A few months ago, when Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim partners group purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.15 billion, it was expected that the franchise would turn around and reclaim its spot as one of baseball’s top teams after recent years of disappointment and failure. With the Dodgers finally having owners who had deep pockets comparable to those of the late New York Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner, it was clear that the Dodgers would be willing to spend to win.
(See previous article: http://iusportcom.com/prosports/theres-magic-in-los-angeles/)
But honestly, tell me who saw this coming?
Consider this: The Dodgers are in second place in the National League West, just three games behind the rival San Francisco Giants in the division, and 1.5 games out in the Wild Card chase, good for third place. All in all, this is a team that is looking to make a playoff push.
Once new ownership took over, a new mindset was instilled in this organization, a complete turn around from the recent dark days of Frank McCourt’s bankrupt reign. In a piece from ESPN roughly six months ago, when Johnson and co. purchased the team, Johnson was quoted as saying: “The Dodgers, it’s not that they need to be fixed, we need to just take them to the next level. People love this brand, they love the team, they love going to Dodger Stadium to watch a game. We just need to take them to the next level.”
Oh, they’ve taken them to the next level.
As the 2012 season progressed, and baseball grew closer to the trade deadline, the Dodgers were in on just about every star player that could have been had at the July 31st deadline. After an injury to superstar Matt Kemp that sidelined him for two months, the Dodgers were in need of some upgrades, namely on the offense side. Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti, finally being able to play the field with some money in his pocket, did just that – dramatically. In a span of six days from July 25-31, Colletti acquired All-Star third baseman Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins, and All-Star center fielder Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies for a price that other general managers would yearn for.
Ramirez and Victorino, two players making big salaries ($15 million and $9.5 million, respectively) seemed unmovable due to their contracts. Ramirez, who is signed for $38 million through 2014, was outcast in Miami and definitely was a candidate for a change of scenery. However, teams were wary of the contract and did not want to have to give up prime prospects in order for the Marlins to eat most of the contract. With Victorino, he was due to become a free agent at the end of the season, a pure two month rental for any team that would acquire him. Enter the Dodgers.
The Dodgers proved that money talks. Colletti acquired Ramirez, a former batting champion, for two decent prospects – a price that many in baseball thought would be higher. How did the Dodgers do this? They took on all of Ramirez’s contract, letting the Marlins’ off the hook for the next three years of his deal. In the Victorino deal, the Dodgers were able to also give up two lesser prospects, a move that was purely a salary dump on Philadelphia’s behalf. They also acquired relievers Brandon League from the Seattle Mariners and Randy Choate in the Ramirez deal, as well as getting RHP Joe Blanton from the Phillies in a waiver deal.
With the Dodgers having much improved at the deadline, it appeared as though their wheeling and dealing was finished.
Not the case.
When the August waiver deadline period began, the Dodgers were still very much in the buyer’s market. When news broke that they placed a waiver claim on Phillies’ pitcher Cliff Lee (who ultimately the Phillies took off waivers to keep), and wanted him so badly that they were willing to take on the roughly $95 million remaining on his contract, officials began to take notice that the Dodgers and their new ownership, were ready to do whatever they could to win.
On August 24, 2012, the Dodgers made a move that could alter their franchise forever -a testament of doing whatever it takes to win.
Prior to the 2011 season, the Boston Red Sox, who had missed the postseason in 2010 for the first time since 2006, reloaded by acquiring All-Star slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for a hefty price in a trade with the San Diego Padres, and signed former Tampa Bay Rays’ All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract. The team later signed Gonzalez to an extension worth $154 million over seven-years. The Red Sox were a favorite to reach and potentially win the World Series that season, but things were not meant to be. Crawford had the worst seasons of his career during his first tour in Boston while Gonzalez flourished. The team was competitive all season until the most crucial month in baseball: September. The Sox collapsed, finishing 7-20 in the month and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season despite their big upgrades in the offseason.
Following the failed season, it was clear that things were not all right in Boston, and changes had to be made. The first move was the firing of long-time manager Terry Francona, who clearly had lost the respect of his team. Following the firing, GM Theo Epstein bolted to Chicago for the title of President of Baseball Operation with the Cubs, leaving the Red Sox manager and general manager spots vacant. The organization tabbed assistant general manager Ben Cherington as Epstein’s successor and hired one of the most controversial men in baseball to be their manager: Bobby Valentine.
Following the Valentine hiring, reports leaked out of Boston that the players were not eager to play for the former New York Mets and Texas Rangers manager. Valentine, who most recently was a manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, gained a reputation during his tenure in the majors for clashing with players and demanding a different style of baseball that most players did not agree with. Once the news broke that the players were not thrilled, the infamous “fried chicken ‘n beer” story came into play, in which Red Sox pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey ate fried chicken, drank beer and played video games in between innings. As if there were not enough questions around the team as it was, more was added to the fire.
Ultimately, and I can say I saw it coming (see here: http://iusportcom.com/prosports/valentines-day-red-sox-get-their-man-but-is-he-the-right-choice/), things have not worked out for the Red Sox and Bobby Valentine. In the midst of potentially one of the worst and most embarrassing seasons in the franchise’s history, the Red Sox finally decided to wave the white flag and signal their season was over. Sporting a 60-66 record, leaving them 13.5 games out and in fourth place in the tough AL East, things appear all but done in Bean-Town.
