Too many trades get labeled blockbusters in baseball. Now the term ought to be retired. The Red Sox and Dodgers completed what has to go down as the most stunning blockbuster of all-time. Boston traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford, RHP Josh Beckett, and INF Nick Punto for 1B James Loney, RHP Allen Webster, INF Ivan DeJesus Jr., and two players to be named later, reportedly OF/1B Jerry Sands and RHP Rubby de la Rosa.
Let's start with a player-by-player analysis.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great first basemen. He is in the midst of a down year, yet is still hitting .300 with a good chance at 20 home runs and 100 RBIs. Not bad for an underachiever, especially one taking over the hole LA had at first base. James Loney wasn't the answer. He simply doesn't hit for enough power, and seems to hit for less average each year. Loney will presumable start at first for the Red Sox the rest of this season, but he is an impending free agent, and presumably will not be Boston's opening day first basemen in 2013. Time will tell.
Carl Crawford is a wild card. He was in the discussion for most complete and/or dynamic ballplayer in baseball when he was with Tampa Bay. However, he was a huge disappointment in Boston, and now he is out with Tommy John surgery. Crawford definitely is done for the rest of this season, and there is a good chance he does not play until midway through next season. His inclusion was probably the key to the deal - not because of his potential upside for the Dodgers (which is real), but because Boston unloaded an onerous, horrific contract. He still has over $100 million left on his deal. Crawford had played in Boston for nearly two seasons and shown few signs of regaining the elite form that got him his payday in the first place. The Red Sox gave him plenty of time to find himself in his new surroundings, and it just wasn't happening. Injuries might have been the culprit this season though.
Josh Beckett has been a disappoint for the past season or so. He was among the poster boys for Boston's epic collapse last September, and has "rebounded" to the tune of an ERA north of 5.00. Beckett might be washed up at this point but he also will benefit from a change of scenery. Red Sox nation had soured on him. Now he gets to face pitchers instead of designated hitters in what has historically played as a pitcher's park. Beckett also seems to have a flair for the dramatic in the postseason, if the Dodgers make it. He could be an underrated part of this deal in the near future. Boston is certainly happy to have his contract off the books though, and I have a hard time envisioning Beckett earning the $15.75 million he will be paid in 2013 and 2014.
Nick Punto is Jerry Hairston's replacement as utility infielder. Hairston is out for the rest of the season with an injury. Boston had no good use for him, but LA does.
I already touched on James Loney when I talked about A-Gon, so I won't go over him again. He is likely a stopgap for Boston until they find a more permanent solution at first base. Loney's lack of power is his biggest undoing.
Allen Webster is considered the best player Boston got in return. He is in AA and was considered one of the Dodgers' best pitching prospects. Webster walks more batters than I would like to see but the rest of his statistical profile looks good. I have read that Webster's best weapon is a sinker, so maybe he profiles like a Rick Porcello. That makes him a starting pitcher, but not a star.
Ivan De Jesus Jr. is Nick Punto's replacement. He swings and misses too much with limited speed and power. I don't know about his defense all that much. Punto wasn't much of a loss, although he was underrated much of his career, and De Jesus isn't exactly a big gain.
Jerry Sands could figure into Boston's future. He has hit at every level in the minors with 20-30 home runs a year. However, the last two years have to be taken with a grain of salt because he has played in AAA Las Vegas, a bit of a launching pad for hitters. The Red Sox might as well give him a look through the rest of this season though. I don't think Sands has the power to stick long-term at a first base or corner outfield spot as a starter for a contending team but maybe his skills play up with the Green Monster.
Rubby de la Rosa is an intriguing arm. The 23-year-old skipped AAA and went straight to the majors in 2011, where he found a fair amount of success before Tommy John surgery ended his season (and most of this season too). Reading scouting reports and looking at his minor league stat lines, he reminds me some of Kelvim Escobar from a few years back.
Even though the Red Sox got some MLB talent, this was first and foremost a salary dump for them. They did not get as much talent in return as they gave up. The package the Dodgers gave up probably should not have been enough to get Adrian Gonzalez on his own, at least in my opinion.
Usually I don't like salary dumps for the dumping team. A team can't make a habit of losing more talent than it gets and ultimately expect to get better. Most times I wonder if the salary relief a team gets really outweighs the fact that they are giving away talent without getting much in return.
However, nobody has ever dumped salary at this scale. Boston literally shed $250 million in commitments. It's hard to fathom. They go into the offseason with the ability to outbid anyone for any player they desire, both in average annual value and length of a deal. They have roughly $45 million in commitments to next year's payroll, and they had a $175 million budget this season. Boston is one of the rich teams in baseball, so they have the resources to rebuild in a hurry and should be an attractive destination for free agents. This isn't like a small-market team dumping a $7 million pitcher. This is the Red Sox purging a quarter billion. There has never been a salary dump on this scale. I don't think anyone can really say they know how it will play out, but it's very interesting to see an opulent team with extreme financial flexibility.
The trade is just as fascinating from the Dodgers perspective. It looks on the surface like reckless spending by a new ownership group looking to make a splash, but it might make sound fiscal sense in the TV revenue world that MLB is quickly wading into. Consider this: Adrian Gonzalez signed a $127 million deal with Boston last season. Since then Joey Votto and Prince Fielder got contracts north of $200 million. The crazy Albert Pujols contract happened too. Gonzalez is a $100 million man, but there's a strong case that he should be a $200 million man according to current market standards.
If you consider Adrian Gonzalez a steal, then the Crawford contract is easier to swallow even if he does not bounce back. Or, look at it this way: What if Josh Hamilton gets something crazy like $220 million this off-season? Would you rather have him, or Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford for roughly the same commitment? The Dodgers were likely set on spending a ton of money this offseason anyway under the new ownership. They just did their shopping earlier, and might have come out with better talent than they could have bought in free agency. The deals they took on may look gargantuan at the moment, but they will age surprisingly well if prices escalate with the incoming surge of television revenue.
There is little doubt that this trade changed both the Dodgers and Red Sox dramatically. What's left to find out is how it changes both ballclubs. Rebounds from some fallen stars are what the Dodgers need to feel good about this deal. The Red Sox need to use their pile of cash to reload quickly. For now, as a baseball fan, I simply marvel that such a deal even happened.