Highway Robbery: Dodgers On the Losing End of Big Trade with Red Sox

By | August 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm | 5 comments | News, Trades and Free Agent Signings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Complete insanity.

On Sunday, the Red Sox and Dodgers completed an earth-shattering, blockbuster trade, and the biggest post deadline deal in history. Over $270 million in contracts and nine players changed hands, including three All-Stars. Sitting at 62-67 and thirteen games out of first place in the AL East, the Red Sox made a fire sale move. They sent brand-name players Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles, along with $11 million and veteran utility infielder Nick Punto.

The players the Sox sent-packing have eleven All-Star selections, five Gold Gloves and two postseason MVP awards between them. The players they got in return– James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Ivan  DeJesus and Allen Webster– don’t have decorated trophy cases and aren’t household names by any stretch. In fact, of the five players, only Loney has accumulated more than one year of MLB service time. But, there’s no doubt about it. The Red Sox were on the winning ends of this deal.

This deal was so heavily lop-sided in Boston’s favor, it’s criminal. The Dodgers lose big here. But, their madness is half-way understandable. Fighting for a playoff spot, the Dodgers needed some insurance for their stretch run. They’re two games out of first place in their division and just a half-game ahead of the Pirates in the Wild Card race. Fighting for the postseason is important for any team, but it’s particularly important for this Dodgers club. Putting together an impressive season after two years of sub-par play, the franchise’s new ownership was clearly in a vulnerable spot. Los Angeles’ other team, the Angels, are doing their best to attract more fans from the Dodgers’ base in to their own, spending big on free agents in the offseason, making blockbuster deadline trades and stealing headlines. Of course, with the second largest market in baseball, there’s plenty of support to go around, but Dodgertown needed to prove their commitment to their fans nonetheless.

In the past few years, Dodgers’ ownership has soured much of their support, exercising poor spending practices and continually attracting negative media attention. Though he managed to sell the team for $2 billion last fall, Frank McCourt’s tenure was a an awful chapter in the club’s history. McCourt drove the team in to bankruptcy and used revenue streams to fuel his extravagant life-style and pay-off an expensive divorce. The new regime obviously wants to change that trend, and capitalize on the franchise’s potential. Sitting in such a large market and with the team suddenly playing more competitively, Magic Johnson and the club’s new owners wanted to win over a fan base that had been dwindling with disgust over the franchise’s image and annual acceptance of mediocrity. The only NL team without a World Series appearance in the last twenty-five years, the Dodgers could stand to gain big if they can make it to the Fall classic.

So, the Dodgers did something unbelievably stupid. They had great intentions, and on the surface, the trade looks beneficial for both sides. But the fact is, this deal doesn’t help enough in the short-term to make up for crippling long-term consequences. They accepted $260 million in bad contracts and a package of bad make-up veterans. $260 million. But they didn’t stop there. Claiming the contracts of this injury-riddled, insubordinate group, who were seemingly the cause of the Red Sox’ disappointing and horrible performance would’ve been reckless and short-sighted enough. The Dodgers dug themselves in to an even deeper hole, and dealt a large chunk of their future. Bright young talents Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus are all blessed with All-Star tools and they’re cheap and under team control.

Okay, the Dodgers did have good intentions here. At least they’re trying to commit their budget toward some wins. That’s much better than their plan under previous owner Frank McCourt, who used the team’s revenue on himself rather than on the field, and appeared to be intent on driving the club’s image in to the ground. And yes, this trade provides the firepower Los Angeles needs to secure a playoff spot this season. But the club has sacrificed almost all of it’s payroll room, and they’ve agreed to take-on the players who are widely considered responsible for dragging a bright, talent-filled club into the basement of the American League.

The Good

Despite their success this year, the Dodgers’ needed some outside  help. They’re in a competitive division, chasing a streaking Giants team and they’re clinging on to a thing half-game lead over the Pirates for the second Wild Card spot. Their lineup is the fifth-weakest in all of baseball this year, and Los Angeles put together a so-so .500 record against winning teams.  The players they acquired are among the most athletically gifted in the game and each has a tremendous resume. The prize of the trade, Adrian Gonzalez, has put together 20 wins above replacement since the beginning of the ’09 season, and he’s hitting .305/.391/.523 in that span. Not only does he give the Los Angeles more meat at middle of the order, supplementing Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier,  but he’s a hefty upgrade where the team could use it most. Gonzalez will replace James Loney at first base, one of the players he was traded for. Loney was hitting just .254/.300/.342 and he’s 1.7 wins below average in his six-plus season big league career.

