The Red Sox-Dodgers series next week in Los Angeles could very well be a prelude to the World Series. Who would have envisioned that scenario last Aug. 25 when the Sox, spiraling to a last-place finish, purged payroll by sending Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto out west for a package of young players — only two of whom remain (righthanders Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster).
Dodgers president Stan Kasten won’t even broach the subject of the World Series.
“No chance I’d discuss World Series in August,” Kasten said. “We have to win our division. That’s what we’re all focused on. That’s all I’m talking about.”
In the biggest salary dump in baseball history, the Red Sox saved about $260 million in payroll. They used some of the money to obtain Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, and Koji Uehara, players who have helped revive this moribund franchise into arguably the best team in baseball.
The Dodgers failed to make the playoffs last year and got off to a terrible start this season, but it has all come together for Los Angeles, thanks in part to the energy infused by Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, the tremendous season of former Red Sox farmhand Hanley Ramirez, and a rotation that boasts Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Nearly a year later, the deal looks to have helped both teams.
The Dodgers needed to do it to help sell their $6 billion television deal. The salary they took on has been worth it.
“Adrian has been everything we had hoped for,” Kasten said. “That’s on the field, in the clubhouse, in the community. We’re extremely happy with him and what he’s done for us.”
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti agreed and added, “He plays every day. Never wants a day off. We looked at the free agent list and we thought Adrian is a great player and far better than anyone we could go get in free agency, so why not go for it?”
The Red Sox did not want to give up Gonzalez, but the lure of getting rid of Crawford’s and Beckett’s cumbersome deals was too good. The Dodgers acquired Crawford shortly after he had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. They had no idea how he would recover.
Colletti said Crawford has been good for the team despite the two stints he’s had on disabled list this season.
“[Manager Don Mattingly] sat with him and asked him, can you be our leadoff hitter? And he was on board from Day One,” said Colletti. “Carl was another guy that when we looked around at what was available in free agency, there wasn’t anyone of Carl’s caliber out there.”
As for Beckett, who had season-ending surgery last month to repair a compressed nerve, Kasten said, “We feel confident he’s going to make a full comeback and be a part of our team next season.”
Beckett and Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery) combined for just one win this season. But the Dodgers adjusted by acquiring Ricky Nolasco, and Chris Capuano has remained healthy.
Mattingly acknowledged last week that if things hadn’t turned around he would’ve risked being fired. He was told as much by Kasten.
“Stan was really honest,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think he wanted to do anything but he said, ‘Donnie, at some point I have to do something.’ I understand. You can’t just let your team go. I get it.
“At some point, you need a different voice. If it’s not going good, you have to make a change just to make a change. You might be doing the best job you can possibly do and it wouldn’t make a difference. I get that.”
Since starting 30-42 and sitting 9½ games out of first place in the NL West, the Dodgers have gone 35-8 since June 22 to build a nice lead on the division. Even with the success, Mattingly hasn’t had his team option picked up for next year.
Overall, Kasten and Colletti believe the trade served its purpose.
“First and foremost we want to be a scouting and development team and we’ve hired some of the best people in baseball to run those efforts, but we also realize that it’s a 3-5 year effort and that our fans in this market deserve a good team while that’s going on,” Kasten said.
“The Boston deal accomplished what we wanted to do in the short term and bought us time to develop our organization long term. We believe we got everything we needed to get from that deal.”
In regards to what it did for Boston?
“You hope that deal worked out for both teams,” Colletti said. “We hated to give up two pitchers, but we wanted the deal to happen and that’s what we had to do. The Red Sox are having a great year.”
As for an Los Angeles-Boston World Series?
“That’s something you can dream about. I’m worried about Tampa Bay,” Colletti said, referring to the Dodgers’ weekend opponent.
SIZING UP STANTON
It surely will take a lot to land this Marlin
Who might be in the best position to acquire Giancarlo Stanton if the Marlins were to make him available this offseason?
Start with the Twins and Red Sox.
Those teams both have the organizational depth to make a blockbuster deal and might be willing to ship out a few prospects to make a play for the 23-year-old slugger.
While with the Red Sox, general manager Theo Epstein showed a willingness to part with multiple players to obtain one superstar. In trying to obtain Felix Hernandez from Seattle in 2009 he offered a then-effective Daniel Bard, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone, and Josh Reddick and was turned down.
The Red Sox would likely have to offer a similar package to pry Stanton from Miami.
A few teams, including Texas, have inquired about Stanton and were consistently told he wasn’t available. But the Marlins would have to listen if someone offered a handful of top prospects that would replenish their farm system.
“The Red Sox might be in a better position than the Twins because the Twins have to rely on their top players to come up and man several positions,” said one baseball executive. “The Red Sox have veteran players so their need to keep their best guys isn’t as severe. So if they can trade them off for a young player like Stanton, they wouldn’t have to fear about thinning out as a result.”
But the Twins have quality prospects too, such as outfielder Byron Buxton, whom one talent evaluator called “the best positional player in minor league baseball.”
They also have pitchers Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer, power-hitting third basemen Miguel Sano and Travis Harrison, second baseman Eddie Rosario, and shortstop Daniel Santana, among others.
If the Marlins do decide to part with Stanton, the Red Sox and Twins have the goods to get a deal done.
Apropos of nothing
1. Sometimes it’s interesting to look back at throw-ins in deals. The Red Sox last season traded a kid named Jeremias Pineda to the Twins for Danny Valencia, who played just 10 games with Boston. Pineda, a center fielder, has been timed at 3.77 seconds to first base.
