Trade Analysis: Dodgers Blockbuster Improves Team But Carries Significant Risk + GIF Reactions

The Dodgers finalized a trade today that will send Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, James Loney, and Ivan De Jesus to the Red Sox for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and Cash.

I gave my initial reaction to the deal yesterday, but after an in-depth analysis, did anything change?

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Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers are paying ~$130 million for six years and a month of his services. Accounting for inflation over the course of the contract, every win will come out to ~$5 million, so the Dodgers are paying for about 26 WAR or 4.2 WAR per year.

Will he be worth it? I’m quite confident he will be, despite issues that others have concerns about.

In 2011 with the Red Sox, he hit .338/.410/.548/.957, posting a ~6.5 WAR season. He got off to a slow start in 2012, however, and thus only has a .300/.343/.469/.812 line. However, he has come on of late, and he projects to finish the year on a .301/.369/.504/.873 tear, so I don’t think he’s at the start of a precipitous decline. The primary concern is that his career 10.7 BB% has dipped to 5.9%, and it will need to rebound for him to live up to his usual standard. With that said, his batting projection puts his OPS around .860 or so, which presumes a gain in walk rate.

His fielding has never been in doubt, as he is a plus defender across all advanced metrics and I don’t think anybody would argue with it. He does lack foot speed though, which is why his baserunning total comes in low.

That’s not to say there’s minimal risk though, which makes sense, since he wouldn’t have been let go otherwise. He’s in his age-30 season right now, and aging curves tell us that he’s likely to regress over the course of his contract, as the mid-30s are generally the danger area. On the upside, I don’t see a reason to be concerned about injuries, as he has never played in less than 156 games in a full season.

Factoring everything above, A-Gon comes out to about a 5 WAR player, and he figures to be worth around 27 WAR after accounting for age regression. While he won’t be providing much surplus value beyond what he’s being paid by the Dodgers, he should be well worth the acquisition, especially considering the barren first base market and the lack of internal options. The A-Gon part of this deal is cause of excitement.

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Carl Crawford

The Dodgers are paying ~$105 million for five years and a month of his services. Accounting for inflation over the course of the contract, every win will come out to ~$5 million, so the Dodgers are paying for about 21 WAR or 4.1 WAR per year.

Unlike A-Gon, where I have trouble seeing how he’s not worth it, I have trouble seeing how Crawford will even get anywhere close to worth it.

For the past two seasons, Crawford has been … uh … a mess. He’s been worth a total of around 0.5 WAR, which needless to say doesn’t bode well for his 4.1 WAR goal. Even if you completely believe that his skills are intact, his body throws a sizable wrench into the equation to say the least, and it doesn’t help then that he may miss a few months of next season. He was projected to post a .283/.323/.446/.769 line for the rest of 2012, which is quite generous since his actual line has been .260/.292/.419/.711 for 2011 and 2012. For the projection, I put him around a .780 OPS, which is almost what he posted in his last few years with the Rays.

On the basepaths, despite his basestealing ability, he’s never been a plus baserunner, but he does clock in on the positive side of the ledger due to his speed. His defense will probably generate the biggest debate, as it was once a plus tool, but it has since regressed to average at best across the advanced metrics due to injury or whatever else. Personally though, I think he should benefit from the bigger spaces in Dodger Stadium, so he should return to form. However, it would be dishonest to just grant him plus status after two clear years of regression, so I made him just good instead of elite.

Like Gonzalez, Crawford is in his age-30 season and will regress over the course of his contract, including the dreaded mid-30s. Unlike Gonzalez, there’s ample reason to worry about Crawford’s health, and his projected playing time reflects that, clocking in at ~550 plate appearances.

Factoring everything above, Crawford comes out to about a 2.9 WAR player, and he figures to be worth around 12 WAR after accounting for age regression.

So he should be worth a bit more than half his contract, and when that contract totals in excess of $100 million that burns quite a bit. Unlike at first base, the options in the outfield, either short-term or long-term, to get better value were plentiful. Therefore, I can’t see how anybody would be excited about taking him on. The “he’s better than Juan Rivera” argument only works for this year because the Dodgers would have options in the offseason, and since Crawford won’t be playing this year there’s really no defense for this. I’m assuming a lot in his favor as it is, and if he’s right he should be a decent player for the team until late in the deal, but he certainly won’t be worth what the Dodgers are paying him unless lighting strikes.

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Josh Beckett

The Dodgers are paying ~$35 million for two years and a month of his services. Accounting for inflation over the course of the contract, every win will come out to ~$4.75 million, so the Dodgers are paying for about 7.5 WAR or 3.5 WAR per year.

I’m actually more confident that Crawford will make meaningful contributions than Beckett for reasons that go beyond statistics, so needless to say, I’m skeptical about him earning his keep.

In 2012, Beckett has a 5.23 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 4.39 xFIP, and 4.28 SIERA. That’s about the profile of Bud Norris of the Astros at the moment … if Norris was set to make $16 million annually.

The reason I only mention 2012 is this report by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:

Goldstein says that Beckett’s 70 fastball has turned into a 55/60. His once-biting curve has lost a similar amount of stuff: Goldstein reports that he would be “leery” of putting a 60 rating on it and might call it a 50-plus. His cutter, he explains, is at best a 40. Given how often he throws it, the cutter could be something of an Achilles’ heel for Beckett going forward.

Goldstein is not terribly optimistic about Beckett’s performance going forward and grades him as a no. 4 or no. 5 starter going forward.

That scouting report is backed by fastball velocity that has dropped from 93.8 MPH for his career to 91.6 MPH, and a strikeout rate that has gone from a career 22.2% to 17.2%. I’m not sure how anybody could reasonably expect him to bounce back to 4-5 WAR levels with that profile.