Beckett is a decent pick-up, solidifying a rotation that had suddenly thinned with injuries. Los Angeles’ pitching staff is holding opposing teams to just 3.7 runs per game, the second-best mark in the NL, but injuries to Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly has left some holes in their rotation. Despite leading Boston to a World Series and putting together a nice 89-58 record and a 4.17 ERA throughout his Red Sox career, Beckett had worn out his welcome in Boston. He was 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA for the Sox this season, and reports about his clubhouse poisoning spoiled his accomplishments in the eyes of many Boston sports fans. However, he’s still a very good veteran pitcher with a vicious curveball and polished command over a big league repertoire.

Beckett has the tools to put together a very nice tenure in Dodgertown. This season, he’s been performing better than his ERA and record suggest. Fenway Park is one of the hardest on right-handed power-pitchers like Josh. The park’s short right field porch boosts left-handed hitter’s power numbers, while the leftfield green monster turns lazy fly-balls in to doubles. A big-game pitcher that feeds off adrenaline, he’s been able to overcome the park’s dimensions in past years by feeding off the roaring fan support. But now that times have changed and he’s no longer a fan-favorite, he’s getting hit-hard in front of the Fenway faithful. Facing him in Boston, batter’s have their OPS boosted by 73 points and slugging percentage by over fifty this year. Dodger stadium on the other hand, is much more pitcher-friendly, and has ranked in the bottom third in homerun factor during the past two seasons. A move from the heavy-hitting AL East in to the National League should also help Josh’s performance. So, controlling for Beckett’s 1.1 homerun rate, a number that can largely be blamed on his home park, he’s a solid pitcher, with a 4.39 xFIP. Though his ERA has yo-yo’d, Beckett is actually fairly consistent, with a sub-four FIP in four of the past six seasons.

The Ugly 

But here’s where the Dodgers loose big time. Carl Crawford. It’s sad to say, but the former All-Star and Gold Glover is one of the least valuable players in baseball. He completely exhausts the Dodgers remaining payroll flexibility, with a ball-and-chain contract that stretches through 2017. He’s owed over $120 million in that span, and there’s almost no chance that he’ll come even close to living up to his salary.

Since signing the contract in the 2010-2011 offseason, Crawford has hit a lifeless .260/.292/.419 despite playing in a left-hander friendly homepark and batting at the top of a protection-filled batting order. He’s already sat-out a season’s worth of games and after opting to have Tommy John surgery last week, will surely miss every game remaining in the 2012 season and possibly some of 2013. He just celebrated his thirty-first birthday earlier this month, and won’t be on the field again until he’s more than half-way to thirty-two. That’s not that old for a big league player, with most outfielders just exiting their prime-years at that point, but for the type of player that Crawford is, that’s ancient.

With a weak arm and pedestrian power, Crawford’s value rests primarily on his speed and hitting skills. These happen to be the first two tools to deteriorate with age, with speed generally disappearing after a player’s early thirties. At the plate, Crawford’s bat has already deteriorated significantly. Between his first full-season with the Rays in 2003 and his last in 2010, Crawford averaged a .299 batting average, a .340 on-base percentage, a 109 OPS+ and fifty-one extra-base hits. He signed with the Red Sox when he was just exiting his twenties, and he’s been a well-below average hitting since, with an ugly .292 on-base percentage and an 87 OPS+.

Crawford’s trademark running speed is already quickly disappearing, and it should be little more than a memory mid-way through his Dodgers tenure. He was averaging fifty stolen bases and twelve triples a season with the Rays, but has swiped just twenty-six bags and collected nine triples through 161 games since leaving Tampa. A speedy lead-off prototype, Crawford’s wheels are also important for legging-out hits and tracking down fly balls in the outfield. Defensively, his surgically repaired elbow and disappearing wheels aren’t going to do him any favors in a big Dodgers outfield. In the batter’s box, the forecast isn’t too promising either. His near .300 career batting average as the Rays’ lead-off man was partially a product of his on his ability to beat-out infield singles and bunts, and his .328 batting average on balls in play. So, now that Crawford’s speed is reduced, his average will likely drop even further.

