LOS ANGELES — The e-mail sat in his inbox for a half-hour. Dodgers general partner Mark Walter had known just how close Los Angeles came to acquiring Adrian Gonzalez at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and he knew the disappointment when that deal fell through.
He didn’t want to go through that again. And as long as the e-mail went unopened, that possibility remained.
So he waited.
“There were a couple of times in the last few months where your hopes start to rise, and then get dashed,” Walter said. “We’ll call it the third or fourth time, [you’re] more cautious.”
Fortunately for Walter, the news was good. Gonzalez had been claimed by Los Angeles and the Dodgers had a shot at obtaining a player they had targeted since April.
General manager Ned Colletti, along with the new ownership group, seemed a little stunned Saturday that a deal of this magnitude — nine players between the Dodgers and Red Sox — had been completed during the waiver period. Both Colletti and team president Stan Kasten said they were surprised that Gonzalez got to them on waivers.
The new Dodgers arrived before Saturday night’s game against the Miami Marlins, ferried to Los Angeles in a private plane. Gonzalez was penciled into the cleanup spot and in the first inning wrapped a three-run home run around the right-field foul pole. It was his only hit in five at-bats in an 8-2 victory.
Infielder Nick Punto, who was also shipped from the Red Sox with righthander Josh Beckett and injured outfielder Carl Crawford, made his LA debut as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, drawing a walk and scoring a run.
Beckett will start for his new club on Monday, his presence making the injury to Chad Billingsley sting a little less.
Gonzalez was the prize, that much was clear, though the team was careful to praise the other acquisitions. Colletti called Beckett a “winning player” and said the righthander was ecstatic to be heading to Los Angeles.
But it was Gonzalez, a Mexican-American from Southern California, who is expected to rejuvenate a fan base that lost faith in the team after the rocky ownership of Frank McCourt.
Colletti had also attempted to trade for Gonzalez when the first baseman played in San Diego. He talked with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington sporadically this season.
Over the last week, their calls had picked up to where the Sox and Dodgers were talking almost every day. That led to the deal’s quick completion.
“Adrian, to me, is if not the best first baseman in baseball, he’s one of the premier first basemen,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “A guy with a pure stroke, great defender, understanding of the game. All the attributes with Adrian.”
Beckett grew disgruntled in Boston and was accused of contributing to a toxic atmosphere in the clubhouse.
“I know there’s been whatever going on, but I think the surrounding here in LA is going to be great for him,” Mattingly said.
Added Colletti, “The past is the past. He said it’s been a rough go for him there, and that he had a lot of great memories there, but that he was looking forward to being here. I told him like I told Hanley Ramirez and like I told Manny Ramirez a few years ago, I don’t judge people by what other people say.
“Everybody starts here clean, and they’ll write their own story, they’ll write their own personality, and they’ll write their own traits.”
During Saturday’s news conference, the Dodgers did everything they could to counter the impression that Beckett was a throw-in, that the Red Sox were trying to saddle the Dodgers with his contract for giving up Gonzalez.
“It’s a baseball trade,” said Colletti. “As you look at our starting rotation, you can’t tell me we don’t need Josh Beckett.”
Perhaps the biggest shock was that the Dodgers were willing to take on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary that had been the Red Sox’ responsibility.
Asked yesterday if there was a ceiling for the Dodgers in terms of budget, Walter said, “Somewhere, I suppose.”
“When they first came here, they talked about being bold and thinking big thoughts and doing big things,” Colletti said of the team’s ownership group. “When you think about the players that we’ve been able to add, it’s obvious that the words were true.”
Compared with the Dodgers under McCourt, Colletti said, “It’s a different place.”