Saturday, August 25, 2012

Looking at the Dodgers' return in the potential trade with the Red Sox

With the blockbuster Dodger-Red Sox trade expected to be announced today, I'm going to look at just what the Dodgers are getting themselves into with this deal.

The Dodgers and Red Sox are about to complete one of the biggest deals in baseball history, but the Dodgers are the team taking almost all the risk.

Here are the details:

To Boston: Rubby De La Rosa (as PTBNL), Allen Webster, James Loney, Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus
To Los Angeles: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and roughly $12 million

Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers finally get a legitimate slugger to slot in behind Matt Kemp. Gonzalez, 30, is one of the best first basemen in baseball, but he's admittedly having a down season -- down being .300/.343/.469. The Dodgers haven't received that production from first base since the days of Eric Karros... or when Loney was just a young pup in 2007, when he played in 96 games.

Gonzalez, like Loney, plays Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base, so there will be virtually no drop-off there. Coupled with the enormous offensive boost, this is a no-brainer.

Gonzalez, a former No. 1 overall pick by the Florida Marlins (2000), is somewhat local. He's from the San Diego area and spent the vast majority of his professional career with the Padres.

But something that is greatly needed is the fact he can hit against left-handed pitching. This season, he owns a .302/.335/.488 triple slash. His average and slugging percentage are better against lefties than righties this season. He hit .321 against lefties last season, a season in which he led the American League in hits while hitting 27 home runs and 45 doubles. In 2010, he hit a whopping .337/.424/.513 against lefties. It shows marked improvement as his career numbers against lefties are not as good (.276/.345/.443), meaning he struggled earlier in his career against southpaws.

But the best part about acquiring Gonzalez is the fact he has elite-level talent (and he has the contract to prove it). He's a top-five first baseman (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Paul Konerko) and one of the best with the glove.

Gonzalez signed a 7-year, $154 million deal with Boston in April 2011. Here's the breakdown:
  • 2013 through 2016: $21 million annually
  • 2017 and 2018: $21.5 million annually
Pretty straight forward.

Now, some of Gonzalez's numbers have been trending downward, such as his walk rate and isolated power.

Year BB% ISO
2009 17.5 .274
2010 13.4 .231
2011 10.3 .210
2012 5.9 .169

Gonzalez was walked like crazy in the Padres' lineup, as he was about the only hitter to fear during his time. That accounts for the 17.5 percent walk rate. But his rate dropping all the way to 5.9 this season is a bit concerning. He's never walked fewer than 52 times in a full season, which he did in 2006.

He started off the 2012 season poorly, hitting just .283/.329/.416 in the first half. But he's really turned it on in the second half: .338/.378/.593. It's nice to see the power is still there, but I'd also love to see that walk rate get back in the neighborhood of 10 percent. With Ramirez and Andre Ethier hitting behind him, I could see that happening.

It's always a good idea to take a risk on elite talent. Gonzalez is elite. The other two Red Sox coming over, well, aren't in that class anymore.

Josh Beckett

Many remember Beckett for his 2003 World Series performance -- an MVP performance -- but Beckett has never been that good over the long haul.

However, Beckett, 32, is coming off one of the better seasons of his career in 2011, a season in which he went 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3.57 FIP, 6.8 H/9, 2.4 BB/9, 8.2 K/9 and a 3.37 K/BB.

This season, Beckett has struggled: 5-11, 5.23 ERA, 4.27 FIP. He hasn't endeared himself to the Boston media after golfing on his day off after missing a start earlier this season -- something that was blown out of proportion by the Boston media, but is worth noting.

His contract status pales in comparison to Gonzalez's and Crawford's, but here are the details anyway: 
  • 2013-14: $15.75M
That's it. His contract is the least of the Dodgers' concern in this deal.

If Beckett can regain his 2011 form, this could be huge for the Dodgers. Chad Billingsley left Friday night's game with elbow inflammation -- the same injury that shelved him for 15 days earlier this season. I'd be surprised if he doesn't end up there again.

But there's more to Beckett than hoping he can regain his form. His velocity has dropped -- dramatically. He averaged 93.1 MPH on his fastball just last season. This season, it's down to 91.6 MPH. That's a significant drop. He's also throwing his fastball less frequently this season: 47.6 percent (a career-low). Why? Only he knows, but looking at the numbers, it could be because it's just not an effective pitch for him this season.

FanGraphs rates its value at -1.6, compared to 15.6 last season (but strangely, -16.5 the year before). In fact, only one of his four pitches rates out positively -- his curveball at 0.9.

