July 1, 2018 Batlling_leadoff 0

The trade that arguably has drawn the most discussion over the past several years was the August 2012 blockbuster deal between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers, coming off their nasty Frank McCourt years, were now owned by Guggenheim Partners, a financial services firm with deep pockets, who purchased the team for $1.25 billion. The hungry new ownership group was looking to rebuild quickly and seemed willing to spend any amount necessary to do so. They found a very willing partner in the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox had a lot of success in the mid-to late 2000s, with two World Series titles and had a slew of young players in their farm system poised to complement (or replace) their current veteran talent. However, after their 2007 World Series, the Red Sox seemed to lose their way a bit. Perennial AL East bottom feeder Tampa Bay Rays had built a young competitive team that surprised everyone by winning the AL crown in 2008. In 2009, after their first playoff miss in 13 years, the Yankees rejuvenated themselves in the free agent market and eventually won the World Series. The division the Red Sox felt they had a firm grasp had slipped away. A disappointing 3rd place finish in 2010 was the final straw for the organization; something had to be done quickly in order to catch up to their division foes.

In response to missing the playoffs, Boston did what no Red Sox fan likes to admit: they became like the Yankees. In the winter of 2010-2011, the Red Sox made big splashes in the offseason free agent and trade markets. The biggest of these splashes was the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, who they eventually signed to a 7 year $154 million contract extension. Another splash was the free agent signing of speedster Carl Crawford, whose contract was for 7 years and $142 million. With Gonzalez and Crawford added to the likes of Ortiz, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury, and Lester, led many “experts” to declare the Red Sox as the favorite to win the World Series in 2011 — their third championship of the 21st century.

That third championship did not materialize, however, at least not in 2011, as many of the big name players failed to live up to expectation, and injuries decimating the roster. Adrian Gonzalez raked as expected, to the tune of .338/.410/.548, however, much of his power mysteriously seemed to disappear after his Home Run Derby appearance in July and it never fully came back. Carl Crawford struggled the entire season, hitting .255/.289/.405 with 104 strike outs against 23 walks and only 18 stolen bases (a decrease of 29 from the 2010 season). The clubhouse atmosphere, which had just a few years earlier been considered a strength of the team, was becoming a problem. Despite the underperformance of many key players, the rash of injuries and the unstable clubhouse, on September 3rd the Red Sox still held a 9 game lead on the Rays in the race for the Wild Card. But the playoffs were not to be as the Red Sox lost 18 of their final 24 games, including a 9th inning loss to the Orioles on the last day of the regular season, to lose the Wild Card race to the Rays. The Red Sox 2011 season is considered one of the biggest collapses in baseball history, especially given the expectations entering the season, and the amount of talent on the team.

After the collapse, Terry Francona stepped down as manager and the Red Sox turned to Bobby Valentine to corral the clubhouse. It was a disaster from the beginning. The Red Sox struggled out of the gate, and never seemed to recover. Gonzalez’s power still hadn’t returned, Carl Crawford got injured again, and reports surfaced that the clubhouse was absolutely toxic. Something had to be done; The Red Sox were having their worst season since 1960 and they still had to eat five more years of an already disappointing Carl Crawford and a diminishing Adrian Gonzalez. Miraculously, the Los Angeles Dodgers presented the Red Sox with an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.

As noted at the outset of this article, the Dodgers had new ownership with deep pockets, were anxious to rebuild in a hurry, and seemed willing to spend whatever amount necessary to accomplish this goal. They approached the Red Sox about Adrian Gonzalez, a California native who they felt would be a perfect fit for their ball club. From there the components of the trade grew, and ended up including the following:

Dodgers Received

  • Adrian Gonzalez
  • Carl Crawford
  • Josh Beckett
  • Nick Punto
  • $12 million dollars

Red Sox Received

  • Rubby De La Rosa
  • James Loney
  • Jerry Sands
  • Allen Webster

As a whole, this deal was a big salary dump for the Red Sox. Over $250 million of salary was shed by the Sox, and in total they saved perhaps $275 million when you consider future luxury taxes. After 2012, the Red Sox let James Loney and Jerry Sands go. This combination of moves gave the Red Sox the money and flexibility to sign players like Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and David Ross who helped fuel a revival in the clubhouse and played key parts in their 2013 World Series victory. Besides the World Series victory, the Red Sox have used the last two pieces of the trade in Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to make a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for starting pitcher Wade Miley. Although the Red Sox now have no players from the 2012 mega-deal, it has definitely been seen as a successful deal for them.

