The Los Angeles Dodgers have completed one of the biggest blockbuster baseball trades of the 2012 season. The deal to get four-time-All-Star first baseman, Adrian Gonzales, pitcher Josh Beckett, injured outfielder Carl Crawford, and utility-man Nick Punto in exchange for first baseman James Loney and four prospects, a nine player trade, was in fact the biggest trade in Dodger history.
Boston also forked up $11 million in cash to Los Angeles in cash. In addition to Loney, the Red Sox acquired pitcher Allen Webster, infielder Ivan Dejesus Jr. and two players to be named.
“They’re in a pennant race and have an opportunity to add talent and were focused on that,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “It’ll be our job to take advantage of this opportunity and build the next big Red Sox team.”
Under a rich new ownership group that includes NBA star Magic Johnson, the Dodgers entered the day three games behind San Francisco for the NL West lead and in the midst of the wild-card race.
“We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league,” Johnson said..
Even though the possibility had been hinted at in recent days — and was all but finished by game time Friday night — the acquisition by the Dodgers of the Red Sox first baseman was a stunning development.
The Dodgers picked up salaries totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the deal. Gonzalez is owed $127 million the next six seasons; Beckett $31.5 million; Punto $1.5 million; and Crawford, who had reconstructive elbow surgery on Thursday, $102.5 million the next five seasons.
A Dodgers team that had the best record in baseball early this season but has fallen three games back of the Giants in theNational League West, has now undergone a major makeover with the mid-season additions of Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Gonzalez.
The Dodgers have dramatically revamped their roster in the last month with trades, acquiring shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Shane Victorino, starter Joe Blanton and reliever Brandon League and now the three active Red Sox players – Crawford is recovering from surgery – less than a week before the Aug. 31 deadline for players to be eligible for the postseason.
“Just from pure emotion, it’s exciting to see this ownership group pulling off something like this and really making a push to do what they said – which is making this place a winner and making this team the best it can possible be,” Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier said.
Said team president Stan Kasten: “When we came in, we made it clear that we want to build the Dodgers back to what they once were.”
A Dodgers team that had been trying to capture the division with only Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as significant bats in the middle of the order should now, with the addition of Ramirez and Gonzalez, have one of the most impressive lineups in baseball.
Gonzalez is a San Diego native of Mexican heritage who is bilingual and would seem a natural draw to the Dodgers’ significant Latino following. Over his last six full seasons, he has hit .297 and averaged 31 home runs and 103 runs batted in.
This season, his second with Boston after spending the rest of his career with the San Diego Padres, he is batting .300 with 15 home runs and 86 RBI.
The Guggenheim Baseball Management group that purchased the Dodgers in May continues to demonstrate they are operating in a different universe from the one previous owner Frank McCourt, who had driven the team to bankruptcy.
Even after the Dodgers had signed Ethier to an $85-million extension in June, signed Cuban free agent Yasiel Puig for $44.2 million and taken on an additional $40 million in salary with moves prior to the non-waiver trading deadline, Dodgers chairman Mark Walter said Wednesday the team could “still take on significant money.”
The addition of Gonzalez should prove a major upgrade at first base, where the Dodgers had become increasingly disenchanted with the regression of Loney. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been platooning Loney at first with journeyman Juan Rivera the last two months. Loney, 28, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, is batting .254 with four home runs and 33 RBI.
The Dodgers began the season with a payroll of approximately $91 million. But with new ownership and an unexpected opportunity to advance into the postseason, the Dodgers have become the most aggressive and active team in baseball.
That historically has included the Red Sox, who began the season with a payroll of over $175 million. But the Red Sox are 59-66 this season and 13½ games out in the American League East.
As far as the Red Sox go, nothing looks good in their camp. The team is disintegrating so fast that even knowledgeable experts are puzzled.
To provide an analogy, thing of Ben Cherrington, the new general manager of the Red Sox, as sort of a Gorbachev figure. He started in the job this year, and tried to clean up the mess. But he was stymied by the old guard—including owners who foisted the current, and awful, manager, Bobby Valentine—on him, and now he has to move drastically. Crawford is like Kazakhstan, expensive but troubled; Beckett is Georgia, valuable but liable to start a war; Nick Punto, the throw-in utility infielder is Moldova; Gonzalez, the valuable breadbasket, is the Ukraine. And John Lackey, the grumpy pitcher who stays behind, is now Chechnya.
Historians will debate who ruined the wonderful Red Sox of the past decade: was it the general manager, Theo Epstein, who fled last fall? Was it Beckett, the main perpetrator of the beer-and-chicken shenanigans? Did Johnny Damon, the charismatic center fielder, who departed for the Yankees, leave a curse? Some people would pick Bobby Valentine—but to me, he’s just Yeltsin, the disruptive, late arrival. The man who really did it is Brian Cashman, the canny general manager of the Yankees (and the most aptly named man in sports, besides Lance Armstrong). He is Ronald Reagan: the man who kept spending and spending, driving the Red Sox into delirium and then oblivion.
No telling how long it might take to build the kind of consistently winning team fan in Boston have taken for granted, but is sure won’t be this year or next. In fact, not even the year after next. The Red Sox might as well get used to losing, because they’re going to be losers for quite some time.
As far as the Dodger, look out for this new energized team now featuring a winning minded group of owners. Their building a dynasty that might take them through the next 4 to 5 years as one of the winningest teams in baseball.
contributor D. Chandler