It's a truism that you can't really grade or judge a trade right away. Of course not. Everyone gets that. There are prospects who need to blossom or wilt. The veterans involved could age like Andruw Jones, or Chipper Jones. It takes decades to sort this stuff out.
Dodgers fans are enjoying the mission statement sent by their new owners, who aren't just drunk and on Amazon at three in the morning, but who are also paying the extra money for overnight shipping on each and every item. It's just money, baby. After the McCourt era, you can see how that would be alluring to disgruntled fans.
Red Sox fans get to imagine a newly designed team. Just 20 months after trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford in one swell foop, it's clear that whatever the Red Sox were going for, it didn't work. Now they get a reset, a do-over, and they'll have all of the financial power they had to start. It's a chance that few teams ever get.
But this trade, even more than any other one you can think of, is impossible to evaluate right now. That's because while a lot of talent went in both directions, the deal is financially unprecedented. The contracts of the players involved make this an enigma until you know what the teams are going to do in their new financial situations. For example:
The Red Sox
Hundreds of millions came of the books. It was the greatest CTRL-Z in the history of baseball. The Red Sox got out from under the Carl Crawford contract. They don't have to pay Josh Beckett to be frustrating. Even if Adrian Gonzalez was getting the market rate for a superstar first baseman, his first-half slump was still terrifying, and he was still owed over $100 million that can now be put to better use.
It freed up almost $260 million to …
… well, you know. Do whatever.
And that's kind of the point. Who knows what the Red Sox can do now? They can't plow it into the international free-agent market, nor can they be financial bullies in the draft. The new CBA doesn't allow that. The Red Sox have to spend it on payroll, whether it's with free agents or on players who come over in trades. Which is exactly how they got here in the first place. If the Sox turn around and use the money on Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, just to make up a scenario, there's a pretty good chance the team will be thinking the same things about those two in 2014 that they were thinking about Gonzalez, Beckett, and Crawford.
The whole reason the Dodgers got interested in a wacky mega-deal like this was because the premium free agents were dropping off the market. Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto … the Dodgers couldn't just assume there'd be a franchise-altering free agent waiting for them over the next couple Decembers. So they had to go get one in the trade market, even if it came with a Vernon Wells-like finder's fee.
The Red Sox could spread the money around, filling several positions with the Josh Willinghams of the free-agent market. Or they could go nuts on a couple of different players this time. Until they actually show you what their plans are, it's impossible to evaluate this trade. They gave away a fantastic hitter and an immovable contract, hoping they could do even better. It's up to them to prove it.
Drinks are on the house. We just got a new TV, so you can have this one. It's only a year old, but we needed 1080Z, otherwise it's like watching a Sony Watchman. You teeth hurt because those were real emeralds on that cupcake. Open your trunk. We have more emeralds.
That's their mindset right now. If you don't think they're being cocky, check out this quote:
… is there a limit to their spending?
"Somewhere, I suppose," Chairman Mark Walter said Saturday.
And where might that limit be?
"I haven't found it yet," President Stan Kasten said. "I'll let you know when we get there."
He then lit a cigar with a flaming copy of Spider-Man #1, which he dropped on the floor when he was done. When the building burned down, he bought a new one because he liked "that new building smell."
It's an awesome quote, and it's exactly what the Dodgers are going for. I'll let you know when we get there. It's arrogant, cocksure, and exactly what every fan wants his or her ownership group to say. The Dodgers don't care about money right now. Attention Dodgers fans: The Dodgers don't care about money right now. They just want the best team. They'll spend anything.
And then you think … anything? Really? The payroll of a team that doesn't give an absolute damn, at least in recent history, is around $200 million, give or take. And only one team messed around with it -- the Yankees.
The Dodgers are already at $182 million for 21 players, and one of those players is in high-A right now. Another one is Juan Uribe. Six of them are starting pitchers. They'll have to add more players to fill out their 25-man roster.
So is this their big move? Is this their limit, the $200 million mark? If it isn't, well, go nuts. Get Hanley Ramirez. Carl Crawford, too. Trade for Jayson Werth. Sign Greinke. Hire Barry Zito for your kid's party. Do it all. It's only money.
If, however, there is a payroll limit, and it's close to what the Yankees were spending, it was an unbelievable, insane risk for the Dodgers to take on all of those contracts at once. In 2017, they'll be paying $90 million to five players -- a 35-year-old first baseman, a 35-year-old outfielder with knee problems, a 36-year-old outfielder who wasn't good in his early 30s, a young outfielder who may or not be in the majors, and Matt Kemp.
Sure, if they can afford to waive who needs to be waived, trade whoever needs to be traded, and sign who needs to be signed, who cares?
But the first time the Dodgers say, "Golly, we'd love to sign (Jay Bruce, Justin Upton, whomever), but, you see, we're paying our outfield a combined $60 million per year until 2017, so we just can't," the damn-it-all attitude toward payroll isn't so cute.
That day might never come. Or it might come next season. We don't' know. So it's impossible to evaluate this trade from the Dodgers' perspective right now without insider knowledge.
As is, Red Sox fans are happy. Dodgers fans are happy. The Red Sox can focus on their next good team, and the Dodgers have a better 25-man roster right now than they did last week. The short-term effects are obvious. But what the teams are going to do in their new financial situation … that's where you'll find the winners and losers of this deal.
Check back in a few years. That's true for this trade more than any trade before it.