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Closing Time: Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 1

04.16.11 at 4:23 pm ET
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Josh Beckett‘s second consecutive strong outing gave the Red Sox a much-needed victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Beckett pitched seven strong innings, fanning nine batters and allowing just three hits. The win was a confidence booster after falling to a 2-10 start. The final game between the division rivals will decide who wins the series. An absent Carl Crawford turned out to be for the best in the Sox first win since the Yankees series.

Here are a few things that went right and wrong in Saturday’s game:

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jed Lowrie filling in for Carl Crawford at the top of the batting lineup proved to be a genius move by the coaching staff. Lowrie singled to start the game, hit a two-run home run (his first of the season) in the second inning, and continued to make solid contact all day long, even when he was making outs. He continues to have the hottest bat on the team, and in terms of productivity was an upgrade from Crawford’€™s slumping numbers.

Josh Beckett had his second straight dominant outing, throwing seven complete innings and only giving up one earned run on three hits. Beckett commanded his pitches with ease and kept his fastball up in the mid-90s for the duration. In his last start, Beckett threw eight innings, allowing just two hits and no runs against the Yankees. We saw that same Beckett on the mound again today. Maybe there is something to be said about the starter’€™s performance when Jason Varitek is behind the plate. In any case, with a productive offense and a pitching performance like Beckett’€™s, the formula adds up to a win.

Defensive awareness was prevalent in the victory. Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez anchored the right side of the infield with sliding stops and hustle plays that kept the Blue Jays offense at bay, and Beckett on the mound for more innings.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

The Red Sox stranded yet again a large number of players on base. Through just four innings, the Sox left eight men stranded, and were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, but still held a 4-1 lead. Although there was no need for a sense of urgency, it has to be a little concerning that this isn’€™t the only game in which the Sox have left plenty of runners in position to score.

Through seven complete innings, the Blue Jays had struck out five Red Sox batters, most of them on swings and misses. Though the Sox had eight hits, many pitches within the strike zone were swung on and no contact was made.

The cold weather and gusty winds didn’€™t help anybody out on the field, but the Sox seemed to shake it off well for the victory.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, Jed Lowrie, Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett has a message: Jason Varitek is great, but stop with the personal catcher talk

04.16.11 at 11:40 am ET
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Besides Josh Beckett’s utter dominance of the Yankees a week ago, another story-line emanating from the eight innings of shutout ball was the question regarding Jason Varitek’s importance in the equation.

With Beckett pitching at another level from what he showed in his first start of the season, which was caught by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, some were jumping to the conclusion that Varitek’s presence was a big reason for the pitcher’s success.

Beckett’s take …

“It’€™s not a big deal. Who wouldn’€™t want Jason Varitek catching? But it doesn’€™t mean I don’€™t want Salty, and I don’€™t ever want it to seem like that,” Beckett said. “When Salty is back there I have the same drive and I still feel the same way.

“If you go around the league there isn’€™t a [expletive] out there that wouldn’€™t want Jason Varitek catching. That doesn’€™t mean they wouldn’€™t want Jarrod Saltalamacchia catching. When there are questions like there always asked of me, it’€™s almost like they’€™re trying to stir something up, but there’€™s nothing to stir up.”

Beckett has thrown 112regular season games to Varitek, 76 more than any other catcher (with Paul Lo Duca coming in No. 2). Conversely, he has had Saltamacchia as a battery-mate just two occasions, once last season (7 IP, 3 R) and the game in Cleveland.

And while Beckett’s career ERA with Varitek behind the plate (3.95) is hard to ignore, he is adamant that the same sort of success can be had with Saltalamacchia catching.

“I don’€™t want to take credit away from Jason either. There are bunch of papers in that newspaper, and that has to say something in it,” Beckett said. “But you go around the league and there isn’€™t anybody who would say, ‘€˜No’€™ to Jason Varitek catching. That doesn’€™t mean they don’€™t want Jarrod Saltalamacchia catching, but nobody is going to say no to Jason Varitek catching. The guy is a Hall of Famer. It’€™s all good.

