Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez were placed on trade waivers this week by the Boston Red Sox, joining Arizona’s Joe Saunders and San Diego’s Edinson Volquez on the list of potential valuable additions to contenders.
Of course, many players are placed on trade waivers in August throughout the Major Leagues. Teams often make these moves to determine potential interest for future transactions.
If a team claims a player placed on trade waivers, that player’s current club has three options. It can let him (and his contract) depart for the claiming team, conduct a trade with the claiming team or pull him back off waivers. Clubs in the same league that the player currently resides have first dibs. For example, American League teams get the opportunity to claim Gonzalez before National League clubs get their chance.
The Red Sox are an interesting case study on trade waivers this year since they have faded to 59-65 and 8.5 games out in the wild card race. Boston will likely be in selling mode before August 31. Teams can make trades in September, but players are not eligible for the postseason unless they are on the roster before August 31.
Beckett and Gonzalez could be useful additions to contenders, even if they are at different stages of their careers.
The 32-year-old Beckett, who has been a lightning rod for controversy since his struggles last September significantly contributed to Boston’s monumental collapse, is in the midst of the worst season in his 12-year Major League career. He is 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and a 2.66 batting average against. Over his last 10 starts, he is 1-5 with a 6.75 ERA, and is is 1-4 with a 7.11 ERA since the All-Star break. In August, Beckett has a 0-2 record and a 9.92 ERA in three starts, including an opponent’s batting average of .304. This follows a 1-2 record and a 6.08 ERA in July when opposing hitters had a .311 average against him.
Simply put, Beckett is fooling nobody. He no longer has the velocity to overpower hitters with his fast ball, and the command on his fast ball, curve ball and change-up has been erratic.
Beckett will likely clear waivers since he has around $4 million remaining on his 2012 salary, and he is owed $15.75 a year over the next two seasons. Since the Red Sox appear poised to part ways with the former ace, there is speculation that they could pick up as much as $20 million of what is left on his contract. The Sox would probably even pay the $4 million remaining this season if they could get a favorable prospect in return.
Why would a contender want Beckett, who is struggling on the mound and has angered Red Sox fans with his apathetic behavior off the field? His track record of delivering in the postseason is one attribute. Also, before last September, he was an American League Cy Young Award contender, finishing with a 13-7 record, a 2.89 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, a .211 batting average against and allowing just 146 hits in 193 innings.
Perhaps a contending team would take a chance that Beckett will benefit from a change of scenery. Last month, there was speculation that the Texas Rangers were interested. Fangraphs.com suggested that the Washington Nationals could be an ideal trade partner since they might shut down Stephen Strasburg and Beckett could present a better post-season alternative to Ross Detwiler.
As for Gonzalez, it would seem that the Red Sox would hold onto the 30-year-old slugger who they acquired from San Diego before the 2011 season for a package of premium prospects (including starting pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes). Gonzalez is hitting .301 with 15 home runs and 85 RBI, but he has not provided the power that Boston expected.
Gonzalez has five-plus years left on the seven-year, $154 million deal that he signed. Already saddled with Carl Crawford‘s seven-year, $142 million, and still owing John Lackey $30.5 million after this season, the Red Sox could decide to shed Gonzalez’s contract and sign Jacoby Ellsbury to an extension. Ellsbury will be eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.
Before last month’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers were reportedly interested in getting Gonzalez, but they were apparently rebuffed by the Red Sox. The Dodgers have deep pockets with their new ownership group, and they are stocked with highly regarding pitching prospects like Zach Lee, Allen Webster and Chris Reed. This is a deal that could feasibly happen if the Red Sox decide they want to escape what the owe Gonzalez.
The Los Angeles Times speculated that the Dodgers could persuade the Red Sox to part with Gonzalez by also taking on the contracts of Crawford and Beckett.
Trading Gonzalez to the Dodgers would be more significant than dealing Beckett to the Nationals or Rangers since transactions involving high-profile names usually occur by the July deadline or in the off-season. Yet the Red Sox need to make dramatic changes as they start preparing to restore stability and rebuild their roster for 2013, so though it is not probable, it is possible that Beckett and/or Gonzalez could go if the Boston is adequately enticed.