In short, the Dodgers are paying $120 million for a a below-average player. Crawford’s best years are behind him. All of the good the team gets with Adrian Gonzalez, and maybe Beckett, is essentially wiped-away by the Crawford addition. Let’s face it, when Crawford finally steps on to the diamond in a Dodgers’ uniform, he’s going to be an expensive, thirty-something-year-old leftfielder with a weak, surgically repaired arm, a lifeless bat, a sub-par on-base percentage and not enough speed to push his production much higher than replacement level.

The Uglier

Crawford isn’t the only thing that makes this deal terrible for the Dodgers. True Gonzalez is a nice acquisition, and Beckett is a decent pitcher in the short-term, but for $260 million and four cheap, young players? That’s absolutely ludicrous. Not to mention the fact that Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford come with a ton of off the field baggage. The Dodgers need Beckett and Gonzalez to help lead their team to the playoffs, yet both players are ill-equipped to fill many of the job’s demand. Gonzalez led a mutiny against his former manager, Bobby Valentine, and was labeled a bad clubhouse guy by the media. Beckett’s off-field behavior and insubordination helped get Terry Francona fired and is considered to be a major reason for the team’s extraordinarily disappointing play. These are the guys the Dodgers want in their clubhouse home playoff time? The veterans they to set an example for the guys that haven’t been to the postseason?

The Dodgers, supposedly a “rebuilding team” entering this season, have all but ruined their future. The massive amount of salary this trade adds absolutely strangles the team’s budget room. They didn’t lose enough in the past two seasons to earn any high draft picks, and the outside of paying for Zach Lee, they haven’t accumulated much talent via the amateur draft. They’ve fallen short on the international market. They failed to sign star-level talents Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, but decided to spend $42 million on Yasel Puig, a player that might not be half as good as the other two. And now, they’ve drastically reduced their buying power in the next few offseasons.

The wave of trades the Dodgers have made since the beginning of July has gutted their farm system of their most polished prospects. The big league ready talents they parted with, Nate Eovaldi, Josh Lindblom, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus, all have less than a year of service time to their names and each will be commanding slave-labor salaries for the next few seasons. These are the type of low-price, blue-chip talented players that would’ve brightened LA’s future. Sands has 30 homerun power, Eovaldi and De La Rosa have 100 MPH heat and have already shown they can dominate big leaguers, while Lindblom and DeJesus are solid bets for unspectacular but long MLB careers.

This latest trade has continued to shift the franchise’s plan from the long-term to the short-term. The goal should be to compete annually, not to go all-in and gamble on this season. Beyond the MLB-ready players they sent packing, they also gave up a Allen Webster, a tremendously gifted young pitching prospect. Webster is blessed with great command and three above-average pitches. He keeps the ball on the ground, and has a future at the top of a MLB rotation. Losing him hurt more now that the front office has dealt so much other talent. Even the less-recognizable names they’ve traded away recently have the potential to come back to bite them. Scott McGough, one of the players they sent to Miami for Hanley, has an electric arm and could develop in to a closer. Leon Landry, the young centerfielder they traded to the Mariners for Brandon League, is hitting .344/.374/.589 this season and .400/.430/.690 since the deal.

Prospects are prospects– there’s no guarantee that they’ll make good on their potential and put together a successful Major League career. But, let’s say three of the ten prospects the Dodgers gave up throughout the past two months pan-out– Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. Jerry Sands has a .290/.376/.590 career line in the minors and would develop into a middle of the order bat in that case. De La Rosa’s surgically repaired elbow will probably keep him out of the ace spot, but he’d be a nasty number-two behind Clayton Kershaw. Allen Webster has 91-94 MPH fastball, good command and nice groundball rates. If he pans-out, he’ll be a Derek Lowe or Ian Kennedy-type pitcher. That would give the Dodgers three players that could potentially combine for a 10+ WAR annually, all for less than $15 million (total) over the next three seasons. Compare that to the $109 million over the next three years for a combined 8 or 9 WAR from the three fallen stars they acquired– 5 WAR for Gonzo and 3 or 4 from Crawford and Beckett annually. Which is the better deal? It would be even better if one of two more of those guys turn in to very good players. But that’s not the only major difference between the two scenarios. Under the first scenario, where these prospects stick with the Dodgers and turn in to stars, the savings would allow the team to buy an impact-level player on the free agent market, like Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke.

