John Farrell Trade A Good Idea For The Red Sox

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Updated: October 21, 2012

In essence, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays just executed a manager-for-player trade. The Sox sent major league utility infielder Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays in exchange for the rights to buy John Farrell out of his final year as Jays skipper. Though Aviles is a high price to pay for someone who won’t have a single at-bat or inning-pitched for the Red Sox, the deal is worth it because the Sox needed their guy, not just a guy, at the helm of a disgruntled and dysfunctional roster. GM Ben Cherrington and the Red Sox brass finally got their guy.

Last year was, obviously, an unmitigated disaster in Red Sox Nation. Under the guidance of Bobby Valentine, the Sox faltered, floundered, and finally flopped with a flourish. No one was surprised when Valentine was dismissed the day after game 162. The Sox could not afford to make the same mistake again.

The success of rookie managers Robin Ventura, and to a greater extent Mike Matheny, seems to have ushered in a new era in management philosophy. As the young, respected, former player mold has come en vogue, a whole lot more people have become eligible managerial candidates. The Red Sox could easily have gone that rout, hiring someone like Ryne Sandberg or Sandy Alomar (who was in the running last year), but choosing another outside candidate, especially a young former player, was risky.

John Farrell gracefully bridges the gap. He’s respected, both in Boston and around the league, and at 50 years old, he’s young, but not too young. He is both an inside and outside candidate, having managed the Jays but come up with the Sox. He knows the organization, the ownership, and front office guys. He knows the players, but wasn’t around for the last two years and his return will hearken back to the days of beloved Terry Francona, without the tarnish of the 2011 collapse, or the bitterness of the 2012 disaster. He knows, as Dustin Pedroia will attest, “how we do things here,” but has the pedigree to make changes where changes are due. Finally, Farrell the even-keeled antithesis of Bobby Valentine in the media; baseball’s Bill Belichek. And that might be the most important quality for a Bosotn manager.

Now, Farrell isn’t the most accomplished manger in the world, he is 154-170 in two seasons with Toronto, but he does bring everything the Red Sox want. Given the volatility of the situation, if he is someone they think can right the ship, they made the right call instead of another wild card for Pedroia and the Red Sox old guard to feud with.

The Sox wanted Farrell last year–and actively pursued him–but the two years remaining on his contract proved too hefty an obstacle. This time around, they decided to pay for the removal of that impediment.

The price was pretty steep. Usually, in the rare cases when players are exchanged for executives or off-field personnel, it’s minor leaguers that move. This time, it’s big leaguer Mike Aviles switching teams. Aviles hit .250 with 13 bombs as the Sox shortstop last year, and is a serviceable major league player to be sure. However, dealing him was the right call because Aviles isn’t the starting shortstop a contender needs, and a utility guy won’t change the course of the year for a borderline team. A manager certainly might.

To truly evaluate this deal, we must consider both sides. We’ve established that this deal, while pricey and rather brash, was well worth the risks for the Red Sox. As much sense as it made for Boston, it may well have been even better for Toronto. John Farrell was not going to be a resident alien of Canada beyond 2013. That train had run its course. No other team would have paid for Farrell the way the Red Sox did, and the Blue Jays knew that. They took advantage of a situation in which they had leverage and turned a manager who was at best a OK fit, into a decent major league player who could conceivably fit into their lineup.

Unless Mike Aviles wins the AL MVP or John Farrell has a nervous breakdown/massive coronary, this will go down as a win-win transaction. As we’ve said, Boston finally got ‘their guy’ and Toronto made something out of nothing.

-Max Frankel

Stat of the Day: The last time a major leaguer was traded for a manager saw Randy Winn head from Tampa Bay to Seattle for Lou Pinella

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