Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett to L.A.

Updated: August 26, 2012, 2:24 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers completed the largest trade in franchise history Saturday, acquiring All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in a nine-player trade in which they are taking on more than a quarter of a billion dollars in salary.

It's another bold and expensive move for a new ownership group that has made it clear they'll spare no expense to put a winning team on the field as soon as possible.

"In this position, you have to be aggressive," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "You can't be reckless, but you have to be aggressive and creative and think outside the box. For a while there, we weren't really able to do that. From a baseball standpoint, it's far more conducive to be as good as you can be now."

The Dodgers sent first baseman James Loney and minor leaguers Allen Webster, Ivan De Jesus and two players to be named later -- pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and outfielder Jerry Sands, according to sources -- to Boston in the trade. The Dodgers also acquired utility man Nick Punto and, according to The Associated Press, about $11 million in cash from Boston while shedding more than $250 million in salaries through 2018.

Under a rich new ownership group led by hedge fund Guggenheim Partners and fronted by NBA star Magic Johnson, the Dodgers entered the day three games behind San Francisco for the NL West lead and in the midst of the wild-card race.

"We did this for our fans. We want to win now," said Johnson, whose group bought the Dodgers in March for $2.15 billion. "When you bring in the type of players that we've brought in, it sends a message to our fans that we want to win. Our players are extremely happy."

He added: "We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league. We understood that before we bought the team. So we're excited."

Colletti was active around the trade deadline, acquiring All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino and former Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez along with relievers Randy Choate and Brandon League.

But the Dodgers didn't get all the players they were pursuing. They missed out on pitcher Ryan Dempster shortly before the deadline and Cliff Lee after it.

Johnson We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league. We understood that before we bought the team. So we're excited.

-- Magic Johnson, Dodgers co-owner

For Dodgers players and fans, the trade ushers in a new era after more than two years of turmoil and inaction under previous owner Frank McCourt. Since taking over, the new owners have signed Cuban defector Yasiel Puig for $42 million over seven years, re-signed right fielder Andre Ethier to a five-year, $85 million extension and now acquired nine new players, most of whom are well-paid. The four players the Dodgers acquired Saturday are owed $262.5 million beyond this season.

"You just chuckle inside and laugh," Ethier said. "To see what we were faced with last year at this time and to see where we started the season, it's kind of funny. They told me this is a place you want to be. I knew that already, but they reassured me. They said they'd do whatever it takes to win and they're definitely proving that now."

Said team president Stan Kasten: "When we came in, we made it clear that we want to build the Dodgers back to what they once were."

Gonzalez was in the Dodgers' lineup for Saturday night's game with the Miami Marlins, batting fourth behind last year's MVP runner-up Matt Kemp. He hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat as a Dodger. Hours after arriving at Dodger Stadium on a flight from Boston, Gonzalez drove an 0-1 pitch from Miami right-hander Josh Johnson deep into the lower seats in the right-field corner.

"I was telling the guys it was just all adrenaline," Gonzalez said after the Dodgers' 8-2 win. "I saw the ball halfway on a trajectory and it was a great feeling."

The centerpiece of the trade, Gonzalez, a four-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, hit .300 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs in 123 games for the Red Sox this season. He is hitting .398 with runners in scoring position, second in the majors.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Beckett will make his debut for the team Monday night in Colorado. Beckett's arrival is well-timed since the Dodgers put starter Chad Billingsley on the disabled list later Saturday with right elbow discomfort.

"I had an awesome time in Boston. I had some tough times. There are some great people there," Beckett said. "For me, I think it was time to move on and start this new chapter."

Asked why it was time, Beckett said: "I don't know. I think it was time for both sides. I don't really have a reason."

The Dodgers have traded the NL West lead with the Giants all season, but they're hoping these moves help them make a quick move in the standings.

"Right now, to have one of the best first basemen that plays the game, somebody that can drive in runs is definitely going to help us win a lot more ballgames. We all have one common goal and that's to win games," Kemp said. "Everybody knows what their job is to do, drive in runs, move runners over, play defense, whatever it is.

"Everyone takes care of their business and we'll be a tough team to beat."

Beckett had become a lightning rod in Boston since the Red Sox's September collapse and had won just one of his past 13 starts. Crawford, out for the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, put up career-low numbers in 2011.

"We recognized that we are not who we want to be right now and it's been a large enough sample of performance going back to last year," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "We felt like in order to be the team that we wanted to be on the field we needed to make more than cosmetic changes."

The Dodgers part with two of their top pitching prospects in De La Rosa and Webster. One scout said De La Rosa could be a "top-of-the-rotation" starter if he fully recovers from the Tommy John surgery he had in August of 2011.

