The Declaration of Gonzalaford

Red Sox fans were looking for a statement this Winter and what they got instead was a Declaration! I’ll spare you the entire read as this is the key passage from the Red Sox Declaration of Gonzalaford …. “We hold this truth to be self-evident … all teams are NOT created equal.  Some are endowed by their home markets with financial advantages that enable them to sign expensive free agents, take advantage of small-market economic realities and stalk American League pennants. We, the Boston Red Sox, feel these are our rights and we will exercise those rights accordingly.” Jefferson might not have approved of this affront to egalitarianism but you can bet your last cent Hamilton would be on board.

Listen, the duration is a year longer than I would have preferred. The annual payouts are certainly “full.” And it definitely makes the Sox a little heavy to the left. But it’s hard to argue that the Sox haven’t had a big winter. And one that sets them up well for the years ahead.

Full disclosure, I was much more jazzed about the trade for Adrian Gonzalez than Boston’s decision to sign Carl Crawford for seven years and $142 million. In all honesty, I think Gonzalez will simply be a monster. And if I were running the Sox, I probably would not have gone this high on Crawford. But this was the question facing the Sox:

At the end of 2011, the Sox will need TWO outfielders. With Drew’s contract up, the Sox would need his replacement in RF and Cameron’s replacement in left. It’s a good bet that Ryan Kalish will be one of these two players. But where was the second going to come from? Free agency? Sorry, next year’s class is bereft of options. Certainly not high-class options unless Jose Bautista pulls the wool over the world’s eyes again. So what were the Sox to do? Take a chance that Josh Reddick was going to explode? Anticipate big things from Cuban import Juan Carlos Linares? Sorry, the solution was right there for the picking and they picked Carl Crawford.

You don’t need to lecture me on the fiscal elements of this deal. I agree … it’s rich. Very rich for a guy who derives a good deal of his value from his legs. And if one of these wheels goes out, the Sox will be forced to write-off a third of this contract, if not more. After all, Crawford depends on his speed to support abnormal run creation, high batting averages and unusually high numbers of putouts. So if those legs don’t hold up, the Sox are stuck with Trot Nixon from 2004, only one making 3x what Nixon made.

But what if those legs do hold up? And isn’t fair to assume some resilience in a 29 year old who is inarguably a sick athlete?

In that event, the Sox pick up a real problem for the rest of baseball. A guy who greatly improves the club’s outfield defense. And  a guy who can hit third, steal forty bases and will add power as his body and game mature. Will he ever be a thirty home run guy? Most likely not, but over the next three years, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect .300/.360/.510 and 22 bombs, particularly if he gets accustomed to using that wall.

The lineup now reads Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Lowrie, Drew and Catcher. Assuming decent health, that can be penciled in for 925 runs. And the defense should be “excellent” with a call option on “tremendous.” Mind you, if ESPN’s Keith Law is right and Jose Iglesias is like watching porn at shortstop, the 2012 defense might be the biggest weapon in baseball.

So what are the financial implications of this? No doubt, the consequences are significant but I have played with the Sox financial model and Crawford shouldn’t be too much of a burden. In fact, the 2011 payroll will most likely come in under 2010 and 2012 is no problem as $40M comes off the books with Cameron, Scutaro, Drew, Papelbon and Wakefield. Plus, another $22M could be lifted if Ortiz was shutdown and Matsusaka were dealt.

So there doesn’t’ seem to be much stress until 2013 and 2014 when the Lackey and Beckett contracts may be wheezing. In the interim, it will be incumbent on the Sox to develop some players who can inexpensively take the places of Papelbon, Matsusaka, Scutaro, Drew and Ortiz. I can’t speak to the pen as conditions out there constantly change but Bard is a good place to start, Doubront might be a good placeholder for Matsusaka until a Renaudo or Britton is ready, Lowrie and/or Iglesias should be able to hold down short and perhaps Ryan Lavarnway is the right-handed DH need to replace Otriz. The Sox may have thinned out their system with the Gonzalez trade but the important thing to remember is that a meaty core is now in place, thus allowing the system with the time it needs to heel.

The moral here is the Sox have added a great deal of firepower over the past week. I might have gone in a different direction but the Sox had resources and they used them. So forget talk of Bridges and Fiscal Responsibility. And forget all that talk about Liverpool and conflicts of interest. Theo Epstein and John Henry have laid all that talk to rest this week.  Remember, they did this before ….. back in 2006 when they paid ~200M for Drew, Matsusaka and Lugo. That resulted in a B-, and D+ and an F. I have every confidence that Crawford and Gonzalez will rack up better marks.

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