MLB Handicapping: Aftermath of the Dodgers Big Trade
by Trevor Whenham - 8/31/2012
We’re not supposed to see big trades in August. Superstars have to get through waivers, so big deals are often very hard to be done. The Dodgers ignored that reality, though, when they blew the top off the baseball world with their deal with the Red Sox. Grabbing Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez or Carl Crawford would have been a big deal in and of itself. The fact that they grabbed all three, added Nick Punto as well, and didn’t really give up that much in return, is downright remarkable.
But will it matter? Will this deal put the Dodgers over the top? Here are seven factors to consider:
Beckett isn’t Beckett
In many years — 2005, 2007 and 2009 stand out — you could easily make the argument that Beckett was among the elite power pitchers in the league. His power was impressive, his control was intimidating, and he was very effective.
That is not the pitcher that we have seen recently, though.
His game is a shadow of what it was, and his attitude and commitment have been far from inspiring as well. For the Red Sox this year he was just 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA. His WHIP of 1.33 is the second highest it has ever been in his career, and he’s just not that reliable.
His team didn’t help him that much, but he certainly didn’t rise above the issues, either. He has started just once in L.A. as I write this, and he was decidedly average.
It could be easy for bettors who haven’t been following Boston this year to significantly overvalue Beckett at this time — especially because the team needs top-end pitching since Chad Billingsley is struggling with elbow issues.
Crawford doesn’t count
Crawford is a good player — no active player has more triples. He’s also out for the rest of the year and likely more after having Tommy John Surgery a week ago.
Crawford may be useful down the road, but it’s crucial that bettors remember that he is irrelevant in evaluating this trade at this point.
Gonzalez is key
Adrian Gonzalez is a former first overall draft pick, and he certainly hasn’t been a bust. He’s very good, and he had a great season last year. His production this year has been down across the board, but not in such a striking way that it is cause for serious concern.
Simply put, this deal will pay off this year to the extent that Gonzalez is effective. If he gets comfortable and finds his groove then the Dodgers could have a big win on their hands. If he doesn’t shine, though — and he hasn’t really in his time so far — then this deal will be much more of a distraction than a positive contribution.
Punto is a spare part
Nick Punto is on his fourth team since the start of the 2010 season. He’s the definition of a utility player.
He could be useful, but he won’t be a difference-maker, and he hasn’t been particularly productive this year. In terms of analyzing this trade he’s a non-factor.
Adding three players to an active roster like this — two of whom are very high-profile — would have a big impact on a team at the best of times. When you also factor in the additions of Hanley Ramirez, Joe Blanton, and Shane Victorino recently you have a team that has been totally turned upside down in the last six weeks.
Teams that succeed have to have talent — and on paper the Dodgers have lots of that — but it’s more important that they are playing together, helping each other, and are focused on one singular goal. That certainly isn’t the case right now — the team is on a slide, and has lost four of six since the trade — and it’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to get on track in time.
They don’t have much margin for error, either. They are 4.5 games behind the Giants in the NL West, and are a game and a half out of a wild card spot in a tough four-way fight. If they can’t find chemistry soon then this will just be an expensive investment in nothing.
With the egos involved chemistry is far from certain.
In my eyes this is the biggest factor here. I can’t fight the feeling that the team seems desperate for success with this move. The desperate guy never gets a girl, and the desperate team rarely attracts wins.
Magic Johnson and company paid an obscene amount for this team, and they are splashing money around like water to build a winner in a hurry. There are countless examples in every sport, though, of teams that have spent without getting results. Is the team spending on the players they ideally need, or is there less planning and strategy involved than that? It sure seems like the latter to me.
Despite the aggressive action I would be selling the Dodgers right now if they were a stock.
This deal was a red flag for the Red Sox in the short term. They weren’t competitive this year before the trade, and with this move they make it totally clear that they have no intention of being competitive the rest of the year.
There will be no late surge here.
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