That is what the Dodgers granted the Red Sox, plain and simple. It's been a couple of days and it's still difficult to believe, isn't it?
Josh Beckett -- underachieving, often injured and evidently still perfecting an impression of Roger Dorn in the clubhouse -- is gone. Carl Crawford -- who played 161 game in Boston with a OBP of .292 and probably heard the news of the trade in a hospital room following Tommy John surgery -- is gone. And Adrian Gonzalez -- a terrific hitter and fielder, though not the power hitter any of us though he was going to be, as well as one hell of a clubhouse lawyer -- is gone.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to invest a quarter of a billion dollars in three guys who played a role in the biggest collapse in baseball history and in the disastrous 2012 season. I suspect, if they had just taken a couple of deep breaths, the Dodgers could've figured out a better way to invest 250 million bucks.
But Red Sox fans -- and the front office -- aren't particularly concerned with why the Dodgers did what they did. Sure, it's going to be tough to replace the production of Gonzalez, but you'll trade that for the ultimate mulligan, the opportunity to start all over.
And that's exactly where the Red Sox are today. This kind of trade has never happened before and will never happen again. I've seen it referred to as the "bold move" Larry Lucchino teased before the July 31 deadline, but this wasn't that. It was a bold move by the Dodgers, and an absolute no-brainer for the Sox. How bold is it to accept an invitation to get out of jail?
But here they are, in a position Ben Cherington and Lucchino and John Henry must have assumed they'd never be in again. The question is this: Given that they were all around -- and played a part -- in creating the mess that existed before the gift from the Dodgers, can they be trusted to get it right this time?
Well, Cherington said all the right things during his solo performance on Saturday. The word he kept hammering over and over was "discipline." I took that to mean what you took it to mean -- no more huge contracts for guys just because they are available, no more long-term deals for older starting pitchers, no more paying solely for past performance.
Discipline should be a perfect one-word philosophy for this front office. It's plenty fair to have serious doubts if ownership has the patience to deal with a couple of mediocre seasons, but that patience would serve the franchise a lot better than spending monster money on Zack Greinke or Josh Hamilton, the signature free agents this offseason.
Those wouldn't be bold moves, those would be a return to the form that failed so spectacularly. Nope, if Cherington wants to make a bold move, he should take a look at selling more valued pieces on his roster.
And we arrive at Dustin Pedroia. If Cherington is serous about instilling financial discipline, he has to look at trading Pedroia.
This isn't really a knock on Pedroia as a player. Of course, he's had a superb career. We all know everything he's accomplished, and we all know his popularity with Sox fans (though it's nowhere close to what is was, say, six months ago). This isn't about what he's done, but what he's going to do.
Dustin Pedroia is 29 years old. He has two years left on his deal at $10 million a season, and a third year with a team option for $11 million. So he'll be 32 years old when his contract expires (assuming the club picks up the option).
Assuming his production doesn't fall off a cliff, he's going to want to be paid. And I'm not talking $10 million or $11 million a season. Think five or six years at $15 million to $17 million a year. Robinson Cano is going to sign a contact for $150 million with the Yankees sometime in the next year. Putting aside the financial realities of both organizations, do you think Pedroia believes he's half the player Cano is?
The Sox, as I see it, can do three things. They can let Pedroia play out his deal and let him walk. They can sign him to a new long-term contract. They can trade him before his contract is up.
The third option makes the most sense, right? Dustin Pedroia has lingering injury issues with his thumb. He played 75 games two years ago and will probably finish around 135 this season. He's having his least productive (full) season of his career. You can make the case that is largely due to playing hurt, but that's not the best argument when trying to land a $100 million deal for a 32-year-old player.
Look, if Pedroia was just finishing a six-year, $100 million contact, he would have been worth the dough. But that's where teams get tricked up all the time. The Sox should be focused on paying only for future performance, not handing out deals to thank players for what they did in their prime. It's swell that Pedroia was an MVP, Rookie of the Year, World Series winner, All-Star, all that stuff. But that doesn't mean he's going to do it all again when he's 35 years old, and it's sure not worth risking at $16 million a year. The history suggests that it's just not going to work out.
And don't try to sell me on leadership and intangibles. I think both are overrated -- give me nine jerks with an OPS of 1.000 over nine gritty guys with an OPS of .900 every single time -- but what kind of leader has Pedroia turned out to be? He was in the clubhouse last September and did nothing to stop the madness. Nothing. And this year? He buried his manager at the very first chance, and then participated (and, according to the Jeff Passan report, played a significant role in leading) in a meeting with ownership that stinks of trying to get Bobby Valentine fired. Until Saturday -- and we are about to learn exactly how poisonous Beckett was, if this garbage continues we'll have to find a new target -- this team was viewed as the portrait of dysfunction. If Pedroia is supposed to be the leader of this team, the captain in waiting, he has been a titanic failure. If he's talking, no one is listening.
But all that is almost irrelevant in the big picture. Dustin Pedroia isn't going to be as good a player in his mid-to-late 30s as he was in his mid-to-late 20s. It basically never happens. Pedroia could be the greatest leader on the planet and that wouldn't be worth $17 million when he's 37 years old. It would be terrible business to pay Pedroia for what he was, not for what he will be.
But someone surely will. A former MVP -- still in his prime -- would be viewed as a game-changing addition by some teams (and would help with ticket sales and TV ratings and be a winner with the press, which all sounds kind of familiar). Could Cherington move Pedroia for a quality starting pitcher, younger and under club control?
If that kind of deal comes up this offseason Cherington has to make it. Remember, Pedroia has three years left on his contract at $31 million, not an unreasonable number should the Sox decide to keep him. But from a trade perspective, his value goes down as that deal gets closer to completion. A team would be more willing to give up significant value knowing it had two or three years of Pedroia at $10 million before it had to sign him to a potential $100 million contract. And if the Sox are going to take a couple of steps back over the next couple of years as they institute a new organizational philosophy it makes no sense to keep Pedroia around.
It doesn't have to be this offseason, but the Red Sox need to trade Dustin Pedroia. If Ben Cherington is truly sincere about exercising discipline in the future, he will not sign Pedroia to another contract.
It'll be a tough decision, obviously -- Pedroia is one of the three (along with Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, two more looming decisions for Cherington) most popular players on this team, and should still be a very good player for the next three or four years -- but there shouldn't be room for sentimentality when weighing the pros and cons. This has to be a baseball decision, not a NESN one.
Trading Dustin Pedroia fits the philosophy Cherington is now preaching. And the Sox better stick to that philosophy this time, because there will be no more miracles, no more bailouts.
The Red Sox have, for the first time in years, freedom. What will they do with it? The future of Pedroia will tell us plenty about how serious Cherington was in that press conference on Saturday.