“It’€™s always asked, ‘€˜Do you like it when Jason Varitek catches?’€™ [Expletive] yeah I like it. He’€™s an [expletive] Hall of Famer. Then they write, ‘€˜He would rather have Jason Varitek catching.’€™ I never said that. It’€™s crazy.”

For Beckett, who pitches Saturday against the Blue Jays, the bottom line isn’t difficult to decipher.

“We make the decisions,” he said. “They throw down suggestions and then we throw what we want to throw.”

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Bobby Jenks: ‘All I can say is I stunk’

04.16.11 at 12:56 am ET
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On Friday, Bobby Jenks served as the latest goat in a nightmarish two-week opening to the 2011 season for the Red Sox.

Coming into Friday’s game with the Blue Jays, Jenks had been a bright spot for the Red Sox this season – more like brilliant.

He faced 14 batters in four previous outings, retiring 12 of the 14 and walking the other two. He struck out five and hadn’t allowed a hit. In four innings, his ERA was a perfect Blutarsky-esque 0.00.

Then he faced Jayson Nix to open the seventh. He walked him. Then Yunel Escobar singled to left. Then the wheels came off. He struck out Corey Patterson for his only out, allowing four singles and threw a wild pitch as the Jays scored four times to break a 3-3 tie and held on for a 7-6 win.

Jenks was brutally honest.

“I’m not going to make any excuses. It wasn’t there. All I can say is I stunk,” he said. “Going out there I’ve got to do a better job – if I do give up a run – of being able to hold it to a one or two-run inning. I can’t go out there and leave guys on with four guys already in. That’s unacceptable for me.”

Then, sounding an urgent tone following a 7-6 loss that dropped the Red Sox to 2-10 on the season, Jenks said it is time to start worrying about the way the team is playing two weeks into the season. Asked if it was too soon to consider the team in “real trouble,” Jenks answered honestly and without hesitation.

“I think we’re there now,” Jenks said. “We’re in a tough division. To come back right now, it’s going to take all year long. We need to get on it now if we’re going to turn this thing around.”

Jenks said he doesn’t understand why the team with so many expectations is off to such a bad start.

“I can’t,” Jenks said. “I wish I could. It just seems right now, nothing can go our way. It’s not like anybody is not trying out there. Everybody is busting their butt, doing everything they can to win these ball games but it seems like every night, one way or another, we’re coming up short.”

Read More: bobby jenks, Boston Red Sox, MLB, Toronto Blue Jays

Closing Time: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 6

04.15.11 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Red Sox insist that they are better than a two-win team. They just have yet to play like one.

The team’s woeful start to 2011 continued, as the Sox dropped a 7-6 decision to the Blue Jays. Strike-throwing (or lack thereof) played a major roll in Friday night’s struggle, as both Clay Buchholz (94 pitches, 46 strikes) and Bobby Jenks (26 pitches, 14 strikes) could not command the baseball. Those two pitchers permitted seven runs, and the 7-3 hole that Jenks left behind him proved too deep for the Sox to escape, as a three-run rally in the eighth inning fell short.

Clearly, the natives are restless. The Sox earned plenty of boos from their home crowd as their record dropped to 2-10.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Bobby Jenks endured one of the worst games of his career. He allowed a career-high four runs and matched a career high by allowing four hits while retiring just one batter in the seventh inning. The reliever appeared to have little life or command of his fastball, which mostly remained in the low-90s. Jenks absorbed his first loss as a member of the Sox.

–Clay Buchholz didn’t give up a homer for the first time this season (thanks in part to having an Adam Lind liner down the right-field line that was initially ruled a homer overturned by replay), but he was still ultimately ineffective. Though he gave up just three hits, he matched a career high by walking five batters. He allowed three runs in his five frames, falling short of the six-inning, three-run standard for quality starts. The Sox have just three quality starts in their 12 games this year.

Carl Crawford‘s brutal start in Boston continued. He went 0-for-5 while making terrible contact (though he was victimized by a missed call at first base on what would have been an infield single), and he also appeared to pull up on what might have been a playable ball in the gap in left-center that became a game-tying double. His average now sits at .137.

