With the season looming in the coming days, I’d like to start my own recurring weekly series. Of course I will still write a lot of other opinionated pieces, but this is just something I’d like to try out and see what you think of it.
The series is called “What if?”.
It’s a series based around things that did or did not happen and what history would be like if the opposite occurred. These “What if?”s can’t be fantasies. They must be based on events that actually happened, or were in the process of actually happening.
So I don’t want to hear people on Twitter saying “Oh, Oh! Do ‘What if Giancarlo Stanton went to the Toronto Blue Jays'”. As cool as it would be to think about that happening, it’s still not what I want this series to be about.
Trade Rumors, certain plays, and actual trades are all on the table.
So let’s get to the first “What if?”, shall we?
Back at the end of the 2010 season, the Boston Red Sox were poised to make a big move. They were coming off of only their second year of not making the postseason in seven years. Expectations for then-GM Theo Epstein and the Red Sox were high.
On December 7th, 2010, the Red Sox started the MLB’s offseason off with a bang, by completing a blockbuster trade with the San Diego Padres that sent All Star first basemen Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox in exchange for top prospects Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes, and Anthony Rizzo.
In the next year, for the Red Sox, Gonzalez batted a whopping .338 with 27 round-trippers and 117 RBIs. That year the Sox were on a tear before having the biggest collapse in MLB history by going 7-20 in the final month and going from first in the AL East, to out of the playoffs. In 2012, Gonzalez batted .300 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in an even bigger trade.
For the Padres, Rizzo was thrown into action in 2011 and batted .141 in 49 games. Kelly had an ERA of 6.21 in 2012 and then in his next and final season with the Padres just last year, he pitched to a 7.94 ERA. As for Fuentes, in one season for the team (2013), he batted .152. Rizzo was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the offseason going into 2012. Kelly is now in the Atlanta Braves organization and Fuentes sports the royal blue in the Kansas City Royals system.
For the Red Sox, the question is “What if they hadn’t traded for Gonzalez?”.
Well, they’d still have Rizzo.
Yes, Gonzalez provided a lot of offense for the April to August juggernaut that was the 2011 Red Sox. But he only lasted one and a half years, and hated the East Coast. That’s why he went right back out to Los Angeles.
Keeping Rizzo would have been much more beneficial for the Sox.
Epstein really liked Rizzo. He liked him so much, that when he went to the Cubs, he traded for Rizzo.
Rizzo would have taken time in the minors to develop, which is something that then-GM of the Padres Jed Hoyer wished he’d let happen.
Rizzo then would have most likely burst onto the scene at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013 and started the career he’s having now. (Remind you of Travis Shaw?).
In 2011, if the Red Sox hadn’t gotten Gonzalez, they would have had Kevin Youkilis at first base instead of third and put Jed Lowrie or Mike Aviles at third. They may not have won as much that year, but with Rizzo in the background waiting, they would have had their centerpiece for the future and created a consistent winning team around Rizzo.
They could have been average for 2011 and 2012, and then really become competitive in 2013 and increased their wins more and more each year: kind of like what the Cubs are doing now.
Maybe they still win the World Series in 2013. But they most certainly would have been hardcore contenders by now with Rizzo at first base since 2012 or 2013.
For the Padres, the question is “What if they hadn’t traded away Gonzalez for Rizzo?”
The poor Padres. They got the worst of it.
After losing Gonzalez, they got back three guys who all underachieved and eventually went elsewhere.
Had Gonzalez never been traded to the Red Sox, they would have continued their winning ways.
In 2010, they were 90-72 and just missed the playoffs despite being second in the NL West. In 2007, they played the Colorado Rockies in one of the craziest Wild Card games ever, and just missed the win to propel them into the Postseason. That year, they went 89-74.
They had made the playoffs both years prior to 2007.
With Gonzalez, they probably would have made the playoffs in 2011, and continued to build around him: whether that be through free agency or other trades.
They easily would have made the playoffs in 2011 behind their offense since all the guys on the rise listed above batted at least above .250.
But instead, the Padres fell into the “MLB land of mediocrity” and have lost 85 games or more in every season since.
Last offseason, Aj Preller tried acquiring and trading for every big name he could find and it still fell short, as they only got 74 wins.
It’s incredible how good the Padres could have ended up becoming had they not traded away Gonzalez.
For the Cubs, the question is “What if the Red Sox hadn’t traded away Anthony Rizzo?”.
The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. For those counting, that’s 107 years since the beloved Cubbies even touched the World Series Trophy.
For Rizzo, I’ll sum him up like this: he may very well be the centerpiece of the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908.
He is most likely going to lead his team to break the “Curse of the billygoat”, which is arguably the worst curse in all of professional sports, and win a World Series.
Harry Caray couldn’t even pull that one off.
But what if the Red Sox never traded Rizzo away in the first place?
Well, the Cubs probably would have had to have found someone else to center the rebuild around. Initially, they were aiming to center it around Starlin Castro. But, he’s currently with the New York Yankees and was replaced at shortstop last season by Addison Russell.
Had Rizzo still been with the Red Sox, Bryan LaHair would have been the first basemen and they would have had to draft someone else for first base if LaHair began to struggle (he eventually did).
The Cubs still would have made the plethora of great roster moves that they have made with Rizzo, without him.
But they most definitely would not be in the great position they are right now without their All Star first basemen, who also happened to lead the team in every major offensive category just last year and come in fourth for NL MVP voting.
As you digest everything you’ve just read about what probably would have happened had Rizzo never been traded, you have to realize something: this trade changed each franchise involved drastically.
With Rizzo still on the Red Sox, they would have an MVP-type first basemen and a consistent winner.
Same goes for the Padres.
For the Cubs, they’d be pretty good. But they wouldn’t be enjoying the tremendous success they’re having right now actually having Rizzo.
The current winner, with things the way they are in reality, is easily the Cubs. The current loser would be the Padres. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013 in great part because of the blockbuster trade they made with the Dodgers in the prior year which involved Gonzalez, so I’m not going to write them off as winners or losers.
If Rizzo was never traded from the Red Sox, both they and the Padres would be contenders every year and be the clear cut winners, while the Cubs would look pretty good and be on the verge of contending, but nowhere near where they are now.
Tell me what you guys think of this series by replying to the Tweet that Baseball Essential puts out with this article: do you like it or do you hate it? Tell me on that tweet or on my twitter (linked below).
If you like it, also put in your reply to me some suggestions for other “What if”s that I could do. The more times its suggested, the more likely I write a piece on it.
But the real question is: what do you think would have happened had Rizzo never been traded?
Continue the Conversation on Twitter with Evan Marinofsky.