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August 24. 2013 11:03PM

Dave D'Onofrio's Sox Beat: Jury is out on Red Sox-Dodgers 2012 blockbuster trade

Maybe it's because the schedule makers decided to create some drama by staging a three-game series between the Red Sox and Dodgers on a weekend marking the first anniversary of last season's blockbuster trade. Maybe it's because both teams arrived at Chavez Ravine on Friday as first-place clubs, and unquestionably better off than they were when the trigger was pulled a year ago today. Maybe it's a combination of both.

Whatever the reason, this week became a convenient time for many in the media and all around the baseball world to evaluate the megadeal, declaring its winners and losers and consequences - but mostly ignoring the fact that it's way too early to really make an assessment.

Part of what made the trade so mind-blowing and magnificent was the way it projected to significantly impact each organization for years to come. So, then, it's a bit silly to try and make a judgment on how it turned out when just a fraction of that future has yet unfolded. Particularly when none of the players directly involved in the trade have been especially impactful as far the short-term improvements that are reflected in the standings.

For instance, Adrian Gonzalez is having a good year - reaching Saturday with a .297 average, 16 home runs and 78 runs batted in - but with an .801 on-base plus slugging he's not nearly the productive hitter he was with the Padres, or even in his first season with the Red Sox.

He is still helping the Dodgers get where they want to go, and he's entrenched as the No. 3 hitter in their lineup, though he's nowhere near the boomer the Sox thought they were signing to a seven-year, $154 million contract in April of 2011. And so, at 31 now, there have to be questions about what it's going to look like when they're paying him $21.5 million through age 36.

Carl Crawford's two hits and two steals Friday offered a reminder of the dynamic offensive threat that so tormented the Sox that Boston decided to pay him $20 million per year. But that's the exception these days. He doesn't steal a lot of bases (13 through Friday), he doesn't hit a lot of home runs (5), he doesn't draw a lot of walks (23), and he's spent significant time on the disabled list in each of the past three years.

At age 32, he's a pretty average player. And the Dodgers owe him $82 million for the four seasons after this.

Meanwhile, Josh Beckett is out for the year after experiencing tingling and numbness in his pitching hand and going 2-8 with a 4.07 earned run average in 15 starts since the trade. Next year they'll pay him nearly $16 million, and it's not yet clear when (or if) he'll return. At least Nick Punto's $1.5 million will be off the books.

The five players the Red Sox received in return came with much less contractual commitment and far less risk. Three of them were out of the organization by the end of 2012 - James Loney left for the Rays via free agency, while Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus were traded to Pittsburgh as part of the package for Joel Hanrahan - and while the two others are now considered part of their next wave of pitching, neither Rubby De La Rosa or Allen Webster has shown enough command this season to think he's close to meeting his potential at the major-league level. Neither is a sure thing at this point.

Nor is the notion that the Red Sox will wisely take advantage of the financial flexibility they created for themselves last August. If a winner must be declared, the edge would go to Boston because freeing their books of the Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett contracts enabled them to sign Shane Victorino, David Ross, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli last winter, and subsequently reshape the culture of their clubhouse.

But none of those agreements extend beyond 2015, so the Sox will have money to spend both this offseason and next - and if they don't do so wisely, or if they don't use it at all, then the biggest benefit they gained through the trade with the Dodgers will effectively be nullified.

So, Sox fans, happy anniversary. It's certainly a day worth celebrating, given the way Aug. 25, 2012, helped your team reset itself, and the possibilities it created for the future.

Just let that future play out a little bit before declaring anyone the winner.

Red Sox-Dodgers trade chart

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When he and the rest of the Red Sox were shut down by Ricky Nolasco on Friday night, it marked the first time since he returned from Pawtucket that Will Middlebrooks failed to reach base. Still, through Friday, he was hitting .405 with a .500 on-base percentage, and it appeared the biggest difference is his improvement when hitting from behind in the count.

Entering the Dodgers series, Middlebrooks was batting .429 when trailing in an at-bat since his return, and his OPS was a robust 1.329. His six hits in those scenarios are just one fewer than the seven he had before being demoted, despite having only 14 at-bats since, compared to 68 before.

Middlebrooks says his approach hasn't changed - but the numbers say otherwise.

"I don't mind hitting with two strikes. They've still got to throw the ball over the plate," he said after hitting a homer and a double from behind in the count against the Yankees last Sunday. "Early in the count with my approach I'm looking for a certain pitch to drive in the gap or hit out; I'm not going to go try and hit singles. That's not my job.

"They paint a couple balls early in the count, good for them. They can have it. But they've still got to come at me to strike me out."
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It was 17 years ago this week that Nomar Garciaparra made his major-league debut - so what does he think of his heir as the Red Sox hot-shot shortstop prospect, Xander Bogaerts?

"He's very talented, there's no question about that," Garciaparra said this week. "Obviously to make it up there you have to have all the tools - they don't put you up there if you don't. Now it's just a matter of time. Just go out there and play; just do everything you've been doing to get to that point. I got to watch him a little bit at the Futures Game in New York this year, and he looked like a great talent out there. I wish him nothing but the best."

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Stat of the week: The Red Sox haven't won consecutive games in 17 days (and counting). Aside from the All-Star break, the longest was 12 days - May 3-14, during which they went 2-9.

Dave D'Onofrio covers the Red Sox for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is ddonof13@gmail.com.


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