BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox finally killed that monster ex-GM Theo Epstein said he and his staff gave into.
You know, the monster that focused on selling bricks and tickets and was more intent on increasing NESN Red Sox television ratings rather than doing what was best for the actual baseball team.
You know, the monster that created battles between the Red Sox business and baseball operations departments and ultimately led Epstein and his staff to abandon their original concept of how to build a winning team.
The monster that is responsible for dishing out humongous contracts to John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez has been slain and it’s time for Red Sox Nation to rejoice.
It also is time for the Boston Red Sox front office to return to its original team-building model when principal owner John Henry originally purchased the club.
Unless you were out of the country yesterday, you certainly heard the Red Sox and Dodgers made a blockbuster deal, which will change the complexion of both organizations for years to come.
The Sox traded pitcher Josh Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez, infielder Nick Punto and cash considerations to Los Angeles for first baseman James Loney, infielder Ivan De Jesus, Jr., right-hander Allen Webster and two players to be named later.
The players to be named later will be first-baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa who won’t become Red Sox officially until after the 2012 season is finished.
The cash considerations involved have the Red Sox sending approximately $10 million to the Dodgers for four players that have approximately $270 million combined remaining on their contracts.
In other words, the Red Sox should be down on their knees, kissing the feet of Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. Not only did Boston receive two talented pitching prospects but they freed up about $260 million in payroll.
Yes, the Red Sox were given a do-over. They were given a second life.
“I’m excited about the opportunity this gives us to build the next great Red Sox team,” GM Ben Cherington said.
The Sox have started the healing process. Finally Henry, president/CEO Larry Lucchino and chairman Tom Werner stopped pretending everything was hunky-dory and did something to put this organization back on track.
Is Boston done making trades before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline? Well, after this jaw-dropping, bold decision, anything’s possible just like Kevin Garnett once uttered.
“I think we recognized we are not who we want to be right now and it’s been a large enough sample, performance, going back to last year that we felt like in order to be the team that we want to be we feel we needed to make more than cosmetic changes,” Cherington said.
Webster and De La Rosa are the two prized-prospects in the mega-deal and they help add to the Red Sox farm system and build starting pitching depth.
The Red Sox don’t need to spend money this coming offseason on high-priced free agents such as Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke.
Cherington must refocus on drafting and developing the farm system along with signing the right free agents at the right prices. The Sox also must put their emphasis on pitching and defense first.
The 2012 Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays are the perfect models of what the Red Sox could be soon rather than later and maybe by next season.
You don’t need to be the best hitting team to make the playoffs and win in the playoffs. You need to be the best pitching team.
Tampa entered yesterday with the third worst batting average (.237) in the majors and Oakland entered with the worst average (.232).
Yet both teams were leading in the Wild Card standings.
That’s because Tampa entered yesterday with the second best team ERA (3.25) in the majors while Oakland entered with the fifth best (3.50).
Meanwhile, Tampa’s starters ranked second in the majors in ERA (3.43) and Oakland ranked seventh (3.81).
Pitching wins in this league. And the Sox will have plenty of capable starters going forward from Clay Buchholz to Jon Lester to Felix Doubront to Franklin Morales to Clayton Mortensen to Webster to De La Rosa to Lackey to Alfredo Aceves, who could shift to the starting rotation with Andrew Bailey moving back into the closer role as originally planned.
The 22-year-old Webster projects to be either a second or third starter in the majors.
The 6-3, 185-pounder was ranked the No. 95 best prospect by Baseball America entering this season. He posted a 3.55 ERA in 27 outings (22 starts) for Double-A Chattanooga this season. He is expected to be assigned to Double-A Portland.
De La Rosa pitched in the majors for the first time Wednesday since having Tommy John surgery last year.
He was ranked the No. 90 prospect by Baseball America entering 2011.
The 23-year-old threw his fastball an average of 96 mph in 13 games (10 starts) for the Dodgers last year when he went 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA.
De La Rosa has a great chance of making the team as either a starter or reliever out of spring training next season. Webster has a chance to be added to the rotation at some point next year but probably will begin the season with Pawtucket.
Red Sox fans must be patient. Next year could very well be another non-playoff season.
But with two Wild Cards in each league now, the rebuilding job could be shorter than you might think. With a deeper rotation and more focus on pitching, the Red Sox could very well win 90 games and make the playoffs next year.
“We have to be disciplined,” Cherington said about rebuilding the team. “We can’t go out tomorrow or the next day and fill up the payroll flexibility that we just created. ... There’s a clear commitment from ownership here. We’re going to continue to have a significant payroll. We’re going to spend money on players. ... It’s up to us to again make good decisions, make disciplined decisions. And I think in the past, that’s what’s led to our best teams.”