All and all, the Dodgers made a bad trade here. Their intentions were good and sincere. You can’t really blame the franchises’ new management for opening their wallets for a World Series ring. But the fact is, Los Angeles is killing themselves by taking-on so much salary and so many off-field problems. Adrian Gonzalez is a star, but he isn’t worth Carl Crawford’s contact and losing as much talent as LA forked-over. If it was closer to a straight-up waiver claim, where the Dodgers agreed to accept a hefty portion of Crawford’s contract if they got Gonzalez out of the deal, that would’ve been a bearable trade for both sides. But taking Beckett too, and then sending some of their most valuable young players packing? Ouch.

Highway Robbery: Dodgers On the Losing End of Big Trade with Red Sox / Baseball News Hound by Ryan Kelley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives CC BY-NC-ND

About the Author

Ryan Kelley

Founder and Executive Editor of BaseballNewsHound.com. Ryan is a graduate of the George Washington University, with a degree in economics. His acclaimed thesis on Major League Baseball's Labor Market is in the running for an excellence award in economics. A young economist working in Washington D.C., Ryan has extensive experience working in professional baseball. In the past, he's worked in player development, for the United States Olympic Committee and in scouting. Ryan's resume also includes jobs in journalism, social media marketing, government as well in non-profit legal services. However, sports and sportswriting are his two passions, and he strives to incorporate his unconventional career experience and academic expertise in his work at BaseballNewsHound.com. Born and raised in Connecticut, Ryan currently resides in Arlington Virginia, just outside of DC. A former amateur baseball and football player, Ryan loves both sports.

  • Adrian Garcia

    WOW This ended up being incredibly wrong, and that Puig tidbit of not being half the player Cespedes is is laughable now

    • Ryan(Adrian, You’re a Moron)

      To make it easy, let’s make an elementary representation of value. Let’s say rWAR/$alary. Use that to compare the Dodgers’ return and what the Red Sox have done with the extra payroll–the value of those players they traded for and someone like James Loney or someone the Sox signed with the extra payroll–Napoli, Drew, Gomes…do you get it now? Yeah. “Laughable.” I’m sure you take in the big one$ wherever you work.

    • RKelley

      So, incredibly wrong eh?

      The Red Sox won the World Series just one year after making this trade. In 2012, they were 69-93, finishing LAST in the AL East.

      After getting rid of clubhouse pariahs Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, and over-priced Carl Crawford, and stripping $270+ million of payroll from their books, they were free to add what would become key players.

      With the money they saved, they were able to sign closer and 2013 World Series MVP Koji Uehara (7th in Cy Young voting), Shane Victorino (9th in rWAR among all AL batters, 2nd among outfielders to Mike Trout, 4.4 wins above average and 2013 Gold Glove), and first baseman Mike Napoli (4.2 rWAR, led 1B in Total Zone Runs). They were also able to add their shortstop Stephen Drew, who was 1.5 wins better than the average shortstop, and key clubhouse guys like Johnny Gomes and Mike Carp.

      They did all of this with the money they saved, and were still left with more than enough money left over to sign team leader and future Hall of Famer Dustin Pedroia to a long term deal.

      Because of this deal, the Red Sox were able to turn their fortunes around from the worst team in the AL East, to the best team in baseball, IMMEDIATELY. And to add insult to injury, they also took flamethrower Rubby de la Rosa, and top prospect Allen Webster away from the deal as well.

      The Dodgers? The Dodgers got the worst of it.

      Josh Beckett: -1.6 WAA (1.6 wins BELOW average in 2013) and nearly a full win WORSE than a replacement-level player. All for $15.75 million, which is more than any of the aforementioned quality signings the Red Sox made with their savings. The Dodgers also owe $15.75 more in 2014.

      Adrian Gonzalez: 4 WAR, 1.9 WAA. The clubhouse pariah managed to rebound somewhat, though his $21 million price tag was 4th highest in the league, and he is still owed $105 million ($7.8 paid by Boston) over the next five years.