The Red Sox returned to their clubhouse Saturday to find empty lockers where Beckett, Gonzalez and Crawford stored their gear before they packed for Los Angeles.

Pitcher John Lackey already had claimed Beckett's locker and the others' were left with generic nameplates after the players cleared out Friday night and Saturday morning.

"As we look forward to this offseason," Cherington said, "we felt like the opportunity to build the team that we need, that the fans deserve, required a more bold move to give us the opportunity to really reshape the roster, reshape the team."

Cherington We recognized that we are not who we want to be right now ... We felt like in order to be the team that we wanted to be on the field we needed to make more than cosmetic changes.

-- Ben Cherington,
Red Sox general manager

For the Red Sox, far back for playoff contention, the deal dismantled the underperforming ballclub and gives them a chance to rebuild without their hefty contracts. Even with $11 million reportedly going to the Dodgers, Boston will save more than $250 million in salary from now through 2018.

"We gave up a lot of talent," Cherington said. "Good guys, excited about the talent we got back and excited about the opportunity this gives us to build the next great Red Sox team."

But Beckett, who was a key part of the team that won the 2007 World Series, was also the ringleader in last year's collapse, when the ballclub went 7-20 in September and missed a playoff spot on the final day of the season. Reports of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games surfaced afterward, and Beckett's haughty demeanor -- and rising ERA -- continued to alienate fans.

The 2003 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, Beckett now moves from the home of Dunkin' Donuts to the land of In-N-Out Burger, bringing with him a pair of other players who were not productive enough to justify their contracts. Beckett was due $31.5 million over the next two years; Gonzalez has $127 million coming through 2018; Crawford is due $102.5 million over the next five seasons.

"We were very talented. We should've played better," Beckett said. "That's what I told Ben Cherington. I don't think he wants to trade away everybody. I just think we made it impossible for him not to do that by not playing well and I'm as big a part of that as anybody. I know that that's not what they wanted to do. They wanted Adrian to stay and they wanted me to stay. They wanted Nick to stay and they wanted Carl to stay. But we just didn't do our jobs."

Beckett's only admissions about the turmoil that has plagued the Red Sox clubhouse the last two seasons were just vague allusions like: "There are some exterior distractions that make it difficult. There was just a lot of stuff."

For his part, Gonzalez said he too leaves Boston with some regrets.

Without directly admitting he was speaking about the text message he reportedly sent to Boston ownership expressing dissatisfaction with Valentine, Gonzalez said he has regrets about several things in his Red Sox tenure.

"Last year everybody was telling me about taking more of a leadership role at the end of the year," Gonzalez said. "This year I tried to be a little more outspoken. But whenever you say certain things or do certain things, they can fire back the wrong way.

"Everything I ever did was for the sake of winning and I think everybody in the clubhouse knows that. The way things were spun is unfortunate, but I guess, looking back, there are a couple things; well, one thing, that I shouldn't have done."

Asked why the Red Sox underachieved so badly, Gonzalez said : "It was working pretty well until (last) September and then, when the hitters hit we gave up runs and when the pitchers pitched, we didn't hit. I don't know. It kind of went on from there. We made a lot of errors. We've said it all along, the players have, we just didn't play good baseball.

"Then all these other things came out. They were zero reason why we lost. But then this year we just couldn't put it together."

Both Cherington, who replaced Theo Epstein after the September collapse, and manager Bobby Valentine, who was brought in to replace Terry Francona, defended their departing players.

"The bottom line is we haven't won enough games. That goes back to last September," Cherington said. "We just haven't performed on the field. As a team we haven't performed. We've had individuals perform. This is not about the four players we gave up -- anything particularly they did wrong. We just didn't perform as a team."

Players traded in August have to first pass through waivers. Other teams had a chance to claim Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford before the Dodgers, but their high price tags were likely a deterrent.

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was surprising to hear of such a big trade.

"You're not used to seeing that many big names go in one trade. A bunch of All-Stars, guys who have been in World Series and played at a very high level," he said.

The 32-year-old Beckett is 5-11 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts this season. A three-time All-Star, he is 130-92 lifetime with a 3.93 ERA.

Crawford hit .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 31 games this season. He was a four-time All-Star with Tampa Bay before signing with Boston.

The 34-year-old Punto hit .200 with one homer and 10 RBIs as a backup.

Loney hit .254 with four homers and 33 RBIs for the Dodgers this season. At 28, he'd spent his whole career in Los Angeles.

The 25-year-old DeJesus was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. He hit .273 in 23 games for the Dodgers this year.

A 22-year-old right-hander, Webster was 6-8 with a 3.55 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Tony Lee, ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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