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Red Sox, Dodgers appear close to blockbuster sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to LA for prospects

08.25.12 at 7:38 am ET
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Adrian Gonzalez

The incentive for the Red Sox to steam forward in a sweeping roster overhaul — a potential blockbuster sending first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, right-hander Josh Beckett and outfielder Carl Crawford along with utility infielder Nick Punto to the Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney and multiple prospects — is fairly evident. While a major league source said that a deal is not expected on Friday night, it does appear to be gaining momentum to the point where the two teams have exchanged medical records to review as a prelude to a potential deal, whose logic makes all the sense in the world for a Red Sox team that has fallen out of contention.

It’s no secret: In a 12-month span from Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2010, the Red Sox made a series of calculated, high-risk gambles meant to secure a championship core for the long haul, only to see their bets blow up in spectacular fashion. It started in Dec. 2009, when the team signed John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal through 2014. That was followed by a four-year, $68 million extension in April 2010 that secured the services of Josh Beckett through 2014. The following offseason, after the Sox missed the playoffs, the team traded for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and agreed to the parameters of a seven-year, $154 million extension (on top of his $6.3 million salary in 2011) that would keep him in Boston through 2018. And, finally, the Sox signed free agent Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract at the Dec. 2010 winter meetings, with the deal running from 2011-17.

For a time, it appeared that the Sox had set themselves up for the long haul. But when the team fell apart last September, missing the playoffs by a game — following a 2011 season in which Crawford and Lackey (who required Tommy John surgery) had performed poorly, and in which Beckett had been viewed as a central culprit in a clubhouse that fell apart, those deals started to look ominous, particularly given all that followed in 2012.

The Sox had little to no flexibility to pursue roster upgrades last offeason, at least in the absence of deals to move salary (such as the one that sent Marco Scutaro to the Rockies so that the team would have money to sign Cody Ross). And so, at a time when pitchers such as Hiroki Kuroda, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt were there for the taking on appealing one-year deals, the Sox did not have the available cash reserves within their payroll to make competitive bids for them.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez and Beckett — All-Stars in 2011 — endured dramatic regressions in 2012, while Crawford — after a career-worst 2011 season — missed most of the year before returning for 31 games and then undergoing season-ending surgery.

Beckett has had numerous health issues (thumb, lat, shoulder back) while going 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA. Multiple talent evaluators believed that he was unmovable — at least unless the Sox agreed to pick up much (perhaps the majority) of the remaining money owed to him — in a trade. He is owed approximately $34 million over the next two-plus years. He’s also been dogged by off-the-field controversy, including his role in the chicken-and-beer scandal at the end of last year and a golf outing while being skipped due to his lat injury this year.

He would have to approve a trade — as a player with 10 years of big league service time and five years with the same time — and as of late Friday night, according to a source familiar with the situation, the Sox had not asked Beckett whether he would sign off on a deal. However, the source said that the sides are optimistic that his approval will not hold up a deal.

Gonzalez has had a disappointing sophomore year in Boston, hitting .300 with a .343 OBP, .469 slugging mark, .812 OPS and 15 homers this year, a marked decline from his first year in Boston, when he hit .338/.410/.548/.947 with 27 homers and 117 RBI in 2011. The performance decline has been accompanied by questions about his fit and makeup for Boston, with one major league source recently stating, upon hearing that the Dodgers had claimed him on waivers, “He’s not a winning player … [The Red Sox] should dump him.”

Crawford is in the second season of a seven-year, $142 million deal. He underwent Tommy John surgery for his torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow after hitting .282/.306/.479/.795 in 31 games; he is out for the rest of this year and possibly part of next season. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Crawford has the right to veto a deal to the Dodgers in his contract, but it remains to be seen whether he would use that right either to block a deal or to try to extract more money from the sides to relocate.

Punto is in the first year of a two-year, $3 million deal signed this past offseason. In 65 games, he’s hitting .200/.301/.272/.573 as a role player who has served as a backup at all four infield positions. He’s fallen behind Mike Aviles and Pedro Ciriaco as a utility option.

Under the framework of the deal that the two teams have discussed, the Sox would contribute an amount “very close” to $10 million of the approximately $270 million remaining on the contracts of their four players. In addition to considerable financial flexibility, the Sox would also get a number of players — including some impressive pitching prospects — in return.

According to a major league source, the Red Sox would get Loney (who was scratched from the Dodgers lineup against the Marlins) as well as prospects Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Ivan De Jesus and Jerry Sands as well as perhaps one other prospect in a deal.

Webster, 22, and De La Rosa, 23, are the prizes. Webster, ranked the No. 95 prospect in the game by Baseball America entering this year, is 6-8 with a 3.55 ERA, 8.7 strikeouts and 4.2 walks per nine with Double-A Chattanooga. Baseball America said that he compared in some respects to Derek Lowe while offering the following scouting report:

“Webster shows plus pitches across the board when he has everything working. He has an easy delivery and 90-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97 mph with plenty of sink, helping him generate grounders all day long. He throws both a slider and curveball that are plus pitches at times, though at others he gets caught between the two. He has some trouble staying on top of his curve but it shows sharp three-quarters bite when it’s on. Webster’s changeup could be his best pitch, featuring sink and fade at 79-83 mph, though some scouts think he tips it off by slowing his arm speed.”

De La Rosa has had recent health issues but possesses considerable upside. In 13 games (10 starts) last year, he was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA, 8.9 strikeouts and 4.6 walks per nine innings. He’s a small right-hander with a big arm, having been clocked at over 100 mph in the past. He is coming back off of Tommy John surgery.

DeJesus has hit .231/.282/.277/.559 in 40 big league games over the last two years. Baseball America describes him as a potential second baseman who can also play third and short with a line drive swing and good on-base skills. The 2005 second-rounder is a career .297/.369/.389/.758 hitter in the minors.

Sands, 24, is hitting .244/.325/.376/.701 in 70 big league games over the last two years. He was hitting .303/.380/.531/.911 with 24 homers in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League this year.

Loney, 28, will be a free agent after this season. The 28-year-old is hitting .254 with a .302 OBP, .344 slugging mark and .646 OPS along with four homers in 114 games. But presumably, the Red Sox would free enough cash in the transaction to pursue a free agent or a trade at the position in the offseason.

News of the framework for the potential blockbuster was first reported by Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com was the first to report that cash would go from the Red Sox to the Dodgers.

Rob Bradford contributed to this report.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, allen webster, blockbuster, carl crawford Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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