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The Red Sox-Dodgers “Megadeal”, One Year Later

As the Red Sox embark on a three game series in Hollywood against baseball’s hottest major league ball club, the timing could not seemingly be any better.

This series will mark the one year anniversary of arguably the most financially significant swap in Major League Baseball history between Boston and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Beckett (left), Gonzalez (center), and infielder Nick Punto (right) give deuces to Boston en route to Hollywood

On August 25th, 2012, nine players would be swapped, including franchise cornerstones, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford. In return, the Red Sox would receive James Loney and a handful of prospects, headlined by pitchers, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. Over a quarter-million dollars changed hands between the two clubs.

At this point in 2012, the Red Sox had been fourth in the AL East with a 59-65 record, while the Dodgers were second in the NL West, holding a 67-58 record. Afterwards, both the Dodgers and Red Sox would miss the playoffs, as Boston would finish with their worst record since 1965. Los Angeles would also finish eight games back in their division, which led many to question the aggressive new ownership that was led by Magic Johnson.

However, despite unsatisfactory seasons for both groups in 2012, this blockbuster deal was exactly what each organization needed to bounce back in 2013. Both franchises now sit atop their respective divisions and will collide for the first time since the groundbreaking trade. And it seems rather reasonable to say that this is one of the few instances in which such deal benefited all parties involved.

For the Red Sox, this was a decision that Ben Cherington was bold enough to take a gamble on. Observing how team chemistry was nonexistent and the Bobby Valentine circus was establishing the squad as a nationwide punchline, it was time for Cherington and ownership to come to the understanding that this squad was not going to flourish under the bright lights of Boston.

Fat contracts were given to the likes of Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, among others in prior years. As a result, they were incapable to rebuild in the immediate future due to a lack of financial flexibility. Cherington truly lucked out when Ned Colletti and the Dodgers proposed such a remarkable salary dump.

With the capability to take on enormous contracts, on top of Hollywood’s more relaxed baseball atmosphere, the National League team was the picture-perfect fit for Gonzalez and Crawford. Despite some displeasure from fans in regards to trading the power hitting first baseman, he was a small price to pay to relieve a sensitive Carl Crawford and a detoxify Josh Beckett from the culture.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red SoxIn spite of the last place finish for Boston, they were now able to sign “baseball guys” Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster. All of which are players that never whined, continuously worked hard, and generated a positive vibe. While none of those names are as “sexy” with star-power, they speedily facilitated chemistry in the clubhouse and made the Red Sox one of the most beloved organizations in the game.

Alongside Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, the 2013 Red Sox are very reminiscent of the 2003 and 2004 Red Sox; persistent, gritty, fun, and a likable group of human beings. Largely due to the chemistry they have produced, the dirt dogs have remained at least within two games on top of their division for nearly the entire season.

From top to bottom, the Red Sox were reborn as a franchise. They returned to their roots that made them so successful for the first decade of the century. Focusing on building an elite farm system with a plethora of high ceiling prospects, as well as signing respected and proven veterans, 2013 has become the beginning stage of forming the next great dynasty. With Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, Allen Webster, and Henry Owens on the upswing, there is plenty to look forward to in Beantown.

Now, where does this leave the Dodgers? Well, if you currently take a gander of the National League West, they are all but guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Led by an incredible pitching staff, featuring Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, a World Series appearance is anticipated by countless baseball fans.

Adrian Gonzalez is leading the Dodgers in nearly every offensive category, providing great pop and consistency in the heart of their lineup. He is quietly producing, hitting .299 with 78 RBIs, 27 doubles, and an .806 OPS. While the home runs are no longer great in number, he has only improved as a hitter. Proving to be the centerpiece that Ned Colletti believed him to be, Gonzalez has been worth the massive salary dump.

As for Carl Crawford, he has fought with injuries over the course of the season, but has managed to hit well when in the lineup. Batting .291 with a .755 OPS, Crawford has been very serviceable in the time he has played. Clearly more at ease with none of the Boston media on his tail (although no one here picked on him to begin with), it appears as though Crawford is far more motivated to thrive in Dodger blue.

hi-res-168287355_display_imageUnfortunately, Josh Beckett never truly had any sort of attitude adjustment. The once renowned and feared ace has struggled on the mound and with the media. However, his season was cut short with numbness in his fingers, which has him contemplating retirement. He finished with an 0-5 record and a 5.19 ERA.

When contemplating who “wins”, it’s still not really a question that can be necessarily answered at this time. For 2013, both teams have been greatly effective and neither would be where they are without pulling off this swap. However, there are still some very valid points to ponder before drawing any conclusions.

Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will be well past their prime towards the end of their contracts. Crawford will be a free agent in 2018 (37) and Adrian Gonzalez in 2019 (37). For the immediate future, the Dodgers should expect considerable contributions for the next two or three seasons. However, we have seen even the best of players regress in the midst of extraordinary contracts (ie Albert Pujols). There should be some apprehension down the line for Los Angeles when both players begin to go on a steady decline, especially Crawford, who is already dealing with frequent injuries.

If inquired to choose a winner right now, it would have to be the Red Sox. Questions still linger in regards to finding another bat that can produce quite like Gonzalez down the line as David Ortiz ages, but there is some hope that the farm system can pull through. Yet, we have witnessed many prospects enter with large amounts of hype and never truly contribute in the end (Lars Anderson).

Notwithstanding potential concerns for the Red Sox, it’s hard not to agree that the organization walked out of this deal with more options. Los Angeles must stay put with their end of the bargain for the next several years, but Ben Cherington has a sizeable amount of resources to continue building his team for the foreseeable future. Righting the wrongs that Theo Epstein made by “feeding the monster,” Cherington made one of the most bold moves in years that alleviates an abundance of problems the organization once faced.

Into the final stretch of the season, the Sox and Dodgers are equipped with all the tools needed to contend for a World Series right now. The future is still up in the air for Los Angeles, but Boston seems to be in a very enviable position for the probable future. While both teams are winners right now, it may just be Boston that is the true winner in the end.

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