It looks as though the Dodgers and Red Sox will be completing the biggest waiver-wire deal ever – sending Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez & Carl Crawford (along with throw-in Nick Punto) to LA in exchange for James Loney and prospects. If you had said “Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford” at – say – midseason last year the assumption would have been that you were talking about a deal involving three of the biggest stars in the game. If you have been living under a rock (or focused solely on the team you actually care about) since then it might still sound like that.
But… Beckett, Gonzalez and Crawford are all more than a little tarnished at the moment. The big 3 have accounted for only 4.9 WAR this season (and Crawford won’t be playing until 2013) and are owed untold millions, so they fall more into the mold of a Chan-Ho Park, Carlos Lee or a Raul Mondesi – classic examples of hard-to-move albatross contracts that come attached to players that still added at least a little value. There is a lot of talent there – and certainly hope that these guys will come closer to living up to their contracts in Dodger blue than they have in Boston of late. So we find a Dodgers team willing to part with legitimate prospects AND take on almost all of the salary that these guys are due in order to cement themselves (with their new ownership) as the big-budget beasts of the West. Still – you can easily make a legitimate case that the Dodgers are the ones who got swindled here. They now look to fall well above next year’s luxury tax threshold – just with players that they already have – and Boston will be free to chase whatever free agents they choose with the dollars that they won’t be paying Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez.
Boston is 6 games under .500 and 8.5 back in the wild card race. They are – as they should – giving up on 2012 and looking toward 2013. They remain a big market, high budget franchise. They will be fine. The Dodgers – despite all the talent on the roster – still sit 3 games behind the Giants in the NL West and a game and a half behind the Cardinals in a very competitive NL Wild Card race. They needed to do something and they certainly went out and did it. They have had some of the worst first base production in the MLB from Loney and will get an improvement here even if Gonzalez is only a hair above average at the plate (he’s still one of the best defensive first sackers). Beckett may not be ace material at the moment – but he should be an upgrade over Joe Blanton or whatever scrub would otherwise be taking Chad Billingsley‘s place in the rotation – assuming he does actually miss time due to his elbow thing.
The Dodgers and Pirates look like the only teams currently on the outside looking in for NL playoff races, so tightening those up would seem to be good for baseball in general. They do not – of course – play Detroit at any point in the seasons remaining 5 weeks. The Red Sox don’t actually play the Tigers again this season either – making this a somewhat awkward bit of (huge) news to somehow tie in on a Tigers site. They aren’t even going to be playing any against Kevin Youkilis‘ White Sox. What the Red Sox will be doing – with their newly gutted roster – is playing a lot of games against other Wild Card contenders (and like it or not, the Tigers are Wild Card contenders and that will be increasing in importance if the White Sox don’t stop winning games). The Red Sox have 4 games coming up in LA against the Angels at the end of the month, after getting swept by that team at home earlier this week. Then they play 3 in Oakland against the bizarrely competitive As. And of course – with they way schedules are designed these days – they have 6 games against the Rays in September and 6 against the Orioles. So one impact here may be to throw a bone to all non-Detroit contenders for the two American League Wild Card spots as the Red Sox formally give up. Not great news.