2. The Pirates could get three injured pitchers back by September. Closer Jason Grilli (30 of 31 in save chances) is recovering from a strained forearm. James McDonald, who has been out with a shoulder injury since May 1, could be used out of the bullpen. Wandy Rodriguez, out since June 6 with forearm tightness, would give the rotation a boost.
3. I think throwing programs are really long and unnecessary.
4. There’s a country music concert, “Country Strikes out ALS”, at House of Blues in Boston on Sept. 12. Proceeds will benefit the Pete Frates #3 Fund. Frates, 28, is a former Boston College baseball player stricken with ALS. He devotes his time to ALS fund-raising while still working with the BC baseball team. Tickets range from $35-$75.
5. Jack Clark opened a can of worms when he said on his sports radio program in St. Louis that Albert Pujols was a steroid user. Clark based this on conversations he had with Pujols’s personal trainer, Chris Mihfield, who worked for the Dodgers while Clark coached there. Clark also said Shawn Green was a steroid user and that he was offended when Green broke Duke Snider’s Dodgers record for home runs in a season. Said Clark: “I can’t stand to coach the guys that are cheating and faking, are phonies and frauds, for a game that I love when guys played it the right way and guys like Dale Murphy can’t get into the Hall of Fame, a quality guy and great player and MVP. He has to take a back seat to these creeps like [Mark] McGwire. It just makes me sick and I just can’t be a part of it anymore.” Mihfield denied all allegations. Pujols said he will take legal action against Clark, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the radio station has let Clark go. As a player, Clark was never shy when stating his opinions. I felt his wrath once or twice.
Updates on nine
1. Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, free agent — Reynolds was designated for assignment by the Indians last week after he hit .098 in July and .187 since May 1. Reynolds carried the Orioles lineup late last season and Baltimore may again have interest given its need for a DH and Reynolds’s success under Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley. Though they are looking for a righthanded power bat, the Red Sox don’t see Reynolds as a fit because of his poor defense and high strikeout rate.
2. Barry Larkin, ESPN analyst — The Hall of Fame shortstop has been one of the most interesting names bandied about as a possible replacement for Davey Johnson in Washington. Another candidate is Houston manager Bo Porter, who seemed to be the heir apparent to Johnson had he stayed in Washington. The Nationals job has to be among the best in baseball and we’ll likely be hearing a lot of other names before Johnson steps down after the season.
3. Koji Uehara, RHP, Red Sox — Even at age 38, Uehara has impressed the Red Sox so much with his strike-throwing ability that the team wants him back at closer next season. Uehara has a base salary of $4.25 million this season, plus performance bonuses based on games finished. He’s already earned an extra $250,000 for finishing 22 games. Uehara entered Saturday’s game with 53 appearances; he needs 55 to have his 2014 option vested.
4. Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox — There’s certainly some interest in Ramirez. The Yankees could turn out to be the best fit since they eventually will need a replacement for Derek Jeter, who could wind up DHing a lot next season. The Yankees may have problems making something happen because of their weak farm system.
5. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers — It will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle Peralta when he’s eligible to return for the final three games of the regular season. Do they do what Brian Sabean and the Giants did with Melky Cabrera last season and say “Thanks but no thanks” in the playoffs? The Tigers have moved on to their future shortstop, Jose Iglesias. Peralta will be a free agent.
6. Roy Halladay, RHP, Phillies — Halladay is beginning his rehab assignment following shoulder surgery. Halladay, 36, is a pending free agent and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever be what he was. “I’m not worried about next year,” Halladay said. “I’m not coming back to try to get a contract for next year, a bigger contract, anything like that. I just want to come back and pitch. After that, hopefully make a decision on where I can win. I hope that’s here. I want to make sure when I start my rehab assignment I feel like I am able to compete at a high level. I want to compete in those games like I would [in the majors] so I know where I stand when I get here. I’m not interested in coming back and pitching at the same level I was early this year. I want to come back and pitch at a high level.”
7. Nelson Cruz, RF, Rangers — As Cruz serves his suspension for PED use, his future in Texas remains in doubt. The Rangers, who acquired Alex Rios Friday, may let Cruz enter free agency. Texas will likely lose David Murphy to free agency as well, so there could be room for Cruz to play left field. PED users aren’t the most popular guys these days. One GM said, “We all have to readjust our thinking about PED users after what we’ve witnessed with Melky Cabrera this season. Cabrera is proof that he gets off the PEDs and he’s been an inferior player offensively and defensively, presumably without them.” Cruz has been Texas’s best power hitter. But what will he look like next season?
8. Adam Dunn, DH/1B, White Sox — Having cleared waivers, what is everyone waiting for? He appears to be a good fit in Baltimore, which would prefer a righthanded hitter, and even Texas. How about Dunn at Yankee Stadium? Since June 1 he’s hitting .288 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs.
9. Josh Willingham, OF, Twins — Back from knee surgery, Willingham could be moved before the end of August. Willingham hasn’t had a good season (.220) but last year he hit 35 homers and knocked in 110 runs with an .890 OPS. Willingham is signed for one more year at $7 million.
From the Bill Chuck Files: “In 384 ABs, Mike Napoli has 14 homers and 147 strikeouts. In 2,070 Red Sox at-bats, Bill Buckner had 48 homers and 120 strikeouts.” Also, “After striking out Jed Lowrie on three pitches of 100-plus m.p.h., batters are 3 for 45 (.066) on Aroldis Chapman’s three-digit fastball (with 29 strikeouts).” . . . Happy birthday Matt Clement (39) and Reggie Harris (45).Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.