Weeks ago, we suggested that the Red Sox needed to blow up their roster.
Who knew they would do it in one trade?
The Sox were on the verge Friday night of unloading some of their mistakes — Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto — to the Dodgers for prospects, including righthanders Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, first baseman James Loney, and infielder Ivan De Jesus.
If the deal goes through, the Sox will have unloaded approximately $270 million in salaries, though part of the hang-up was concerning how much of the remainder of the contracts of Crawford, Beckett, and Gonzalez the Sox would assume.
The Dodgers would get their power-hitting first baseman in Gonzalez (who has a limited no-trade, but not to the Dodgers), a good defensive player but one who was part of the chemistry problem in the Boston clubhouse, a starting pitcher in Beckett who would solidify the middle of their rotation, Crawford for next season, and Punto as a utilityman.
The Sox needed to get final approval from Beckett, who has 10-5 rights. That approval had not yet come during Friday night’s game against the Royals.
The Sox also placed Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury on trade waivers, and there could be action on them in the next 24 hours as well. In other words, the Sox are hoping to start again with a blank slate.
We wonder, too, what this means for manager Bobby Valentine. Does it mean he gets an extra year to prove himself with a new roster? Or does it mean that the team has blown up the roster, but that Valentine won’t be around to manage it?
General manager Ben Cherington responded a few weeks back after our “blow it up” report that from a baseball perspective, it was the right thing to do. However, it’s seldom done in a big market such as Boston. Cherington seemed to be able to convince his bosses it was the way to go.
Gonzalez had become a whiner who seemed to be involved in starting a group to complain about Valentine. He seemed to have an opinion on everything, and rubbed his managers the wrong way. Gonzalez was never the guy we thought he was supposed to be, no leadership skills whatsoever.
And Crawford never fit from the outset. The Sox needed a righthanded-hitting outfielder and instead got a lefthanded hitter. Even owner John Henry said that the Sox didn’t need Crawford, but he went along with Theo Epstein’s recommendation. Crawford had a horrible 2011, and then required wrist and elbow surgeries in 2012. That the Dodgers would be willing to take him is startling, but they must feel he will rebound.
So, what might the Red Sox get if the deal goes through?
Loney is a free agent at the end of the season. He’s never quite lived up to his billing. He’s a line-drive hitter with marginal power, but did drive in 90 runs twice and 88 once. He was hitting .254 with four homers and 33 RBIs when he was yanked from Friday night’s lineup. Red Sox third base coach Jerry Royster instructed Loney early in his career.
Sands is a big guy (6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds), and a righthanded hitter who has put up impressive minor league numbers — 35 home runs one season, and 24 homers with 101 RBIs this season at Triple A Albuquerque — but it’s never translated to the majors. Would a short porch in Fenway bring that out? That’s the hope. The Dodgers projected him as a fourth outfielder who can play some first. They aren’t sweating this loss.
De La Rosa, 23, seems to be the prize. He once threw 100 miles per hour, before blowing out his elbow last year and undergoing Tommy John surgery. When he returned to the Dodgers Aug. 22, he was throwing 96 and still had an outstanding throwing motion. The Red Sox watched him that night. One of the issues with De La Rosa is that he likely cannot be traded at this time. It appears the Sox and Dodgers would have to make a separate deal at the end of the season because he was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays, and then pulled back. Because he did not clear waivers, he will not officially be in this trade.
Webster was the pitcher the Dodgers would not include in the Ryan Dempster deal with the Cubs. He is generally considered the Dodgers’ second-best pitching prospect, and is 6-8 with a 3.55 ERA at Double A Chattanooga. It appears the Sox were trying to get pitching prospect Zach Lee in this deal but were unable to do so.
A righthanded-hitting utility infielder, De Jesus has never shown great promise after a home plate collision slowed his career path.
Some of these pieces could be dealt by the Red Sox in the offseason. With so many big names off the books, they can now look to rebuild. They could commit to Ryan Kalish. They might be able to sign Ellsbury long term or trade him. They could commit early to Jackie Bradley, who is in Double A.
Free agency isn’t much of an option to replace Gonzalez, Beckett, or Crawford. Josh Hamilton will be the prize, but would the Sox dish out another big deal to get him? Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher will also be a free agent. First base has a few options, including Carlos Pena and Mike Napoli. And on the pitching front, you’ve got Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, and Zach Greinke as possible top starters on the market.
The Sox would have to package some of their prospects to go after players they like via trade.
The Sox could always convert Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway into a first baseman, or go with Mauro Gomez. It was interesting that on a night when David Ortiz was activated, the team elected to keep Gomez and send down Junichi Tazawa. Is that a sign that Gomez could be in the first base mix?
Whatever happens, the Red Sox seem to have made the decision that blowing it up is the way to go. It’s probably something that should have been done last offseason.
With a run of bad publicity and a skeptical fan base, the Sox may have finally learned that starting over is better than adding on.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.