This has gone on too long. For about two years now, the Boston Red Sox have been “close” to trading for San Diego Padres’ slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Every winter, every trade deadline, every moment of desperation. The chess match is over. Christmas has come early for the Red Sox faithful. It only took two years and probably about a thousand phone calls, but according to ESPN’s Buster Olney Theo Epstein finally got his man — and all before the Winter Meetings.
Having lost Victor Martinez in free agency over what was reported to be about $4 million, the Red Sox brass had to do something to silence the groans and grumbles down on Yawkey Way. What better way to have done it than to trade for the best all-around player available on the trade market?
According to the report, Boston will send pitcher Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo — two top prospects in their farm system — along with minor league outfielder Raymond Fuentes to the Padres. If Olney’s sources are correct, that means Epstein was able to work out a deal while keeping flame thrower Daniel Bard and holding on to Jose Iglesias, another top prospect in Boston’s system that is believed to be a potential solution to their revolving door at shortstop.
Let’s start with the not-so-flashy. Gonzalez has been one of the best first basemen in the National League, winning two Gold Gloves in his five full seasons in the majors. His contract with San Diego is beyond club-friendly (he’ll make only $6.3 million in 2011) and the California native never uttered a complaint, knowing the entire time the Padres would not have the resources to retain him. Gonzalez is said to be an excellent teammate and an outstanding locker room presence. He’s a guy that has the ability to put up similar or better numbers than Manny Ramirez at Fenway without the headaches and days off for a “sore knee.”
On to the sexy stuff. Trading for Gonzalez heals the wound left when Boston missed out on Mark Teixeira two winters ago. For starters, Gonzalez is a full two years younger. Statistically, the first basemen have been almost identical. Take a look at their averages since 2006.:
HR — 34/32
RBI — 113/100
AVG — .288/.288
OBP — .385/.374
Now, for the stuff Red Sox fans should be even more excited about. Gonzalez has one of the sweetest left-handed swings in the game. For years, scouts have raved about how his swing was made for Fenway Park. Of his 31 homers last year, 21 went to the opposite field. If all goes to plan, Gonzalez should make the Green Monster look like it’s 200 feet from home plate. As for right field, Boston’s architects have that one covered. In order to “improve bullpen safety,” the Sox are widening their bullpens in right-center field. That will bring the right field fence a little closer to home and make it a bit easier for left-handers to belt the ball out to right. But that isn’t why they’re doing it, of course.
Don’t expect the Red Sox to stop there, either. Boston has already let Martinez walk and the Gonzalez trade likely indicates they will move Kevin Youkilis over to third and let Adrian Beltre leave via free agency as well. Their new first baseman should rake, but he can’t replace the production of both of those players combined in the Sox lineup. Enter Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. I’m sure Hank Steinbrenner is already breaking out the check book.Google+