If recent history is any indication, Josh Beckett could be in trouble today when he makes his Dodgers debut in Colorado.
Five times this season, Beckett has pitched on six or more days rest. In those starts, he is 1-2 with a 10.13 earned-run average. He’ll hope to buck that trend on seven days’ rest today. Beckett was scheduled to face the Kansas City Royals on Saturday before he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers.
The veteran right-hander pitched better on extra rest before this season (20-13 with a 3.19 ERA, well below his career ERA of 3.93), and Beckett offered some nuance to the numbers on Sunday morning.
Conventional baseball wisdom holds that pitching takes on greater importance in the playoffs than the regular season, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has lived it.
When he was the New York Yankees’ batting coach from 2004-07, he recalled, “(Robinson) Cano was hitting ninth. It was dangerous. But those clubs didn’t win.”
Mattingly believes the reason was simple.
“We didn’t pitch enough,” he said. “Playoffs are a whole different animal. Short series are always tough, even a seven-game.”
Assuming the Dodgers qualify, who will begin the playoffs in the starting rotation? Mattingly ducked the question for a second straight day Sunday and he can for the moment, with only five healthy starters on the active roster. He won’t be able to if/when Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are all healthy.
This could be the manager’s biggest decision all season, if not in his brief career.
When Adrian Gonzalez hit the second pitch he saw in a Dodger uniform for a three-run home run Saturday, it culminated general manager Ned Colletti’s season-long pursuit of the Boston Red Sox first baseman.
“I talked to [Red Sox general manager] Ben Cherington back in April about Adrian,” Colletti said. “As the talks went on, they were sporadic. We talked about other players. At the [July 31 non-waiver trade] deadline, they weren’t prepared to do anything. The more scouts talk, you get a feel for where the match may be – you get a feel for what players in your system they would like. … You don’t get the crystal clear picture of it, but you get an idea where their interest lies. We just kept turning, kept turning. I stayed in touch with Ben through the month of August. He all of a sudden knew that we were in the market to pick up star players. We were also looking to add as much pitching as we could add.”
Colletti said that Gonzalez was a topic of daily discussion, internally and externally, every day for the last week.
The home run was nice, but the Dodgers will need to get a lot more out of Gonzalez if today’s trade is to pay off. He’s under contract through 2018 for a total of $128 million after this season. Gonzalez turns 36 during the final year of his contract.
Chad Billingsley‘s inflamed right elbow has landed the right-hander on the disabled list for the second time in the past two months.
If he misses the minimum 15 days, Billingsley will miss two starts and face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 11. Billingsley had won six straight decisions before re-aggravating the injury Friday night against the Miami Marlins. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings before coming out of the game.
It’s not how the Dodgers drew it up, but the move helps make room for newcomer Josh Beckett on the active roster. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Beckett, who was scheduled to start today for the Red Sox, will make his Dodger debut Monday in Colorado.
The Dodgers also optioned Alex Castellanos to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, thereby clearing room for new first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and infielder Nick Punto on the active roster. James Loney was the only player on the active roster who was traded to Boston.
“If there’s somebody out there in the next week or so, we’ll take a shot at it, as always,” general manager Ned Colletti told reporters at a press conference announcing today’s trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.
Perhaps the biggest x-factor is injuries.
Colletti said that he was motivated to acquire Punto after Jerry Hairston Jr. was sidelined for the rest of the season due to a hip labrum injury that will require surgery. Chad Billingsley‘s second bout with elbow inflammation underscored the need to acquire another starting pitcher in Beckett. Dee Gordon, Matt Guerrier and Ted Lilly are all currently out on rehab assignments, but there’s no guarantee that any of them will be back healthy before the end of the season.
I asked Dodgers president Stan Kasten if he could recall making a bigger trade in his 21 years as a baseball executive than the one the Dodgers pulled off today.
He could not. “I’m so old,” he joked.
Seriously, is it the biggest trade ever? Nine players were involved. The Dodgers took on about $261.8 million in payroll. Three of the nine players –Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett –are under contract beyond next season while the other major-leaguers involved, James Loney and Nick Punto, can be accurately classified as “rentals.” Fireballing right-hander Rubby De La Rosa (one of the players to be named later) is a future top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher. All of the prospects going to Boston are 25 or younger.
In 2005, the website HardballTimes.com published an article ranking the largest trades of all time. Here were the top four:
Here’s a snippet of what they’re saying over in Boston about today’s 9-player blockbuster trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers:
Journeyman infielder Nick Punto may have been the least critical part of the most expensive August trade in Major League Baseball history.
But on Saturday morning, he delivered the most valuable bit of news via his Twitter account (@shredderpunto) when he posted the following photo along with the message “#dodgers doing it first class!”