August 24, 2013

KEVIN THOMAS ON BASEBALL: Trade put Sox in position to succeed now, later

Happy Anniversary.

One year ago, the Boston Red Sox looked in the mirror and said to themselves, “this isn’t working.”

Addicted to too many long-term contracts and free-agent gambles, the Red Sox jettisoned three high-priced players and a utility infielder to the Los Angeles Dodgers and a mega-trade that signaled bold directions for both teams.

The Dodgers were opening up their checkbook — wide.

The Red Sox were auditing their books. They still spent, but were tightening the budget.

Other organizations, namely the Miami Marlins, routinely perform similar salary dumps, and then struggle.

Boston had the resources and the rebuilt farm system to right itself in a hurry.

Was it a win-win trade for the Red Sox and Dodgers. For this season, it appears so. In future season, the Red Sox may come out ahead.

• The Dodgers got Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto in the deal. Are they the reason why Los Angeles is the hottest team in the majors right now?

Sort of. Gonzalez is batting .297 through Friday’s game, and leads the team in home runs (16).

Crawford, injured part of the year, is batting .293 in 89 games. Punto (.257) is going his utility thing. Beckett was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA before undergoing season-ending surgery after experiencing numbness in his right hand.

But the Dodgers are getting much of their support elsewhere, namely shortstop Hanley Ramirez (the former Red Sox prospect who was acquired from the Marlins last year), Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Pig (.342), and pitchers Clayton Kershaw (1.72 ERA), Zach Greinke (2.91) and Korean rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.95).

• The Red Sox got first baseman James Loney and four minor leaguers — pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, infielder Ivan De Jesus and outfielder Jerry Sands.

Loney, a free agent, moved on to the Rays, where he is one of the season’s biggest surprises, batting .308. De Jesus and Sands were let go and are in Triple-A with the Pirates.

De La Rosa and Webster were the prime pieces of the deal for Boston. They both show major league stuff, but need better command. They have spent most of this year in Triple-A, with occasional appearances with Boston.

If they develop they way the Red Sox expect them to, then the trade becomes a huge success. Not only does Boston shed about $265-million in salaries, but they have two major league pitchers.

• With the long contracts out of the way, Boston is committed to only three players beyond 2014 — Shane Victorino (through 2015), pitcher Clay Buchholz (2015, with club options for two years after that), and the recently extended Dustin Pedroia (through 2021).

• While the Dodgers are getting some contributions from the big trade last August, another multi-player deal they made with Boston is also proving beneficial.

Back in July of 2011, the Red Sox were desperate to bolster their rotation and acquired Erik Bedard from Seattle in a three-team deal with the Mariners and Dodgers.

The Mariners also sent minor league reliever Josh Fields to Boston.

The Mariners received promising outfield prospects Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers and Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Red Sox.

Boston also sent catcher Tim Federowicz and pitchers Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez to the Dodgers. (At the time Federowicz, Fife and Chiang were all with the Portland Sea Dogs).

Bedard was a bust (1-2, 4.03) and left after the season. Fields showed promise, especially in Portland, but the Red Sox did not protect him on the 40-man roster and Houston took him in the Rule 5 Draft.

Seattle’s acquired players did not pan out. Robinson struggled and was eventually traded to Baltimore, where he has been sent down to Double-A. Hsien was eventually designated for assignment and is now in Triple-A with the Rangers.

(Continued on page 2)

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