasible idea.

When so much money was tied up in a pair of hitters in their early thirties, whose value was sure to fall below their cost in the latter halves of their contracts, punting 2013 would have been unthinkable, unconscionable, and inexcusable. But now… the strength of the Red Sox farm system, if indeed it has strength, is in the potential of AA and A-ball guys like Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts, along with iffier commodities like Henry Owens and Brandon Jacobs.

Goog: Future historians, please make note of this: At one point, Red Sox fans talked themselves into thinking that these players, every single one of them, would be good. It really did happen.

Space: Prospects are big gambles. I get that. There’s plenty of opportunity for some or all of those guys to flame out. But whether they do so or not would have had no real bearing on the Red Sox of Gonzalez’ and Crawford’s best remaining years. Including arbitration raises, the team probably had $30 million to work with for next year prior to the salary dump; I don’t see that being enough to retain Ortiz, patch an outfield hole, fix the back of the rotation, and find catching and shortstop upgrades. As tough as it is to say – and as infuriating as it is that it has come to this – the Red Sox should be using this fresh start to build for something beyond next year.

Goog: Which is great, because we’re all going to be placed into cryogenic stasis until the next time the team is watchable. That’s what the Curiosity thing was all about, right?

Space: In the interim, of course, there’s no way I’d forgive ownership pocketing the savings, but I’d like to look at more short-term deals to undervalued players, either to have some unlikely contending clubs or to deal midseason if Boston doesn’t get lucky. Gonzalez’ and Crawford’s contracts were always tradeoffs to get production early on while overpaying in the latter years; unfortunately, circumstances haven’t allowed those early years to really matter. Even as good as they’re likely to be next year and in 2014, giving the risk of the costly latter years to another team was the right move.

Goog: So basically the trade is only good for the Red Sox if they smarten up and don’t hoard the money, which they’ve shown no indication of doing. Great trade!!!

Space: I don’t see how there’s a need to “smarten up” for the Sox, or how the Dodgers can be defended for allocating the money in this way. The trio of players is going to make over $55 million a year; are you telling me you really can’t replace their production with shorter-term signings? Give $10 million AAV to Mike Napoli, $15M to Shane Victorino, $10M to Liriano–

Goog: $10m a year to Liriano for anything more than 0.5 years is silly.

Space: I’m going with high-end estimates just to prove how far this money can go.

Goog: Then why just $15m a year for Victorino? And for how many years would that be, anyway? Is 2016 Shane Victorino going to be any better than 2016 Carl Crawford? I highly doubt it.

Space: Fine, pretend I said BJ Upton – not as good as Victorino now, but younger and more likely to maintain present level of play. Anyway, adding to that list, give 15M to Edwin Jackson (I picked these pitchers to emphasize that there are options for solid innings-eating types and options for rebound/upside guys), and you’ve replaced your lost production with money to spare (use it for Stephen Drew!), and as a bonus, these guys aren’t as likely to demand deals more than, say, 3 years long. You can maintain respectability year-to-year and have flexibility down the road.

Goog: But now you’ve spent all the saved money (which won’t happen) to get five guys to almost replace three. That’s not good.

Space: That might be an issue if the Sox were in a roster squeeze for talent, but you know they aren’t.

Goog: They certainly aren’t now!

Space: An additional pitcher could bump Franklin Morales or Felix Doubront (or John Lackey!) out of the rotation.

Goog: True talent John Lackey, if healthy, is a much better pitcher than Morales or Doubront. This says more about how much I hate them than it does about suddenly liking Lackey.

Space: If Liriano’s not your high-risk/upside guy, go after Harden on an incentive-heavy deal, or bring back Bedard, who took less than $5M this year (hell, you could probably add both, and Stephen Drew, for the Beckett money alone).

The point is this: would you give Gonzalez a 6-year, $127M deal this winter? Better yet, would you give Crawford 5/102? The back ends of these contracts always looked bad, and as much as I love Gonzalez, there are better ways to spend his money – not even getting into how much better one could allocate the resources for Crawford, whose skill set is even more likely to break down completely as he ages.

Goog: I’d jump up and down and shout for joy to sign Adrian Gonzalez for 6/127.

Space: Goog, you ignorant slut. That would be insane.

Goog: True-talent Adrian Gonzalez is in the discussion for best hitter in baseball. A team with infinite money (like the Dodgers) or infinite revenue (like the Red Sox) should pay anything it can to acquire him. As it happens, the Dodgers paid nothing of substance and also got two more all-stars.

Space: I love Gonzalez, but you’re talking about Gonzalez in his peak years while paying for him at 31-36, where you’re more likely to see him match his 2012 numbers of .300/.343/.469 than to approach his Boston total of .321/.382/.513.

Goog: Aside from a pretty mediocre first half of 2012 when for all we know he was still dealing with his shoulder, Gonzalez has shown no signs of slowing down. It’s also not like he’s an Adam Dunn type who will turn into a pumpkin the second his bat slows down a little bit. I think he’s going to age very well, and will continue to be an asset even if he doesn’t hit forty homers a year.

Space: If you’re really so paranoid that you don’t think the Sox will spend money after trading away a star from the 2007 team and two big-name, big-money signings who brought good PR in their offseason, and freeing up $55 million for the year, you can’t possibly think they were going to spend money on talent to complement Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford on the 2013 team.

Goog: Your spending plan also assumes that nobody else wants those players, that they even hit the free agent market, and that they would go within 50 miles of a Boston media member without a ridiculous premium. I doubt all of those assumptions.

Space: Because it’s not like the Sox lured Cody Ross for $3M this year, or the then-seen-as-upside-y Bobby Jenks at $6M last year, or Marco Scutaro at less than $6M a year. Oh, wait.

Goog: Ross and Jenks’ stocks, and even Scutaro’s, were much lower than any of the players you named except perhaps Liriano. (As an aside, one has to look no further than how the Sox treated Scutaro this winter to understand why I think they will be averse to spending this windfall of cash.) They also still paid Jenks a premium. On top of that, the Red Sox were in a much better position going into 2010, ’11 or ’12 than they are going into 2013. Plus, it must be said, they were a lot smarter then.

Space: The trainwreck Sox of recent times, of course, might scare away some free agent talent, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep throwing money down the drain on Crawford’s contract for another 5 years just because you’re scared no one who isn’t already in Boston will play for you. If nothing else, again, look at the long-term implications, and imagine how free agents would feel about coming to Boston to less than half of what Carl gets in 2015 when he’s posting a .270/.320/.420 line with 10 steals a year.

Goog: Also, “What happens in three years when these guys are old and bad?!?!” is the same nonsense that otherwise smart Yankee fans cry every time they sign a great player. They’ve done alright. And before you say anything about income disparity, the only thing stopping the Red Sox from spending like the Yankees is the will of ownership. The team could run a $250 million payroll and turn a profit; it just doesn’t.

Space: And that’s where we have some agreement. The fact that John Henry, owner of the Red Sox, would prefer to pad his bank accounts and buy soccer teams than create a second AL East monster of infinite money is infuriating; I just prefer to separate the team’s baseball decisions from the business side. In a baseball world with finite budgets, Crawford’s deal was so wasteful that it was worth dumping two decent Boston contracts to get out.

Goog: In this world where we make up realities that aren’t actually true, can I date Sophia Bush? That would be sweet.

Space: Go for it; I’m sure your assessment of player values won’t make her feel intellectually inferior!

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  1. September 8, 2012 at 9:36 AM
  2. August 23, 2013 at 5:45 PM

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