At the beginning of August, the club placed Crawford on trade waivers, a common move that most teams do to gauge trade interest without having to deal the player unless they decide to. Crawford, who had only played in 31 games this season due to an elbow injury after an injury plagued 2011 season, had Tommy John surgery last Thursday – ending his season effectively. His time in Boston has been anything but smooth, after his struggling first year and injury ridden second, he is anything but popular in Boston and his contract is laughable. No team placed a claim, leaving Crawford to clear waivers and be free to be traded to any team. Yesterday, the Red Sox placed Gonzalez and Beckett on waivers. Gonzalez, who had been one of the culprits in the text message sent from his phone to Red Sox ownership in the plea to get Valentine fired, appeared to want out of Boston. Beckett is not without his fair share of controversial baggage as well, due to his role in the “fried chicken ‘n beer” incident and his attitude in the clubhouse. To baseball officials, media members, and fans, this appeared to be customary action, in which if claimed, the Red Sox would simply pull Gonzalez and Beckett back off waivers.
Or so we thought.
Around noon yesterday, it was reported that the Dodgers had placed waiver claims on two players: Gonzalez and Beckett. As usual, rumors began to swirl in the Twitter universe that potentially a trade could happen only to lead to team media correspondents debunking the rumors and telling fans not to expect anything. If a trade were to happen, it appeared that it would most likely happen in the offseason, where the teams would have more time to talk.
Then came the thunder. Shortly, rumors broke that the two teams were discussing a blockbuster trade that would send Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford and utility infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles for first baseman James Loney and four prospects. At the time, it was just a rumor… until FoxSports MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal broke the news that the sides were “close to a deal.” It was almost unbelievable that such a trade could go through. It would be the first time in this era that we could see three players of such caliber all get traded in the same deal to one team, making for one of the rarest trades in baseball history. Around 7:00 PM EST, Loney and Gonzalez were both scratched from the starting lineups for their teams, leading to the speculation that a deal could be done soon. The Red Sox wouldn’t just be ridding of the players, but they would also save close to $260 million due to the Dodgers’ will to take on the contracts. As it stands, the deal consists of the following:
DODGERS ACQUIRE: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHSP Josh Beckett, LF Carl Crawford, INF Nick Punto, $12 million
RED SOX ACQUIRE: 1B James Loney, RHSP Rubby De La Rosa, RHP Allen Webster, INF Ivan De Jesus, OF Jerry Sands
This is clearly a great deal for the Dodgers, but still is a very good trade for the Red Sox. Compared to the prospects that Boston gave up in the Gonzalez trade two years ago, their return is not as strong due to the Dodgers having one of the weakest farm systems in baseball. First baseman Anthony Rizzo (now with the Cubs) has established himself as one of the top up-and-coming young players in the game, while pitcher Casey Kelly – who is still with the Padres – is one of the organization’s top prospects. De La Rosa, recently removed from Tommy John surgery, and Webster are nice pieces while De Jesus and Sands are filler pieces. Loney provides Boston with a stop-gap first baseman for the time being. None of the players the Red Sox received are special, but when the Dodgers were willing to take on all three of those big contracts, the Red Sox would have done themselves a disservice to not listen to their offer. The best thing the Red Sox are getting in this deal is financial relief. Both Crawford and Beckett, who have no-trade clauses, have approved the deal. No longer handicapped by the monstrous contracts of Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford the team now has flexibility for future transactions. It’s a pure salary dump move.
This could very well be the most defining move of Cherington’s young career as Red Sox GM.
The deal is just about done. With paperwork still needing to be finalized, it should be completed this afternoon. The Dodgers would add Gonzalez to a lineup that already includes Kemp, Ramirez, Victorino and Andre Ethier. Beckett would slide into a rotation behind 2011 Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. The potential is even better for 2013, as a Dodger lineup would look like this:
- Dee Gordon, SS
- Carl Crawford, LF
- Matt Kemp, CF
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
- Hanley Ramirez, 3B
- Andre Ethier, RF
- AJ Ellis, C
- Mark Ellis, 2B
- (pitcher spot)
The Giants should take notice because the Dodgers are back. That’s a lineup that could easily score 900+ runs a season and make a consistent run at the division year in and year out. There’s no doubt that Crawford will rebound in Los Angeles and turn his career around, making his contract worthy. Gonzalez will bring the power and add that with Matt Kemp’s other worldly talent while Beckett will look to regain his form and be a top pitcher in the National League. It’s time to consider the Dodgers the “Yankees of the west” with their big pockets and dramatic improvements. Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim partners have stayed true to their word when they purchased the club in March, but who would have thought it would come into play as quickly as it has. Don Mattingly should be dancing in his manager’s office in Los Angeles. This is a great and franchise altering deal for both teams. We may never see a deal like this ever again. For the Red Sox, it is going to be a rebuilding effort for a few years. They will most likely underperform for a few seasons before they can get back in the postseason hunt. It’s true that they still have money to spend, but it’s unlikely that they’ll use it. This trade is a win-win for both teams. It will help the Dodgers right now and the Red Sox in the future. Dodgers fans should be excited, and while the Red Sox fans are upset, it could all pay off if De La Rosa and Webster reach their ceilings.
I can’t see how Valentine keeps his job after this season. There is too much controversy in the clubhouse and the players don’t want to play for him. The Red Sox are going to be playing the next few years trying to catch the always competitive Yankees and Rays, as well as the improving Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. This trade could cost Bobby V. his job. I think the Red Sox have to fire him. A rebuilding in Boston was necessary, and it could be the best thing for the club to clean it all up and start over.
I don’t think that this will be the last of the Dodgers’ moves that we see any time soon. The free agent market still boasts a plethora of talented players, and we should expect the Dodgers to be in on each and every one of them. They have the money, the owners, the city, and now, the team that will make them one of the best franchises in baseball. Who would have thought a few months ago that Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford would all end up in Los Angeles? If anything, this will draw more stars to LA. The Dodgers have proven again that “money talks.”
Welcome to La-La Land.