12-5-2010: Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez

It happened a bit faster than what I projected, but the Red Sox are reportedly close to completing a deal that would send Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a PTBNL to the San Diego Padres for one Adrian Gonzalez. According to many sources, he has passed his physical and it is a done deal. The Red Sox have until 2 PM today to negotiate a contract extension with Gonzalez, who has just one year left on his contract.

If they don’t extend him right now, the deal can still be completed and he can be extended later on, and that might actually be beneficial, points out Alex Speier. So don’t be shocked if no extension gets announced along with the trade.

What we are getting

Gonzalez is a bona fide superstar, having topped 30 HR each of the past four seasons and 100 RBI in three of those (he had 99 RBI back in 2009). Consider that the Padres offense as a whole has been abysmal, not even reaching 700 runs scored since 2007, so he regularly gets the Barry Bonds treatment (35 intentional walks last year alone). Add to that the fact that PETCO Park is one of the worst hitters parks for left-handed batters in all of baseball, and his track record there is just incredible.

Adjust for the transition to the AL, then playing half his games in Fenway against the AL East, and we get a conservative line of .279/.364/.509 for 2011. That’s more than 4 wins based on offense alone. Once you add everything else, we’re talking about a 5-6 win player.

Not only does Gonzalez hit for power, but he plays a pretty mean first base as well. He’s athletic and known to be a good glove man, and doesn’t make many errors. UZR has him at +6.2 runs for his career, while Bill Dewan’s fielding system has him at +11 plays.

Perhaps the best part of all this is that Gonzalez is only 29 years old for the coming season. That means many more years of good production at first base, my friends. Here’s my projection of his career true talent, based on my empirically-derived aging curves:

2011 29 611 170 39 0 34 94 106 77 128 0.279 0.364 0.509 0.873 0.386
2012 30 618 171 38 0 35 95 108 76 128 0.277 0.361 0.506 0.867 0.383
2013 31 618 170 37 0 34 94 107 74 126 0.274 0.356 0.499 0.855 0.379
2014 32 612 166 35 0 33 91 104 70 124 0.271 0.350 0.490 0.840 0.372
2015 33 598 160 33 0 31 87 99 64 119 0.267 0.342 0.478 0.820 0.364
2016 34 576 151 30 0 29 81 93 57 113 0.262 0.333 0.464 0.797 0.354
2017 35 547 141 27 0 26 75 85 50 106 0.257 0.323 0.447 0.770 0.343
2018 36 511 128 24 0 22 67 75 42 98 0.251 0.312 0.428 0.740 0.330

Baseball Analysts also sums up the evidence that Gonzalez might actually be more of a monster than he already is once he gets to Fenway. Pretty convincing, but I don’t like using home/away splits to predict anything, even multiple year ones (remember Matt Holliday and Coors Field?). I do think he will benefit from Fenway, but he will also be facing elite lefties like Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia on a regular basis, unlike the NL West, where quality southpaws are rarer (there is some evidence, however, that Gonzalez may be improving against lefties). You could also make an argument that since pitchers won’t be able to walk him as much, he’ll get more pitches to hit here. It’ll be fun to see.

What we are giving up

That is a lot of talent to give up, no argument there. Marc Hulet at FanGraphs says that those acquisitions instantly become three of San Diego’s top four prospects. But it’s hard to call any one of these players a lock for stardom. I think Kelly and Rizzo will at least be valuable regulars some day soon, but Fuentes is strictly an upside guy. If there’s one really strong aspect of this deal, it’s that none of these three players is relevant to our current Major League depth chart. That means on our side, we don’t feel their loss this season, and perhaps not ever. We lose our top pitching prospect, yes, but that’s why we drafted Anthony Ranaudo. We lose a very good first base prospect, but that’s why Lars Anderson is still here. And the Sox system has a lot of good, athletic outfielders (though none quite as electrifying speed-wise as Fuentes).

In the end, this deal makes a lot of sense – look at the current free agent market, and the lack of talent at the corner infield spots. Do we really want to sign 32-year old Adrian Beltre long-term? With Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko off the market, what is left at first base? Small budget teams need to draft well and rely on those guys to become something in the bigs, but big-budget teams like us can promote them or use them to acquire talent.

The offseason ahead

As I’ve been saying, I think it looks like the Red Sox will sign one of Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth (Werth seems more likely, given Crawford is also left-handed). With our first-rounder already going to Philadelphia, we are free to sign Scott Downs and only pay a second-rounder. We then add one more reliever and we are done. Matt at BBTF agrees that this seems logical.

In retrospect, the timing of this deal makes sense. The Sox wanted to see the results of Gonzalez’ shoulder surgery, and get a clean bill of health on him before committing to the trade. But it seems clear that this was their plan all along. For players and fans alike, this is move just what the doctor ordered. The Red Sox return to relevance once again, and there is excitement about 2011 and beyond. Bring on those Yankees.

Finally, thank God that Kevin Youkilis can play third base!


3 Responses to 12-5-2010: Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez

  1. Pat says:

    Your projections for Gonzalez are conservative, I think. I’d like to think after his year of adjusting to new league, he’ll ring off a couple years of .290/.390/.550 with maybe a career year of 3/4/6. Purely speculation.

    Now go get Crawford!

    • redsoxtalk says:

      Hey Pat, for the Red Sox’ sake, I hope you’re right and not me. But this is what the numbers say. I would caution Red Sox Nation against superhuman expectations, because overly high expectations are a good way to be disappointed. Take a close look at his career stats, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  2. Pingback: 12-10-2010: Revised projection for Adrian Gonzalez « Red Sox Talk

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