"In 1966 Andy Dusfresne escaped from Shawshank prison…Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of (expletive) smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want to. Five hundred yards, that's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile."
-The Shawshank Redemption
Sometimes you've got to take a risk. Put it all on the line in an attempt to make an unlivable situation livable again. That's what Andy did when he escaped Shawshank. Life wasn't worth living on the inside anymore. There was no hope, and so he risked everything in an attempt for freedom.
The Red Sox are Andy Dufresne.
As of Friday, the Red Sox were six games below .500 in 2012 and 19 games below .500 since September of last year. Not only that, but the team also had an incredible $108 million in contracts for 2013 without including arbitration eligible players, rookie deals, or free agents. It looked like the team was in bad shape, and they were not going to get any better. They had made their bed, and it was time to lie in it.
Or so we thought.
Enter the Los Angeles Dodgers who are five months into a new ownership regime led by Magic Johnson and desperate for attention in a city that has the attention span of your average four-year-old. In an incredible turn of events, the Dodgers first claimed Adrian Gonzalez and the $135 million owed to him through 2018. About an hour later they claimed Josh Beckett and the $36 million owed to him through 2014. And then the trade rumors began. The Dodgers were also willing to take on Crawford and the $105 million owed to him. Impossible? Throw in Nick Punto and his $2 million dollar price tag through 2013, and you've got a total of $278 million dollars in contracts heading west.
So it's a salary dump. We thought, they get Gonzalez, a legitimate middle of the order bat that will protect Matt Kemp, play 160 games a season, and serve as a leader in the Hispanic community in exchange for taking Beckett and Crawford off of our hands. But wait there's more.
The Dodgers are including five players. Now not all are key pieces for the Sox, but there is talent coming back from the left coast:
- James Loney, 1B - the one player coming back that is currently on the Dodgers active roster. The 28-year-old Texas native is in the midst of his worst season ever, hitting just .254 with four homeruns and 33 RBIs. His .646 OPS is 118 points below his career average. Loney will most likely get a five week trial run in Boston to see if he has a future here as he is a free agent at the end of the year.
- Allen Webster, SP - Webster is a 22-year-old pitching prospect, ranked as the #95 prospect in baseball in the pre-season by Baseball America. He has control issues, but fantastic stuff and has struck out 117 batters in 122 innings this season at AAA. He will most likely be a middle of the rotation starter with upside potential.
- Rubby De La Rosa, P - Another big time pitching prospect, De La Rosa is just 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery. However, the surgery has not affected his velocity. The 23- year-old Dominican right hander has been known to sit at 98 to 99 mph with his fastball, and he has touched 100 on numerous occasions. A top 100 prospect before the surgery, he has appeared in just ten games this season, but has top of the rotation potential.
- Jerry Sands, OF/1B - One thing we know is that the soon-to-be 25-year-old Sands can hit minor league pitching. He has a career .290 average with 117 homeruns and an OPS of .942 over five minor league seasons. However, scouts question if he has the bat speed for big league pitching. With that said he is an interesting prospect, and it is possible he will see playing time in September.
- Ivan de Jesus Jr, INF - Another flier, de Jesus is a 25-year-old middle infielder that has good on-base skills and plays above average defense. He's not known for his power (he has never topped eight homeruns over eight minor league seasons), but he could have a future as a utility infielder with the Sox.
On Friday, it was inconceivable that the Sox would be able to shed nearly 60 percent of their committed 2013 salaries and receive a good return. But the Dodgers are going for it all in 2012, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
As the dust settles on perhaps the biggest deal in Major League history (there has never been a deal with this much money involved in the history of professional sports), there are some mixed emotions. Yes, the Sox have gained financial flexibility which will allow them to fully retool the roster. Yes, the return from Los Angeles was better than expected. But the fact remains, the Red Sox had to give the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez, one of the best players in baseball, to erase the stains of past mistakes.
It's a bit depressing to think that the team has made so many high profile mistakes that they needed to give away their best hitter just to get a mulligan. That is exactly why this decision took so much guts and why the much maligned front office deserves massive credit.
Admitting you are wrong, especially in a public forum, is incredibly difficult to do. Yet that's what the Sox did with this deal. Consider it a public mea culpa, an admission that the team had strayed from what made it a force to be reckoned with from 2003-2008. They had stopped looking for the undervalued players (think Mueller, Ortiz and Bellhorn), and instead had become infatuated with certain players and paid through the nose for them.
No team offered Julio Lugo more than two years. The Sox gave him four years at $36 million. No team came close to offering Carl Crawford $142 million, with the Angels reportedly offering about $50 million less, yet the Sox went above and beyond to get their man. It appears those days are over.
The most important part of this deal is the rejuvenation of a spurned fan base. A fan base that (rightfully) had becomes bitter and angry. A fan base that is angry at ownership, angry at management, and angry at the players. This deal represents a turning of the page and allows the fans to hope again.
And as Andy Dufresne once said,
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
This trade is proof of that once again.