      Carl Crawford: 1.7 rWAR, 0.2 WAA for $20 million in 2013, still owed $83 million / 4yrs. The value of 1 WAR on the FA market is $5-6 million, so Carl Crawford cost the Dodgers more than twice the free agent rate. The aging speedster continued to decline, failing to post more than a .330 OBP (league-average is .335) and 20 stolen bases for the third straight season.

      Nick Punto: 2.2 rWAR, 1.1 WAA. Utilityman Nick Punto was the second-most valuable addition for the Dodgers in this trade. Unfortunately, he departed via free agency this offseason.

      So, the Dodgers spent $38.5 million in 2013, and traded two top young pitchers for a whopping grand total of +1.6 wins above average net, and 6.3 rWAR.

      Shane Victorino, ALONE, for just $13 million, posted a 6.2 rWAR and 4.4 WAA. In fact, for the same amount of money the Dodgers paid to those four faded stars last year, the Red Sox were able to add Victorino, Uehara, Napoli and Drew–which generated 10.3 WAA and 17.0 rWAR.

      That’s almost 9 WAA better, and 11 rWAR better than the Dodgers! And moving forward, things are even better for the Red Sox and so infinitely worse for the Dodgers! While the Red Sox enjoy their newest World Series victory and hundreds of millions of dollars of extra payroll (and profit) resulting from this trade, the Dodgers have managed to eat up every single bit of payroll room they have, spending the majority of it on over-priced, has-been veterans that are barely on the field, much less performing at an average rate.

      And by the way. The Red Sox had missed the playoffs in the only two seasons they had these players that they traded to the Dodgers on their roster, totalling a 49.1% winning percentage and a 149-165 record over that span (2011-2012). After they pawned them off for a ridiculous return, they improved from 69-wins in 2012, to a league-leading 97 in 2013 and a World Series victory.

      Game. Set. Match. You suck.

      • Adrian Garcia

        game set match?

        the whole idea of $/WAR is laughable, the guys who are pre arbitration are always going to seem more valuable than free agents.

        stack your team with as much talent as possible and hope it works out. Not to mention, someone who uses as much sabermetrics as you should know how much of a crapshoot the playoffs are, it takes a whole lot of skill to get to the playoffs, but it’s a role of the dice to see who can get on a hot streak at the right time in order to carry the team.

        And as for the prospects, come on, Allen Webster, the same guy who’s fallen off of a cliff in terms of prospect hounds? He’s regressed in Boston, and has exhibited the same mediocre control he’s always had in Los Angeles. As for Rubby, he hasn’t been healthy enough to determine anything (although he hasn’t necessarily been great in Boston), for a pitcher who has been that hyped up, he probably isn’t even going to be a starter, and relievers can only be so valuable.

        Was the individual trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers a win for the Sox? Sure, they were able to buy more efficient players, but it seems that just because the Red Sox came out of this winners, means that the Dodgers were “hosed” i’m not so sure about this.

  • You’re an Idiot

    Really, you’re laughable. If you’ve ever taken an economics course, balanced a checkbook or even have a shred of common sense then you’d realize how ridiculously lopsided this trade was. The Red Sox shed all of that money and a year later are dominating the toughest division in the game–in the biggest markets. How am I wrong here? They made out like bandits, dropping the budget-busting contracts of three declining veterans that were were playing terrible baseball and were a clubhouse nightmare. Carl Crawford JUST re-iterated that he hated it there, while Beckett isn’t even playing anymore.

    I’ll make it even more simple for u

    That trade screams moral hazard, essentially allowing big spenders to crawl out from under their own mistakes. That inflated the free agent market prices for poorer teams. The MLB would’ve never let that happen if it were the Yankees dumping salary.

    And as for Puig, that was the prevailing thinking at the time. I sighted BA’s Conner Glassey. But in my own write up ranked him higher than most other publications.

    I don’t have anymore time do your trolling ways. Next time come up with something better than this. Fail. Go crawl back under that rock you call home.

2012 MLB Competitive Balance Draft Lottery Results / Baseball News Hound by Ryan Kelley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives CC BY-NC-ND