It will go down in history as the Nick Punto trade. Two teams, each at organizational crossroads, each trying to make a statement.
"We are not happy with how the previous regime allocated money, and we want to have the freedom to build from our own blueprint," the Red Sox announced.
"We will shoot diamonds and emeralds out of our nipples until we have bought the very best team we can buy," the Dodgers acknowledged.
And that's how the Dodgers ended up with a quarter-billion worth of salaries to get one star, two huge question marks, and Nick Punto. That's how the Red Sox ended up with enough flexibility to have a wildly active offseason. And that's how both teams are possibly in line to play in a World Series that would make FOX executives roll around like beagles on ecstasy.
But it was a wildly complicated trade. There were waiver claims, prospect packages, and no-trade clauses that could have fouled everything up. It's something of a miracle that it happened at all.
So here's the alternate history. Five things that would have been different if the trade didn't go through.
1. Adrian Gonzalez was still traded to the Dodgers
Alex Speier has a good (and thorough) recap of the trade over at WEEI.com. It's good. And thorough. It notes the Dodgers were sweet on Gonzalez since the new owners took over, and for good reason: There weren't a lot of other options out there. It was Mike Napoli or bust, and that wasn't sexy enough for the Dodgers. Plus, there's the whole part where Napoli was less likely to produce as much as Gonzalez, even after a down year.
But Gonzalez moving to the Dodgers last year tells us something about this hypothetical scenario: No one was willing to risk claiming Gonzalez. If a team claimed him, the Red Sox could have said "No backsies" and dumped the contract for no return. Teams weren't willing to take that risk of a full-priced Gonzalez. The Red Sox were concerned the Dodgers didn't have the prospects for a straight-up Gonzalez trade, according to Speier, but I'm thinking they would have revisited that in the offseason. Other teams had the prospects, but they weren't going to give them up. The Dodgers were always going to have the best offer.
2. Carl Crawford is still on the Red Sox
Lazy math: Crawford has been worth two wins according to FanGraphs. The collective left fielders of the 2013 Red Sox have been worth two wins. So they would be in the same spot.
Except, some people wonder about Crawford's ability to deal with adversity. Sure, it takes some armchair psychology to assume Crawford would be worse in Boston, but it's not an outlandish suggestion.
3. Josh Hamilton would be on the Dodgers' bench
The big one. Without Carl Crawford on the Dodgers, there is just about zero chance the Dodgers lose a bidding war to the Angels for Hamilton. They wanted splashy splashy. This was the big name on the market. A Hamilton/Gonzalez combination in the offseason -- with a little Greinke and Ryu thrown in -- would have made too much sense.
But it's not like it's the general malaise of Orange County that's making Hamilton awful. It's his plate discipline and slowing reflexes. And as the Dodgers struggled to find a good offensive balance, they would have unleashed the Puig in a similar way. He would have done his thing, and Hamilton would have seen more and more of the bench in the first year of his deal.
4. Ryan Dempster is on the Royals
If the Red Sox still have Josh Beckett, does that mean Wil Myers is still on the Royals? Well, back up a bit. The Royals, Brewers, and Red Sox were all supposed to be hot for Ryan Dempster in the first week of December. The Royals made the Shields/Myers trade on the 10th, and the Red Sox finalized the Dempster deal on the 12th. So it's not automatic that a Dempster/Royals deal precluded the Shields/Royals trade.
But since I'm making this all up anyway, sure. The Royals would still have Wil Myers. And they wouldn't be in too different of a spot, except they'd have Myers for the next five years instead of Shields for one.
And because the Rays don't have Myers, the Red Sox have an extra game in the standings right now. Considering that Dempster is a zero-win pitcher, too, the Sox might even have an extra two games, depending on who the in-house replacement would have been when Beckett got hurt.
5. The Angels sign Mike Trout to a 10-year extension
Missing out on Josh Hamilton frees up all sorts of money for the Angels. They would have made a run at Zack Greinke, too, but the Dodgers would have shot more diamonds and emeralds out. The agent for Trout would have said, "Say. If you're really looking for something to do with that extra $125 or $150 million …"
Instead, Trout will be a Ray in 2019. Because the Rays are going to have a new stadium and go full Marlins with the payroll.
Alright, now I'm just trolling. But the Angels would have had extra money without Hamilton. They probably would have spent it in a more productive way. Like giving it to charity. That would have been more productive. Write-offs!
You could play this game all night. If the Red Sox don't make this trade, you -- yes, you -- are walking by a corner store on the day the deal happens instead of on the Internet, reading about the trade. You either win the lottery with a ticket from that corner store, or you're hit by a Volvo. Maybe both. So, yes, if the Big Baseball Event doesn't happen, lots of things are different. Both in baseball and in your personal life.
It's still interesting to think about, though. The standings might not be too different, but the baseball landscape would have been completely jumbled. All it took was the Angels claiming Gonzalez, or Beckett refusing to waive his no-trade clause, or the Dodgers being too spooked about the Crawford contract. It all happened, though. And that's leading to a possible World Series preview this weekend that was as unlikely as any series this season.