Sometime last week, the Florida Marlins let it be known that they’d like to get rid of Mike Lowell’s contract, and they’d be willing to part with Josh Beckett to do so. It sounded like a creative plan. There isn’t a large market team out there that wouldn’t trade for Josh Beckett, so surely one of them would be willing to take on the expensive underachieving third baseman for two more years. In fact, this trade proposal had the stench of New York Yankees all over it, I expected Steinbrenner’s crew to jump on it, like George Costanza on an unemployment check. But a different team stepped in and appears to have agreed to a trade, the Boston Red Sox, a.k.a. the new New York Yankees.
Now unfortunately for you BoSox fans out there, I don’t mean that in the sense of owning half of the last decade’s World Series rings. I mean that in the sense of a franchise on the decline because they’ve traded their entire farm system. Boston had to give up Hanley Ramirez in order to complete this trade, the pride and joy of what was left in the Red Sox minor leagues. They threw in a couple more prospects as well. Red Sox fans are taking solace in the fact that they didn’t have to give up their top pitching prospect John Lester as well. This just proves to me how decimated the Sox farm system really is; out of all those levels of minor league ball, there were only two names worth mentioning. And now they’re down to one.
It ought to be clear to just about everyone that the Yankees are paying for similar mistakes. They’ve poured enough money into veterans that they’ll always have a winning squad; but whereas five to ten years ago they were able to add the missing piece at the trade deadline, sealing the coffins of the rest of the American League, the last couple years have seen teams not even interested in discussing trades with them, on the premise that the Yankees have no prospects left to give. How has this practice played out? In 2003 – a World Series loss. 2004 featured the unforgettable ALCS collapse, while 2005 spelled defeat in the first round.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Red Sox will be a better team next season with Josh Beckett, (and Mike Lowell, for that matter). But it won’t be long before an empty farm system catches up to them. Much has been said about team chemistry and leadership in the Frappe, lately. When all of your new faces are coming from outside organizations, you’ll be running short in both of those categories. You’d better hope moves like this one pay off now, Boston, because the lonely path to playoff mediocrity has already been cleared.