Although the Red Sox seemed to have won the deal, the Dodgers certainly didn’t lose. In two full seasons since the trade, the Dodgers have been one of the best teams in the National League, winning the NL West crown for two consecutive years and reaching one NLCS. Although they have not achieved the ultimate goal yet, the Dodgers have a better shot than arguably any team to win the NL Pennant and World Series. This 2012 trade was the first step that really got the ball rolling in LA. Josh Beckett may have retired and Nick Punto may have left town, but Gonzalez and Crawford have been much more successful in their third MLB home than their second. This trade is one of those rare instances where a deal was quite even for both sides in the end.


July 1, 2018 Batlling_leadoff 0

Clearly, the Toronto Blue Jays can hit. Their hitters possess a cumulative .263/.333/.450 batting line for a 116 wRC+, the best mark in the major leagues by a comfortable margin. Jose BautistaEdwin Encarnacion and the rest of the crew have hit 76 home runs, which is seven more than the next closest team, the Colorado rockies” >Rockies. In the month of May the Jays have clubbed 44 home runs and produced a 129 wRC+. Consequently, the team has gone 20-7 in May, leaving them at 32-22, and first place in the American League East. Steamer gives them a 55 percent chance of winning the division and a 71 percent chance at making the playoffs. With two-thirds of the season left, the Jays are in the driver’s seat.

While the Blue Jays have baseball’s best offense, their pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. As of now, their starters have posted a respectable 3.97 FIP and 4.3 fWAR, which puts them in 13th in the major leagues. However, most of this is based on a 7.7 percent HR/FB ratio, which should regress significantly. Their staff has a 111 xFIP-, the third worst mark in the major leagues.

Veteran Mark Buehrle boasts a 2.33 ERA despite strikeout and walk rates that are both worse than his career average. The left-hander is about as dependable as they come, but an 8.0 K-BB rate and a 6.1 percent swinging strike rate don’t make an elite pitcher, and going forward, his ERA will likely be in the high 3 or 4 range. A

After suffering through a dinger-prone 2013 season, R.A. Dickey has kept the ball in the park. But, his strikeout and walk rates are on the decline for the third year in a row. As a knuckleballer, Dickey gets more weak contact than most pitchers and he even makes the pitchers that follow him better. He’s more of an average pitcher than a top of the rotation guy.

Drew Hutchison has been solid after missing part of 2012 and most of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery. His last two outings haven’t been pretty, but overall he’s done a fine job. It’s unlikely he can make it out there 20 more times this year given his previous injury history and the fact that he’s never thrown more than 149.1 innings in a season, but he’s already matched his preseason Steamer projection.

Besides those three, who have been roughly average, the Blue Jays rotation is an amalgamation of injury-prone hurlers and washed-out arms. Dustin McGowan can light up the radar gun, but he hasn’t made 20 starts since 2007. After failing to post a single game xFIP below 4.32 in any of his eight starts, the Jays have moved him to the bullpen. He has strikeout and walk rates of 13.8 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively.

Brandon Morrow is intriguing when he’s healthy, which is to say once every blue moon. It’s hard to remember but he had the highest strikeout rate of any pitcher in baseball that had thrown at least 325 innings between 2010 and 2011. His six starts before hitting the DL this year showcased his usual plus fastball velocity and strikeout stuff but also a 13.8 percent walk rate.

J.A. Happ has transitioned back into the Jays rotation because there is nobody else. The left-hander has done his usual thing which is to combine mediocre stuff with subpar command. As his career FIP- and xFIP- indicate, he’s an emergency stopgap rather than a guy you want to rely on. Liam Hendriks has a 2.31 ERA in his two starts this year, but that comes with an xFIP of 4.96 and an FIP that is even higher. This is the same pitcher that has a 5.80 ERA in 30 career starts.

Looking within the system, Marcus Stroman got battered around in his five relief appearances, but has had his way with AAA hitters. It’s a safe bet that he will return to the big league club at some point, and next time it might be in a starting capacity. The other top pitching prospect in the Blue Jays system, Aaron Sanchez, has struggled mightily with his control, walking 16 percent of hitters. His walk rate of 12.8 percent across five minor league seasons is a clear indicator that he’s not ready for the Show yet. Kyle Drabek and Sean Nolin might be called up, but neither are very inspiring options.

Since Baseball Info Solutions began making batted ball data publicly available, the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks rotation has the highest xFIP- of any playoff team at 107. No team has made the playoffs with a starting rotation that posted an xFIP- that ranked 26th or worse. The Jays could very well change that thanks to their powerful offense. However, expect them to be looking for rotation upgrades, which could come in the form of Chicago Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel. For a team that hasn’t tasted the postseason in 20 years, a slight overpay might be understandable.

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