The team was not going to win a World Series with the way the team was constructed before this move. Their pitching staff—especially the starters—was below average and would never have survived October.
Josh Beckett has been abysmal this year, sporting a 5.23 ERA and a 5-11 record. The notion of him being successful in the American League is done. The pitchers the Sox received in the deal with LA have the potential to be front line starters in the coming years.
Rubby De La Rosa, who is only 23 years old, has already experienced success at the major league level. He posted a 3.71 ERA in 10 starts for Los Angeles in 2011, after starting the year in AA with an ERA of 2.93 and 11.7 K/9. He’s coming off of Tommy John surgery but still has a fastball that can reach up to 98 MPH. If he can continue his upward trajectory, there’s no reason he can’t be a front of the rotation starter.
The Sox will also receive 22-year-old Allen Webster, who was fourth in Fangraphs 2012 ranking of Dodgers prospects. He throws a mid-90s fastball and an above average changeup. The question with him is inconsistent command. He has a 3.55 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in 121.2 AA innings this year, steady improvements from last year’s totals of 5.04 ERA and 7.22 K/9.
These are the type of pitchers who will get the Red Sox back to playing winning baseball. Combined with top prospect Matt Barnes and an already formidable rotation core of Buchholz, Lester and Doubront, the Sox now have the potential for a strong staff for years to come.
Parting with Gonzalez hurts, but the Sox offense wasn’t the problem this year. They rank second in MLB with 611 runs, yet have been riddled with injuries, and have received below average production from multiple players.
Carl Crawford hasn’t produced even one WAR since he signed with the Red Sox. Though Gonzalez’s contributions will be missed, if Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia return to their 2011 levels next season, they’ll more than make up for the offensive void left by trading Gonzo.
Meanwhile, the salary the Sox will save in this deal is incredible. It’s the first time that two $100 million players have been included in the same trade. This winter, the Sox also traded starting shortstop Marco Scutaro in another straight salary dump. Moves like that won’t be happening anymore.
The newfound payroll flexibility gives GM Ben Cherington the ability to build a winning team on his terms. Rather than racking up bad contracts like his predecessor did, Cherington can now focus on rewarding his own players—including Ellsbury and Ortiz—and making intelligent free agent signings.
By agreeing to this deal, Boston now has a window of opportunity where they can improve without having to be in the postseason race in the coming years. Under previous leadership, the team abandoned their long-term plan and adopted a reckless win-now attitude. Their attempt to be like the Yankees ended with them suffocated by two horrendous contracts.
If the Sox are smart, they’ll avoid those mammoth signings and build from within these next few years. That’s what won them their two most recent World Series championships.
If it took trading Adrian Gonzalez, so be it because the Sox are in a much better position than they were just hours ago.