Like Gonzalez and Crawford, Beckett isn’t young. He’s in his age-32 season, is showing signs of decline, and is under contract into his mid-30s. There’s reason to worry about injury too, as he missed significant time (60-day DL) two years ago with a back strain and was placed on the DL for shoulder inflammation this year. Since he’ll likely only get to ~160 innings this year, I think giving him ~175 is generous enough.

Factoring everything above, Beckett comes out to about a 2.1 WAR player, and he figures to be worth around 4 WAR after accounting for age regression.

Like Crawford, he projects to be worth a bit more than half what he’s being paid, but it burns a lot less because it’s only a two year commitment after 2012. Of course, there’s opportunity cost here as well, because there’s always bargain options that can provide 1.5 to 2.5 WAR for a lot less than what Beckett will be paid, as Chris Capuano and the likes have proven. I suppose there’s upside hidden deep in Beckett’s profile in that maybe he regains his stuff, but I can’t bet on it due to his age. Besides, both his numbers and the scouting match each other, and that’s usually a recipe for accuracy. Hope for the best, but I wouldn’t expect anything better than a #4 starter.

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Nick Punto

The Dodgers are paying ~$2 million for one year and a month of his services. Accounting for inflation over the course of the contract, every win will come out to ~$4.5 million, so the Dodgers are paying for about 0.5 WAR or 0.4 WAR per year.

Don’t think I need a table for this one, as it’s purely to give the Dodgers a utility guy, I believe. Punto is at .200/.301/.272/.573 for 2012 and is projected to hit .229/.327/.271/.598 the rest of the way, which matches his age profile and career hitting ability. He’s above average on the bases and can play second, third, and short, where he grades out as a plus defender at every position.

His value on the bench is contingent on the Dodgers finding guys that can hit because he’s purely a defensive replacement or a spot starter. Still, he’s a solid utility guy because of his defense and versatility. He’ll be serviceable, which is all he’s being paid for, so it should be fine.

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Rubby De La Rosa

As a starter last year, he posted a 3.71 ERA/3.87 FIP/3.55 xFIP/3.85 SIERA with a 23.6 K% and a 12.2 BB% before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. After rehabbing for a year, he’s back and so is the velocity, so it seems the only thing lost was a year of development. Regardless, he has plus velocity and two potential swing-and-miss off-speed pitches in the change and slider. He’s rotation quality right now, and with command improvement, I don’t see why he couldn’t be a #2 or #3 rotation option.

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Allen Webster

After being demoted to the bullpen early in 2012, he may now be every bit the prospect that Rubby or Zach Lee is for the reasons Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus details here:

“It’s all there,” said a National League scout who was taken off his coverage to see the team. “When everything is going, he has three average-to-plus pitches and knows what to do with them.” The scout noted that Webster’s game has matured, as well. “He knows he has a really good—and potentially special—changeup, but he’s not over-relying on it anymore,” the scout explained. “It’s like he finally figured out that setting that pitch up with 92-94 mph heat is the best way to go about it, and his curveball has improved as well. He used to get over the ball and it wouldn’t finish, but now it’s breaking through the zone much better.”

His ceiling seems to be in the #2 range as well, with #3 to #4 a more likely destination. He should test the waters at the MLB level this year, and could be ready in 2013.

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Jerry Sands

For his career, his line at AAA Albuquerque is .291/.363/.557/.921 … but it’s Albuquerque. Still, I like his chances of becoming a major league contributor, though I’m not sure he’ll be worthy of holding down a left field spot for a team like the Red Sox. There’s a shot he becomes a regular, but I see him as more of a platoon guy or temporary starter as opposed to a long-term fit there.

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Ivan De Jesus

A .301/.354/.416/.770 line at Albuquerque paired with his .231/.282/.277/.559 career line with the Dodgers doesn’t bode well for him. Furthermore, while he can play second, short, and third, he’s only above average at second, so I’m not sure he even fits as a utility guy.

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James Loney

He’s been worth 0 to -1 WAR this season while making $6.5 million and he’s a free agent to be. Bye.

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So the Dodgers are paying ~$272 million to get the four mentioned players from the Red Sox, and the Red Sox will be kicking in about ~$12 million back to the Dodgers. So the team is paying for ~55 WAR of production, but is getting about ~43 WAR in value (~$212 million). As such, just by taking on the contracts alone, they figure to be looking at a surplus value around -$50 million. Then factor in the two top prospects, one solid prospect, a fringe prospect, and the corpse of James Loney, and you’re looking at quite a deficit to overcome, especially if any of them develop and hit their ceilings.

On the other hand, this undoubtedly makes the Dodgers better in the short-term, perhaps by as much as 7 or 8 wins in 2013. It should solidify the squad as a playoff favorite for this year and the next two years, perhaps even longer than that, depending on the decline phases of Crawford/Gonzalez.

While I understand that fans are excited by the prospects of that immediate improvement, I just have to wonder whether the Dodgers couldn’t do better if given ~$260 million to spend and the prospect package in question. Of the players received, only Adrian Gonzalez really fills a hole that couldn’t have been addressed in either 2013 or 2014. Then there’s the potential problems with payroll flexibility and the luxury tax that I’ve mentioned before. Also, as you can see through Jay Jaffe‘s work here, they’re really hemmed up in the short-term payroll-wise, and they now have $90 million sewn up in four players through 2017, which unfortunately doesn’t even include Clayton Kershaw yet.

As such, fans should surely enjoy the ride this year and in the immediate future, but it’s easy to justify significant concern over the long-term future of the roster, as all the risk in this deal is being taken by the Dodgers.

About Chad Moriyama

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