He's been infected by the cutter disease in recent years, going from 5.1 percent in 2009 to 15.3 percent in 2010, 18.1 percent in 2011 and 21.1 percent in 2012.

This data doesn't bode well for his future. He's going to need to find that lost velocity (if it's even possible) for him to be more than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

But, with Joe Blanton not pitching well since being acquired, Chris Capuano regressing a tad and Billingsley's injury, Beckett has an opportunity to grab this situation by the proverbial horns (he's from Texas).

Fun fact: Beckett was traded to Boston in a deal that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida in November 2005.

Beckett is somewhat of a wild card in this trade, but not as wild as the $100 million outfielder the Dodgers are also acquiring.

Carl Crawford

Crawford signed a mega deal last winter (7 years, $142 million) with Boston and has yet to sniff the level of production he had in Tampa Bay for the first nine years of his career.

His contract details:
  • 2013: $20M, 2014: $20.25M, 2015: $20.5M, 2016: $20.75M, 2017: $21M
Look, Crawford is not and was not ever a $20 million/year player. The Red Sox overpaid for him, which is an understatement. But this is the risk the Dodgers are willing to take on him just to acquire Gonzalez.

Crawford just had Tommy John surgery and will be out for the foreseeable future. Some reports said he could be ready for Opening Day, some said by May. I'd be surprised if either were the case. Recovering from Tommy John is a big deal for pitchers, but it's also a significant deal for position players. Crawford's arm strength doesn't have to be great in left field, but I'm more concerned with how the injury impacts his ability at the plate.

He hit .306/.360/.473 in his last two seasons with Tampa but has hit just .260/.292/.419 with Boston in 161 games. That kind of production isn't going to fly anywhere, let alone Boston.

Oh, and it'd be nice to see him be the threat on the basepaths he was back in Tampa. He played 130 games in 2011 and stole just 18 base (only 24 attempts). This man once led the American League in stolen bases four out of five years (2003-07). I know speed diminishes with age, but it isn't his leg he hurt. If I'm the Dodgers, I'd expect at least 40 stolen bases out of Crawford. 

If Crawford can come back sometime in 2013 and perform anywhere close to the way he performed in Tampa, he could make this trade a clear win for the Dodgers, despite the massive amount of money involved.

Nick Punto and the money

Punto is such a throw-away in this deal, it's laughable. But if it means Juan Uribe isn't long for Los Angeles, then I'm all for it. There's no indication that's the case, it's more just wishful thinking on my part.

But this is where I think the Dodgers fell a little short in this deal.

These four players are making roughly $270 million for the life of their respective contracts. The Dodgers have agreed to pay more than 95 percent of the remaining money, helping Boston to get out of luxury tax territory. This means the Red Sox are sending about $12 million to the Dodgers in this deal.

For who the Dodgers are giving up -- De La Rosa and Webster -- I'd have thought they wouldn't have to pay as much. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

And, this means the Dodgers will be less financially flexible in the future... unless the team wants to have a $200 million payroll and have to pay luxury taxes. For the Guggenheim group, that may not be a concern.

But for kicks, take a look at what Chad Moriyama wrote about the new television deal and why the Dodgers can't just throw money around carelessly.

I don't think that's the case. I think Stan Kasten and Co. know what they're doing.

The fact that this trade Xbox-esque trade is nearing completion shows the Dodgers' new ownership isn't messing around. It wants to win this season. It'd help if the team didn't get swept at home by the Giants, but here we are. The Dodgers are three games behind the Giants with just a little more than a month remaining in the season.

I'll look at the impact on the Dodgers' farm system and who the Red Sox are getting in return tomorrow. I like the aggressive nature of this deal, but the risk lies all in Los Angeles and depends greatly on Crawford's ability to return to prominence.

Photo credits
Gonzalez: Keith Allison, Flickr
Beckett: eviltomthai, Flickr
Crawford: Red3biggs, Wikimedia Commons


  1. This trade is horrible for the Dodgers and I wish as a fan that they hadn't made it. De La Rosa and Webster are the kind of talent that teams would salivate over and that's just for one of them. The fact that Boston gets both and unloads most of their bad contracts just shows that their front office is smart, smart, smart and the Dodgers are dumb, dumb, dumb. It is one thing if a team doesn't have the money to keep young talent, like Tampa Bay, Kansas City, etc. But the Dodgers could have afforded to develop and then pay these kids. Now, I'm not so sure the Dodgers will be able to do that anymore for years to come. Nice move, blue.

  2. LA just saved Boston from it's own stupidity and made the Dodgers far to Cub-like in my opinion.