The absolute latest regarding the Boston-Los Angeles blockbuster-in-waiting: the key seems now to hinge on the Red Sox getting beleaguered pitcher Josh Beckett to waive his no-trade clause, and to choose not to exercise his 10-5 rights to block the deal.
If Beckett gives the green light, however, this trade will be—as only too many are saying with the trigger waiting to be pulled—the single largest waiver-deadline blockbuster in, perhaps, baseball history: Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, and utility infielder Nick Punto the the Dodgers, for first baseman James Loney, second baseman Ivan DeJesus, Jr., outfielder Jerry Sands, and pitching prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.
Gonzalez and Loney were scratched from their incumbent teams’ Friday night lineups a few hours before each would have suited up. De La Rosa, who just made his first Show appearance since having Tommy John surgery, was sent back to AAA Albuquerque, at the time under the possibility that he might be a player to be named later in the deal. Webster had been deemed untouchable when the Dodgers wheeled and dealed up to and including the non-waiver trade deadline, but there seems to have been a suggestion that that would change if the right (read: offer-you-can’t-refuse blockbuster) deal happened along.
Simply by replacing the unproductive Loney with Gonzalez, the move would significantly bolster the Dodgers’ chances of securing a playoff spot this season, but it also adds over $270 million in contract commitments to the team’s payroll over the next six years for players whose past two seasons have largely fallen short of expectations. According to the Boston Herald, roughly 96 percent of that, over $260 million, will be picked up by the Dodgers . . .
On the other end, the proposed trade not only frees the Red Sox (60-66, 7-15 this month) of several burdensome contracts, it blows up the foundation of a team headed for its third straight year without a playoff berth, one where the daily drama surrounding manager Bobby Valentine’s reception in the clubhouse has come to overshadow the play on the field. . . .
Who gets what out of it, if it goes through?
The Dodgers: They get a clean chance of Beckett rediscovering his best side while working in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. They get a clean chance of Gonzalez feeling right back at home (he’s native to San Diego) and trending back upward, not to mention an end to worries about his repaired shoulder since he’s been on a small tear of late. (As a matter of fact, when he was pulled out of the Red Sox lineup before game time Friday Gonzalez was leading the majors in hitting with men in scoring position: .398.) They get a clean shot at a possibly rejuvenated Crawford, whom we now know was fighting injuries big and small alike since coming to Boston and who’s just undergone Tommy John on his own throwing arm. They get a solid utility infielder (Punto) who’s likely to be plugged in for taking up the work left behind when Jerry Hairston, Jr. went down with season-ending surgery.
The Red Sox: They get rid of enough salary over the next six years to equal the complete team payrolls of maybe an entire mid-market division. They get rid of a known malcontent (Beckett) who hasn’t been the same pitcher since the 2007 World Series triumphs, as often as not. They get rid of two more bloated contracts that looked a little too dubious before the players’ injuries became widely known. They take on a first baseman (Loney) who just might be in the classic change-of-scenery category (once a potent Dodger regular, he’s been reduced to a utility man this season). They get a pair of blue-chip pitching prospects. And, most important, the salary dump (the Dodgers are said to be ready to take on 96 percent of the remaining salaries of Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, and Punto) takes a bloated burden away from a Red Sox team that’s in dire need of a near-complete makeover.
Why, they could even go ahead and—with the Red Sox pennant race hopes gone in all but the official mathematical elimination—dump Bobby Valentine post haste, the better to remove one of the most noxious toxins in the Red Sox atmosphere, Valentine’s incessant divide-and-conquer managing style about which the Red Sox ought to be saying they’re damned lucky it didn’t incinerate Fenway Park entirely.
It wasn’t Valentine who collapsed last year’s edition, but knowing the team psyche was as fragile as it was, Valentine’s reputed in-game tactical brilliance (which took the beating of its life when he left Jon Lester out there to get nuked in July) wasn’t worth the toxicity he added. The last thing the Red Sox needed, if they were going to let Terry Francona resign his commission before forcing him to walk the proverbial plank, was Bobby Valentine.
Beckett was never thrilled with Valentine, but too often he was believed potentially miserable no matter who succeeded Francona. Gonzalez may have added his own name to a long line of Red Sox whistleblowers given their walking papers for no crime worse than allowing his cell phone to be used to send the message that triggered the Great Text Mutiny, never mind that he didn’t originate the message. Crawford looked like such a big bust in part because his pride wouldn’t let him sit down no matter how much pain he was carrying. Even up to the minute the green light was flashed for his Tommy John procedure, Crawford was painted as a man who feared making the move too swiftly, when it became apparent he’d need it, simply because he feared looking like a quitter.
Of course, the Dodgers would take the bigger risk if the deal does go through, since a) Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford aren’t exactly all that youthful any longer; b) all three have injury histories; and, c) if Beckett is to become a Dodger rotation mainstay in an all-in stretch drive scenario and beyond, Joe Blanton—whom the Dodgers got from the Phillies days after the non-waiver deadline (the Phillies had a possible deal with the Baltimore Orioles at the deadline but that one didn’t take hold), but who’s been lit up for a 7.71 ERA since becoming a Dodger—could end up the Dodgers’ outside-looking-in man. They could also risk losing touted prospect Yasiel Puig, who impresses people as being major league ready by 2014 but who could yet be blocked by a well-established outfield or a resurgent and continuing Gonzalez.
As this goes to bed, the Red Sox beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-3, following a sweep in Fenway by the Los Angeles Angels; the Dodgers are waxing the Miami Marlins, 11-4, in the middle of the eighth, this after the Dodgers got swept out of first in the NL West by the San Francisco Giants.
It could be possible that the Red Sox and the Dodgers are awaiting the end of the Dodger-Marlin contest to announce that the blockbuster’s done. Could.
ON THE OTHER HAND (OR FOOT, IF YOU’RE FARSIGHTED) . . .
This from the Boston Herald at practically the crack of Eastern midnight: “nothing will be official until today [Saturday] at the earliest,” says writer John Tomase . . .
The beer-and-chicken ringleader is gone. No more golf on precious off days following injuries. No more tone-deaf complaints suggesting we don’t understand the importance of family. No more swearing on NESN following lousy outings or conducting defiant interviews refusing to accept responsibility for any his actions.
No more of one of the most reviled Red Sox players of the last decade.
The megadeal isn’t without a fair share of risk. Red Sox fans who actually believe [Adrian] Gonzalez can’t handle the pressure of Boston based on this season are in for a rude awakening. He’s going to be an MVP candidate in Los Angeles, and you can take that one to the bank.
Replacing him won’t be remotely easy. His power/patience combo places him among the elite 15 hitters in the game.
As for [Carl] Crawford, he hasn’t delivered on his $142 million deal yet, but with a surgically repaired elbow, could easily regain his prior form. Plus, he actually cared and worked his butt off. He wasn’t part of the problem.
History may lose those facts in the shuffle, but so be it. With this one gargantuan deal, [general manager Ben] Cherington has boldly served notice that the Sox recognize the flaws in their roster, and will place a premium on financial flexibility, which should serve them well moving forward.
The sad part, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal observes: “The Red Sox gave Josh Beckett an extension in April 2010 in part because of the influence he had on the clubhouse. They’re about to trade him to the Dodgers for the same reason.”
At this writing there’s been nothing out of either Boston or Los Angeles to say the deal is. official. and. done. (At last glance, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine—who may be a lame duck even as I write—was saying he still had Josh Beckett penciled in to start Saturday against the Royals—but that may have been for time-buying public consumption.) But two coasts and about two-thirds of baseball otherwise, at minimum, are probably keeping the coffee flowing just in case.