Amazing how the sports landscape can change so much in just one year. LeBron James finally has a ring, Boise State declared to join the Big East Conference for football, and the Dodgers and Red Sox have virtually flipped destinational highways.
In August of 2011 the Dodgers were still trying to get rid of former owner Frank McCourt, who was using the team as his personal ATM machine, driving the Dodgers into an embarrassing oblivion and stirring away fans quicker than possibly anyone in the history of baseball in the process. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were in the hunt for a pennant race, battling for first place in the AL East with Tampa and New York. 12 months later, and we have the Dodgers in the hunt for a pennant and the Red Sox swirling into a fiery obliteration under new management that's been as lousy as any in the game. The result of all this was the $262.5 million mega-trade pulled off this past weekend.
To put everything into perspective, there had been only one $100 million player traded in the history of the game: Alex Rodriguez. Two $100 million players are in this Dodgers/Red Sox deal in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. In fact, only 19 players in the history of baseball have signed mega-contracts with an average annual salary of at least $20 million, and only four of them have ever been traded in the middle of such a contract. Yup, you guessed it, two of those four players are Crawford and Gonzalez; the two newest guys to don Dodger blue.
So what's going on here? There must be something fishy, right?
Yes and no.
Immediate reactions have Dodgers fans pumped to have three more potential All-Stars on their team. While in Boston, fans are split but mostly feel alleviated more than anything; and rightfully so.
Let's begin with Red Sox fans.
Go ahead. Breath a sigh of relief. Not because you got rid of a clubhouse cancer in Josh 'beer n' chicken' Beckett, but also because you just shaved off $260 million in salary obligations through 2018. We're talking a quarter of a billion dollars here. That type of money spent on aging players that can't perform or stay healthy cripples an organization faster than Kim Kardashian divorces athletes. Because Red Sox ownership pulled the trigger on this deal, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. And trust me melodramatic Sox fans, there is still a tunnel.
While A-gone is one hell of a player, the southern California native wasn't earning his paycheck, hitting only .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBI while in just the second year of his seven-year $154 million extension. Carl Crawford hasn't been the same player since leaving Tampa — the guy just can't stay healthy. Crawford, 31, is also in his second year of a seven-year $142 million deal and just had season-ending Tommy John surgery this week after playing in only 31 games in 2012. And Beckett, besides being regarded as a pompous trouble-maker, pitched horrific in Boston this year, maintaining a 5.23 ERA and a 5-11 record. He still has two years left on his four-year $68 million deal. All of that money is now off the books. Take out the NES cartridge, blow it hard, insert back in and hit the reset button.
The Red Sox have also implied that they're going to work on growing and developing their own talent and don't plan on hitting any big free-agents this off-season, which is why they got four promising minor-leaguers in Rubby De La Rosa (2.92 ERA in eight Class AA starts last season before getting injured), Ivan De Jesus (.333 OBP in Class AAA), Allen Webster (3.55 ERA at Class AA) and stud outfielder Jerry Sands (.303/24/101 in Class AAA). The Sox also got first basemen James Loney to help them get through the last month of the season.
However, although they've acquired some great, young athletes, I'm not forgetting that this is also the front office that over-spent on John Lackey, fired two-time World Series champion Terry Francona, paid to have another AL-contender to take away Kevin Youkilis and turned Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie into Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon.
Further examining the herculean implications of this deal, the Sox better hope their newly acquired kids pan out considering the bleak free-agent picture that looms in 2013. Even if the Sox want to spend money on a big-time free-agent this upcoming winter, there really aren't many options available — and the ones that are all have question marks. Zack Greinke can't perform in a large market, Josh Hamilton is aging and no one is sure how much longer his body can maintain itself after years of drug abuse, and Michael Bourn will already be 30-years-old and is essentially the same player as Jacoby Ellsbury. The Dodgers know all of this.
…Which would explain why Dodgers Owner Magic Johnson declared in a news conference, "We want to win now."
Ya think? You spend over a quarter of a billion dollars on one trade and you are sending a clear message. "We want to win now," would be one sentiment, but the other would be, 'we are counting on this TV contract.'
If I'm a Dodgers fan, sure I'm excited, but I'm also a little concerned. Now that L.A. has spent such an absurd amount of money over just one summer — don't forget they just acquired two All-Stars in Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino — they'll need to land that record-setting TV deal that everyone has been discussing since Frank McCourt was booted out of Chavez Ravine. Although no one is sure about the exact number, reports are stating that the upcoming deal to be struck this winter would surpass the $3 billion over 20 years the neighboring Angels received. If I'm anywhere near Dodgers Stadium, I'm praying a deal like this goes through. Spending $260 million on aging stars is no joke and the Dodgers cannot afford to lose this wager.
On the other hand, you have to look at it this way — Gonzalez is arguably the second-best first baseman in the NL at this point. The only other player most would take over him would be 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, who cost $250 million. In the AL, Albert Pujols cost the Angels $240 million and Prince Fielder cost the Tigers $214 million. If A-Gone starts hitting again — and he has been warming up tremendously in the past month — $154 million will seem like a bargain, especially for a town that thrives off of its Mexican born stars.
Four MLB teams — The Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Phillies — spent between $150 million and $200 million on players this past year, five teams — the Tigers, Marlins, Rangers, Cardinals and Giants — spent between $100 million and $149 million, and 14 other teams spent between $75 million and $99 million.
Since the Red Sox players were exponentially under-performing on their contracts — and not to mention not getting along with manager Bobby Valentine — it's obvious the Sox had to make a big move, getting rid of all that money, just to stay in contention for the next few years. More teams handing out lucrative deals means that players need to deliver on their performances that much more or suffer the consequences of being traded.
As for the Dodgers, they better hope that the players are as ready to win 'now' as much as their Magic owner.