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Sox trade Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett AND PUNTO to the Dodgers

2012 August 26

There are any number of angles to look at this from, with new ones emerging as time passes. Anyone claiming winners and losers in the here and now is fooled and trying to fool you. With that said, let’s consider what we can know right now and hypothesize on what this move could mean for the Red Sox organization in the immediate and the future.

  • The trade

The Red Sox sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Sox receive starting pitching prospect Allen Webster, pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, left fielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, second baseman Ivan De Jesus, and first baseman James Loney. The Dodgers assume all but $11 million of the $276 million due to the former Red Sox players, including $252 million due from 2013 to 2017. Neither De La Rosa nor Sands were successfully passed through waivers prior to the trade. As such, both are designated as players to be named later and will remain in Los Angeles until the completion of the 2012 baseball season.

  • How do you value a reset?

Because it defines where you stand on this trade. The Sox freed up an unprecedented amount of their budget, but only at the great expense of one of the top 20 players in the game, Adrian Gonzalez.

Down the road, how that money is spent will be important. There will be no sure thing free agents of Gonzalez’s pedigree walking through the door in 2013. There’s a risk that resources could be allocated less efficiently. But in the moment, it’s the reset, the opportunity to reallocate those resources, that holds value. Considering the magnitude of the financial commitments moved, it could be argued that that opportunity is more valuable than any of the players on the move.

  • The return

A number of trade reports have led the package of players the Red Sox have received with James Loney. Please disregard this.

Loney, 28 and a free agent in 2013, has been a massive disappointment for the Dodgers, never developing the power to play his position. Over the last three seasons, 433 games, Loney hit .272/.326/.391 with a total of 26 home runs. Adjusted for his league and home park, that grades out to a 95 wRC+, five percent below league average and between ten to twenty percentage points worse than the positional league average. He’s a first baseman that doesn’t hit, someone the Red Sox will get a look at over the remainder of the season, but not likely make an effort to retain.

***

The most exciting name coming to Boston is starting pitching prospect Allen Webster, 22.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff ERA G GS IP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 20 Great Lakes MIDW A LAD 2.88 26 23 131.1 8.2 0.4 3.6 7.8 2.15
2011 21 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-A+ LAD 4.03 27 26 145.0 9.1 0.6 3.5 8.4 2.37
2012 22 Chattanooga SOUL AA LAD 3.55 27 22 121.2 8.9 0.1 4.2 8.7 2.05
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/26/2012.

Prior to the start of the season, Webster was regarded as the 61st and 95th best prospect in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America, respectively. Though he didn’t make Kevin Goldstein’s Top 101 at Baseball Prospectus, Goldstein did place Webster as the third best prospect in the Dodgers system, projecting him as a number three starter with an estimated arrival time of 2013.

Goldstein noted:

Webster’s fastball is a special pitch, as it’s a natural sinker with low-to-mid 90s velocity and plenty of sink. He has a plus changeup that he’ll throw at any point in the count and a simple delivery that is easily repeatable, leading to plenty of strikes.

Webster has struggled to find a reliable breaking ball, and the lack of a vertical aspect to his game led to him getting hit hard in the Southern League. He has a distinct curve and a slider, but both are inconsistent, and he has a tendency to overthrow them.

More recently, in his own analysis of the trade, Goldstein said of Webster, ”with his stunningly good second half, Webster had eclipsed Zach Lee as the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ system, with some scouts upping his ceiling from a potential three to a potential two. With his velocity and high-quality secondary offering, it’s an understandable projection now that he seems to have harnessed his stuff.”

***

Rubby De La Rosa, 23, with a fastball that can hit 100, posses more upside than any of the players received from the Dodgers, but does have a few knocks against him.

He is only five appearances removed from Tommy John surgery and whether he can reign in his control may ultimately be the deciding factor on whether he is an impact starter or late inning reliever. In 60.2 innings with the Dodgers in 2011, De La Rosa walked 4.60 batters per nine, or 12.2% of batters faced (7.5% league average). That kind of walk rate will not play outside of the bullpen. Additionally, his secondary offerings, a slider and changeup, are said to need work. At worst, he’s something to dream on that could make an immediate impression as a power arm out of the bullpen.

***

Both Jerry Sands, 24, and Ivan De Jesus, 25, are more advanced in their development arc, but possess significantly lower ceilings than both of the pitchers headed to Boston.

Sands numbers with the Dodger’s Triple-A affiliate are impressive (.302/.379/.536 with 25 home runs), but inflated by the high run environment of the Pacific Coast League. It’s of note that despite their woeful production at first base, the Dodgers have never really given Sands a long look at the position, which probably tells us more than any numbers ever could. That said, given that the Sox currently look to have holes in both left field and first base, he could be of use, if not in a regular role, as a bench bat spelling the starters at both positions.

It’s difficult to imagine that De Jesus factors into the Red Sox plans, but he could take on the role of minor league middle infield depth, like Pedro Ciriaco and Yamaico Navarro before him.

  • Organizational philosophy

There’s been considerable talk about how this trade represents a return to the scouting and development philosophy that brought them Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Jonathan Papelbon, to name a few. I don’t buy it.

That group of players that came up from within the organization in the mid-2000′s was special. That the organization’s development program has since failed to reproduce such a crop tells us little to nothing about the degree of importance being placed on it.

Furthermore, we’re quick to forget the young players traded during that period to acquire major league talent; a list that includes Justin Masterson, Anthony Rizzo and Josh Reddick. The Red Sox have a number of interesting talents in the low minors at the moment. If guys like Matt Barnes, Xander Bogaerts and Jackey Bradley make good on their promise, it won’t be because the organization stopped signing free agent contracts.

When the Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, they went all in on the team as currently constructed for one last hurrah that never came. It didn’t represent a change in organization philosophy, but a recognition that no team – save the New York Yankees – can compete for forever, so it’s best to take your shot while you have it. Trading both players isn’t a damning of the process, but a completion of the cycle, an opportunity to lower fan expectations in order to retool, reload and build up for another decade of contention.

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