Sometimes it’s hard to praise the enemy, but what Ben Cherington did this weekend might live on to be one of the greatest trades in baseball history. In case you haven’t heard yet, the Red Sox GM found a team to trade Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. Not only did he lose a huge chunk of future commitments, but he also received a few high upside prospects from the Dodgers.
After an offseason where Cherington did little to improve his team, many fans viewed Theo Epstein’s replacement as too docile for a large market like Boston. In retrospect, it’s hard to blame the GM for the actions he made in the fall, as his hands were largely tied by payroll and ownership. What was even worse was that his new adopted team was less than what was promised.
Gonzalez, Beckett, Crawford, and Punto all had their own reasons to fall from favor over the last couple of years. Beckett had his beer and chicken, Crawford had his injuries, Nick Punto was beyond awful, and Gonzalez was vocally unhappy about his manager Bobby Valentine.
Of the four, the only desirable contract was that of Adrian Gonzalez, who despite a slightly off season in 2012, has proven that he can hit in the big ballparks of the NL West. Then there were two terrible contracts, that of Crawford, who faced a rough season in 2011, and has dealt with numerous injuries this year, including season ending Tommy John surgery last Thursday. He and Gonzalez each have more than $100 million in commitments left until 2017 and 2018 respectively, and Josh Beckett has over $30 million owed until 2014. To take on this amount of money, the Dodgers need Beckett to succeed in their pitcher friendly ballpark, and for Crawford to seamlessly return to his 2010 form.
From a Yankee perspective, the Dodgers have just unlocked the chains holding back the Red Sox for several years to come. While the Red Sox do lose a top first baseman, they have freed themselves of two terrible contracts. Not only can the organization now reinvest this money into free agents like Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, but they don’t have the team chemistry issues that haunted the clubhouse. Oh, and somehow Cherington was able to get prospects out of all this. Amongst James Loney and Ivan De Jesus, Boston also received Jerry Sands, an OF/1B that projects to be at least a 4th outfielder, along with pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, who respectively placed #90 in 2011 and #95 in 2012 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects.
If the Red Sox wisely reinvest the $260 million they’ve saved in this trade, and find any luck with the prospects they received, the organization could be looking to compete as soon as next year. With Daisuke Matsuzaka a free agent next year, this will be a completely different organization with only one real bad contract, John Lackey. I don’t know how Ben Cherinton did it, but he pulled off a heist, curing nearly every disease he inherited.