Did you ever go away for a weekend thinking the world worked one way, and then suddenly had those illusions ripped away, and had to come back to a vastly different world from the one you left? I was up at our cabin this weekend in the north woods of Wisconsin, standing on a dock overlooking a pristine lake, preparing to catch a zillion fish with my son (who quickly decided he’d rather practice his light saber moves with a nearby stick), when I found out that the Red Sox were sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four young prospects.
The Red Sox haven’t been sellers since 1997, when they dealt Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek and Mike Stanley to the Yankees for Jim Mecir and Tony Armas Jr., and while they’re on pace for their worst finish since 1994, it would have been impossible to imagine them dealing any of those four players (and their contracts) this year before this weekend, let alone exchange them (in August!) for anything of value.
But they did, and I’m being forced to reevaluate a lot of things I thought I knew. So, here’s what I learned from this weekend’s mega deal:
Big deals can happen in August.
Obviously, smaller trades have happened in August before, but players have always had to pass through waivers to get them done, which has severely limited the number and types of transactions that can go through. Obviously, an in-his-prime Albert Pujols wouldn’t slip through waivers, and the team dealing him would have little leverage or interest in using that leverage to extort a fair deal from whoever claimed him. But with a club like the Dodgers displaying a Steinbrenner-esque disregard for budgets, August can still be a time for big deals provided the contracts are high enough to scare away the lower-budget teams.
The Dodgers are the new Yankees.
Speaking of Steinbrenner, these Dodgers are spending like crazy to upgrade the team for the playoff push. Since taking over the club, Magic Johnson’s ownership team has authorized Ned Colletti to acquire Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League, Randy Choate, and Joe Blanton in addition to the players they acquired over the weekend, they’ve raised this year’s payroll by roughly $28 million and have taken on almost $300 million in future moneys owed to Hanley, Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez, and Punto even before we take into account the $85 million they spent to extend Andre Ethier. The Dodgers are in the same win at all future costs mode that The Boss went through in the 1980s and toward the end of his life, but the ramp up is far steeper and more shocking. Steinbrenner had some tremendous success early in his tenure, before he drove the club off a cliff. It’ll be interesting to see if the Dodgers can mimic his initial triumphs while learning the right lessons about his downfall.
This might be the end of the Red Sox era.
A little under two seasons ago, the Red Sox brought in Carl Crawford as a free agent and traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed him to an extension. A year before that, they had signed Josh Beckett to a huge contract extension. The Sox entered 2012 with understandably massive expectations and have completely imploded both on the field and in the front office. Larry Lucchino’s meddling, which resulted in Bobby Valentine’s hiring, has been laid bare and roundly criticized. Valentine’s trouble communicating with his players and keeping shit in house has been just one of several problems that have proven to be a distraction. Now, it seems like the Red Sox are committing to at least a partial rebuild. And while they got great talent from the Dodgers, it’s likely they got significantly worse in 2013. This probably means David Ortiz is gone at the end of the year. Maybe Cody Ross too. And who knows what this will mean going forward for Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Dustin Pedroia? Yes, the Red Sox could choose to play in the free agent field again this offseason, but with such dysfunction in the front office, and such terrible recent results in player acquisition, it’s fair to question whether they’d just be better off staying out and rebuilding in full. But first and foremost, John Henry needs to clarify the Red Sox leadership structure, before a bad process leads to more bad decisions.
2013 is The Year of the Blue Jays
Connected to the previous point, the Jays have a tremendous opportunity in 2013 to rise in the AL East. The Yankees continue to age (not that that seems to be stopping them thusfar), the Rays are getting more expensive and moving closer to a teardown since their attendance woes have not cleared up, the Red Sox look to have significantly lower expectations in 2013 unless Ben Cherington works some real magic, and the Orioles still have the fourth worst run differential in the American League. Meanwhile, the Jays will be healthier (they pretty much have to be), with a full season of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Brett Lawrie and a pitching staff that isn’t held together by duct tape like in an old Red Green bit. It may not seem like it now, since the Jays are in the middle of a 5-21 stretch of complete and utter collapse, but better times are ahead. The window of opportunity is upon you. I can’t wait.