BOSTON — Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers’ James Loney were scratched from their team’s starting lineups Friday night as the clubs tried to finalize a major trade involving the first basemen.
The Red Sox, trying to cut payroll during a disappointing season, also were discussing sending pitcher Josh Beckett, left fielder Carl Crawford and infielder Nick Punto to Los Angeles, a baseball official informed of the discussions said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcements were made.
Gonzalez was removed from the Red Sox lineup minutes before a game against the Kansas City Royals, and Loney was pulled from the Dodgers lineup against the Miami Marlins.
The Dodgers began the day in second place in the NL West, three games behind the San Francisco Giants.
The Red Sox started their game seven games under .500 and with little or no postseason hopes. If the trade is completed, the Red Sox would be relieved of a huge salary burden, assuming the Dodgers pick up most of what is owed. Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett are due $261 million from 2013-18.
Gonzalez’s deal calls for $127 million after this season: $21 million annually from 2013-16 and $21.5 million in each of the final two years. Crawford is due $102.5 million over five years: $20 million next year, $20.25 million in 2014, $20.5 million in 2015, $20.75 million in 2016 and $21 million in 2017. Beckett is owed $31.5 million: $15.75 million in each of the next two seasons. And the right-hander can veto any trade since he is a 10-year veteran who has spent five years with his current club.
The Red Sox have plummeted after being one of baseball’s best teams for most of last season. They went 6-18 after their collapse began on Sept. 4 last year and they were 65-84 before Friday’s game since the skid began.
Manager Terry Francona was let go after last season and Bobby Valentine was brought in, supposedly to exert more discipline in a clubhouse in which pitchers reportedly ate chicken and drank beer during games rather than stay in the dugout to cheer their teammates.
But Valentine, in the first season of a two-year contract, has had a rocky relationship with some of his players. One of them, veteran third baseman-first baseman Kevin Youkilis, was traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 24. Team president Larry Lucchino has said Valentine will finish this season and owner John Henry has voiced support for the manager.
Rookie Will Middlebrooks took over at third and was having a strong season before it ended when he suffered a broken left wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 10. He will not need surgery.
The Red Sox also are high on rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 1. Now they’re likely to get some top prospects, if a trade with the Dodgers is finalized, and have extra money to sign free agents.
The Red Sox had placed Gonzalez on waivers, ESPN reported. Teams often do that to gauge other clubs’ interest in players then try to work out a trade.
“Waiver questions? I’m not talking about that,” Gonzalez said before Friday night’s game.
Boston began the season with a payroll of $173.2 million, behind only the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Red Sox paid luxury tax in each of the past two seasons. Baseball’s new labor contract contains incentives for teams that get their luxury tax payroll — based on 40-man rosters, average annual values and including benefits — under $189 million by 2014.
Henry, Lucchino and co-owner Tom Werner and general manager Ben Cherington did not respond to emails seeking comment.
The Dodgers began the day 1 1-2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild-card berth in the NL.
“It’s crazy,” said Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro, who spent 2010-11 with the Red Sox. “They want to win — this year, next year, whenever.”
“It’s like I always say, you can’t worry about things you can’t control. The only thing we can control is what we do here, and that’s to go out and try to win every game,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have the talent here. It doesn’t matter what the other clubs do. We shouldn’t be thinking about what’s happening south of us.”
Gonzalez, a three-time Gold Glove award winner, could provide a big boost for the Dodgers.
After a slow start, he is hitting .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBIs for the season and leads the majors with a .398 batting average with runners in scoring position. He was better last year, his first with Boston, when he batted .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBIs.
Crawford has been a disappointment in his two seasons with the Red Sox. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery Thursday to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and could be ready by spring training.
He hit .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs after batting .255 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs last year. He missed the first 89 games this season while recovering from left wrist surgery, then hurt his elbow in April while rehabbing. He came off the disabled list July 16.
Beckett is in the midst of the worst of his 12 major league seasons with a 5-11 record and a 5.23 ERA, He is 1-7 in his past 13 starts in his seventh season with Boston.
Punto, a backup player, is hitting .200 in 125 at bats.
Loney is having a mediocre year and can become a free agent after the season. He is hitting .254 with four homers and 33 RBIs in 114 games in his seventh major league season, all with the Dodgers.