The trade between the Red Sox and the Dodgers that went down this weekend was a big deal. Actually, it was a real big deal. Put simply, the nine player deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, four prospects and $260M is the largest exchange of player salaries in baseball history. It is the only trade in history that has seen two players with over $100M of money owed to them traded. It is likely to remain the only such trade for sometime.
This deal is unique and there is a good reason for that. It isn’t everyday that there is even the opportunity for one team to spend approximately the
Frank McCourt Bankrupts the Dodgers- I am not an economist or any kind of financial expert, but from what I do know about the business side of baseball, it seems that completely bankrupting a team is not easy.
The Walter/Kasten Group Buys the Team- It is possible that something resembling this mega-deal could have happened under other owners involved in the bidding, but the Walter/Kasten were wise enough to have money to spend on hand even after the purchase and most importantly, they did not replace General Manager Ned Colletti. Colletti came up under current Giants Brian Sabean, who has a long history of favoring veteran signees (especially for position players) and who is also very aggressive in mid-season acquisitions. This deal is something that Colletti was willing to do, whereas many other GMs would have dismissed it on principle.
The Deal is Not Completed Until
The Dodgers Overachieve Early: On May first the Dodgers, who had often been projected to finish third in the NL West, were an incredible 17-7, for a winning percentage of .709. Their Pythagorean record, however, was just 14-10 at that point. At their high water mark, on May 27, when they lead the division by 7.5 games, they had a record of 32-15 but a Pythagorean record of 29-18. Even now they are one game better than expected, but that early run was extremely important. In June and July, they were a losing team, going 24-30 before adding a great deal of talent at the non-waiver trade deadline. Had they not outperformed their run differential those first two months they would have a game behind
The Red Sox Drastically Underperform: Projected to win 90 games and finish second in the division (by Baseball Prospectus), the Red Sox are currently on pace to win just 78 games. As much as the Dodgers beating out their run differential made them buyers, the Red Sox chronic failure to match theirs made them sellers. In fact, the numbers are exactly the opposite. The Red Sox were expected to win 56 games but instead had only won 53, when the July 31 deadline arrived. They stood pat essentially, because despite being just three games back in the wild card they had four teams ahead of them for the final playoff spot. 56 wins would have put them in a tie with
The Joey Votto Extension: The 10 year, $220M extension given to Joey Votto did not impact either team directly but it plays apart in this deal. As Grant Bisbee of Baseball Nation wisely noted, premium free agents were not reaching the market this year. Votto’s deal is particularly significant for two reasons. First, it makes the six years and $147M contract for Adrian Gonzalez possibly the most affordable deal for a premium first baseman in the game. Second, it means that the top first baseman scheduled to reach free agency in the next two years was now locked up. If the Dodgers wanted to replace Loney with a top performer in his prime any time in the next three years, they would have make a trade.
The Red Sox Pitching Prospects All Went Bust- Though the salary relief element of this deal may be appealing enough to make it work for
The Dodgers System is Light on Position Players: Entering the 2012 season, it was hard to find a position player among the Dodgers top 10 prospects. Kevin Goldstein, Baseball
Even given all of these events, this was an extraordinarily improbable outcome. This trade is a big win for the Boston Red Sox as they gain both financial flexibility and some intriguing young players. For the Dodgers it is a big risk, but it is a calculated one, meant to excite the fan base and fill in gaps in talent on the major league team right now and in the immediate future. Yet, even as logical as the trade might be for both sides, the wealth of improbable events that all had to take place to make this possible is staggering. Even this list just stretches the surface. The clubhouse drama may have been a factor more than we have guessed or it may have had no effect at all. Had the 2011 team lost in the first round of the playoffs instead of missing out on them altogether, things might have gone very differently this summer. It will change the course of both franchises for almost a decade. It is fair to say we may never see a deal of this magnitude again. The stars just don’t align this way.