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Dodgers' interest in Adrian Gonzalez shows off their financial clout

Adrian Gonzalez has been put on waivers by the Boston Red Sox, and there are a lot of reasons to believe the Dodgers will put a claim on him. They are unlikely to get him, but it proves Dodgers ownership is willing to spend big.

August 23, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Adrian Gonzalez leads the league with 41 runs batted in since the All-Star break.
Adrian Gonzalez leads the league with 41 runs batted in since the All-Star… (Jared Wickerham / Getty…)

The Dodgers could land four-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez in the coming days.

Likely? No. But possible? Sure.

If this reads like pure fiction, remember this: The Dodgers' new owners have already redefined what is financially reasonable in post-George Steinbrenner baseball.

Every indication is that the Dodgers have the resources — and perhaps more important, the mind-set — to complete the kind of revolutionary multiple-player trade necessary to acquire a player of Gonzalez's caliber in August.

"We can take on significant money," Chairman Mark Walter said Wednesday.

Walter was speaking generally and not specifically about Gonzalez, but his comments happened to be made on the day Gonzalez was put on trade waivers by the Boston Red Sox. The move opened a 48-hour window for teams to claim him.

Earlier this month, the Dodgers put a claim on pitcher Cliff Lee, even though he is in decline and has as much as $110 million remaining on his contract. Though Lee remained with the Philadelphia Phillies, there is no reason the Dodgers wouldn't also put a claim on the 30-year-old Gonzalez.

The Dodgers already inquired about Gonzalez leading up to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. The reasons for their interest is obvious.

Gonzalez is a model citizen. He is a bilingual San Diego native whose Mexican heritage would probably energize the Dodgers' heavily Latino fan base.

He would also be a spectacular addition to a lineup that includes Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier. Gonzalez's numbers might be down from last season, but he remains a .300 hitter and the Red Sox's top run producer. He is a three-time Gold Glove first baseman. Outside of Josh Hamilton, there won't be an offensive player of Gonzalez's caliber on the free-agent market this winter.

Of course, these are all reasons the Red Sox wouldn't trade him or allow him to leave on a waiver claim. It's also why the Dodgers might not get a chance to negotiate for him.

For the Dodgers to be awarded a claim on Gonzalez, every team in the American League and every team with a record worse than theirs in the National League would have to pass on him.

Even in the unlikely event that happens, the Dodgers would have to get creative to get him.

It's no secret the Red Sox are a shambles. This winter, they will face the task of rebuilding their club while remaining under the luxury-tax threshold.

The Red Sox owe Gonzalez $127 million over the next six years, but ridding themselves of his contract won't solve all of their problems. Whatever they save by parting ways with Gonzalez would probably be spent on his replacement — if they can find one.

But the Red Sox are shackled by other bloated contracts, and this is where the Dodgers can help.

Outfielder Carl Crawford has cleared waivers. Pitcher Josh Beckett was put on waivers Thursday and also is expected to go unclaimed.

Were the Dodgers willing to unburden the Red Sox of either or both of those contracts, maybe Boston could be persuaded to also send Gonzalez their way.

Crawford hasn't lived up to the seven-year, $142-million contract he signed before the 2011 season. Hindered by injuries, he has played in only 161 games in two seasons with the Red Sox, batting .260 with 14 home runs and 75 runs batted in.

Crawford underwent reconstructive elbow surgery Thursday. Position players typically require seven to 10 months to recover from such procedures, meaning Crawford would be back on a major league field sometime next spring.

Crawford could be of use to the Dodgers, who will be looking for a leadoff hitter and left fielder to replace Shane Victorino, who will become a free agent at the end of this season.

Beckett has less value as a player. He has a 5.23 earned-run average this year and scouts say his fastball has lost movement. Also, his attitude has made him a controversial figure in Boston. He has two years remaining on his contract after this year, each for $15.75 million.

Taking on these kinds of contracts might sound improbable, but so did absorbing the remaining $37 million on Ramirez's deal with the Miami Marlins.

Whether a trade with the Red Sox actually comes to pass, the fact that it is even a remote possibly is yet another signal that the Dodgers have entered a new era.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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