August 29, 2012 Leave a comment
The Red Sox made the trade heard round the world last Saturday when they shipped Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, Carl Crawford and the bulk of their salaries to the Dodgers. The move was met with almost overwhelming approval from Red Sox Nation. The move also opened up many unanswered questions as to the direction of the team. We know that the Red Sox will be going in some kind of a different direction this coming off-season but which direction exactly remains to be seen. Whatever the future holds the Red Sox brass have seemed to earn some sort of mandate with the trade of those highly paid superstars and the creation of humongous payroll flexibility.
Of course the trade will be judged not only by the money saved but what is done with the money as well. The problem is that the Red Sox will have to get creative in spending that money. The free agent market is weak this year with the top two players, Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, having off-the-field problems that may make teams shy away from giving them long term commitments. But why would the Red Sox jump right back into the high level free agent market when that’s exactly what last week’s trade was meant to absolve? We’ve heard about a new “disciplined” direction to team-building and shoveling more money at more free agents would strike many as hypocritical. So the Red Sox will have to rebuild their team with smarts, patience, and that buzz word – discipline. The problem is that it might take a year or two for the Red Sox to get to where they want to be. The question is if Red Sox Nation – the same Red Sox Nation who are seemingly thrilled with the blockbuster – can stay patient as the team tries to do things the right way.
Bear in mind that I am not saying that the Red Sox have no chance to compete next year. They still have Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester who can still be top of the rotation guys. They have Felix Doubront and a few good young arms in the system, including the two they received from the Dodgers. And, as I mentioned last weekend, the Sox will be able to utilize their financial flexibility to add a veteran pitcher on short years who can help the team in the short term. Think a Jake Peavy or a Gavin Floyd on a 2 or 3 year contract. The pitching can be fixed. They can also bring David Ortiz and Cody Ross back to solidify the middle of the lineup. Factor in the extra wild card spot and it’s not far-fetched to think that the Sox can grab a playoff spot next season while they are trying to rebuild on the fly. However as possible as the above scenario is the opposite scenario is equally as possible.
What if we once again find ourselves in 4th place by the end of May? Will Red Sox Nation accept this from a team with potentially half of the payroll of the 2012 squad? Will Red Sox Nation accept the growing pains of what could be the youngest Red Sox team in decades? Will they forget how happy they were when the Red Sox jettisoned 3 of their highest paid players, including arguably their most productive one? It will be a fascinating dynamic to watch next year. How much are the fans willing to take to preserve that payroll flexibility that they were all so happy to get from the trade with the Dodgers?
Of course the Red Sox can catch fire and be what they should have been this season but there is a good chance that there will be a lot of growing pains between now and when the Sox complete whatever they are starting to build post-trade. How will Red Sox Nation handle it? Will the grow impatient or will they give the new guys some room to grow? If anything else it should be a fascinating story as the Red Sox move forward.