Could the Red Sox have avoided their salary purge?

Still reflecting on the megadeal, two of the four players that the Red Sox traded to the Dodgers were acquired prior to the 2011 season. Carl Crawford was handed $142 million, and Adrian Gonzalez was given $154 million. Also, the Sox forfeited a first round draft pick to sign Crawford, and four prospects to acquire Gonzalez from the Padres. Flash back to right after the 2010 season, and see what could have been for the Sox…

Instead of trading for Gonzalez, Boston could have re-signed Adrian Beltre. Beltre made $10 million for the Red Sox in 2010 before declining a player option and signing a five year, $80 million contract with the Rangers. Beltre has produced 10.4 fWAR in the last two seasons with the Rangers, in contrast to the 9.3 fWAR that Gonzalez was worth during his time in Boston. Beltre also made $14 million last year and is making $15 million this season, compared to Gonzalez's $6.3 million in 2011 and $21 million in 2012. The money and production is essentially a wash in this case, but Beltre's presence would allow Kevin Youkilis to stay at first base instead of moving to third. Youkilis was worth 3.7 fWAR last year and has better career defensive metrics at first than third. Then coming into 2012, the Red Sox would have a welcome situation with Youkilis at first, Beltre at third, and prospects Anthony Rizzo and Will Middlebrooks waiting in the wings to possibly be used as trade chips.

Now, the Crawford signing…in hindsight, this didn't work out at all. Crawford made $14 million last season, is making $19.5 million this year, and in 161 games with Boston, Crawford provided 14 homers, 21 stolen bases, and a .711 OPS. He was worth 0.6 fWAR for the Red Sox, which is a complete sham from someone being paid eight figures a year. There were plenty of viable options for the Red Sox that cost a fraction as much as Crawford, for a fraction of the years. Lance Berkman would have been an adventure in the Fenway outfield, but he got just $8 million for one year from the Cardinals last season, and gave them 31 homers, a .959 OPS, and contributed to a World Championship. Jayson Werth's contract is horrendous, but he actually has provided 3.7 fWAR for the Nationals over two years, more than three wins more than Crawford. Even if he was testosterone-fueled over the season, Melky Cabrera had an .809 OPS while making just $1.25 million, more than ten times less than Crawford. 

Clearly, there were much more feasible alternatives than throwing a handful of prospects and nearly $300 million for two guys that aren't even on the team a year later. With the pick that the Red Sox lost for signing Crawford, the Rays picked Taylor Guerrieri, who has struck out 37 batters while walking just two in 42 innings in the NY-Penn league this season. There were plenty of other great prospects taken after that pick that could have interested the Red Sox as well, including players like Levi Michael, Sean Gilmartin, and Joe Ross. To be fair, if the Red Sox did re-sign Beltre, they wouldn't have gotten a comp pick from the Rangers…whose pick was just two slots after the one that the Red Sox lost to the Rays.

The situation in Boston this summer should be a warning shot for any GM who is looking to retool by going crazy with long-term contracts. Hell, look at the situation in Miami, with the Marlins going all-in with Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, and Heath Bell, and then trading Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez at the trade deadline. It's almost getting to the point where (dare I say) that the Yankees are doing things the right way. A couple of high-priced superstars, homegrown players that have been extended long-term, targeting players in trades that aren't thought of that highly, and low-cost veteran signings to bolster the roster. The Red Sox punting on the signings of last winter tell me that they're going in another direction…but if they go out and start throwing around nine figure contracts again this offseason, it will be evident that they haven't learned their lesson at all.

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About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.