–It was a bad game for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, both behind the plate and at the dish. He went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts (both looking) on fastballs, dropping his average for the year to .138. Eventually, he was lifted in the eighth inning for pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie (who delivered a bases-loaded infield single). As for Saltalamacchia’s defensive work, not only was he the signal caller for the Sox’ brutal pitching outing, but he also had poor technical execution on a wild pitch by Jenks, coming out of his stance too early and letting the ball scoot under his glove, and the Jays ran wild against him, swiping four bags.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Kevin Youkilis hit his first homer of the season, pounding a Brett Cecil pitch into the center field bleachers. He pushed his average up to .200, and he also collected a pair of walks (his 14th and 15th of the year, among the major league leaders). Overall, he has shown signs in recent games that he is starting to emerge from the funk in which he started the year.

Dustin Pedroia also went deep, giving the Sox their second multi-homer game of the year (and first since April 2). The Sox had entered the game tied for the fewest multi-homer games in the majors.

Jed Lowrie continued his noteworthy contributions despite his inconsistent presence in the starting lineup. He had a tremendous at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, which ended with a run-scoring infield single. He is now hitting .471 in the young season.

The Yankees lost, so the Sox remained “just” five games back in the division.

Read More: Blue Jays, bobby jenks, carl crawford, Clay Buchholz

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Live Blog

04.15.11 at 7:27 pm ET
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Red Sox/Blue Jays Live Blog

Adrian Gonzalez praised as a Red Sox leader

04.15.11 at 5:48 pm ET
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There were several known quantities about Adrian Gonzalez at the time that the Red Sox made the decision to trade for the first baseman. Certainly, the Sox knew that they were acquiring one of the top hitters in the game, someone whom GM Theo Epstein described as being “among the handful of very best hitters in the game.” And the Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base was also apparent.

But there has been more in Gonzalez’ first 11 games as a member of the Red Sox, something that isn’t seen in the statistics (which revealed a .268 average, .362 OBP, .439 slugging mark and .801 OPS entering Friday). Gonzalez has immediately emerged as a meaningful voice inside the Sox clubhouse, both among his teammates and in offering analysis and perspective about the club to the media. At a time when the Sox have struggled out of the gates to a 2-9 start, Gonzalez has been steadfast in his insistence that the Sox are a better club than what they’ve shown and that their results will soon start matching their talent.

Gonzalez’ introductory press conference on Friday offered insight into his presence on the club. Asked about the team’s start, the 28-year-old was direct.

“We are disappointed,” Gonzalez said. “It’€™s something that you never want to start this way but we know we have faith in ourselves. We know we’€™re a better team than the 2-9 start. And we’€™re going to turn this around. The one good thing about starting 2-9, it means we’€™re going to win a lot more games than we’€™re going to lose going forward. You know, I know, and I’€™m fully confident that come September, we’€™re going to be in the middle of a pennant race and in position that we’€™re going to make the playoffs. I’€™m very confident about that and how do we do that? We play better baseball. We play the baseball that we know we can play and that’€™s going to turn around, and it’€™s going to turn around quickly.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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The conclusion of a deal that was a long time in the making

04.15.11 at 4:28 pm ET
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There was a last moment of panic. John Boggs, the agent for Adrian Gonzalez, had a sudden vision of his client’s seven-year, $154 million agreement with the Red Sox going up in smoke.

On Sunday night, Boggs was watching the Red Sox play the Yankees. He cringed when he saw New York ace CC Sabathia drilling his client on the right hand with a 94 mph fastball.

“The other day when he got hit by CC [Sabathia], I aged a hundred years,” joked Boggs. “Trust me, up until I landed this morning at God knows what time on a red eye, you’€™re hoping that everything is going to be in place. … But Adrian was fine with it. Usually the peripheral people are the ones who carry a lot of the stress, because his job is to get out there and play ball.”

Gonzalez was fine, and so there was no unexpected hurdle presented to the consummation of the deal. All the same, that doesn’t mean that the marriage of Gonzalez and the Sox through the 2018 season was always certain to take place.

When the Red Sox negotiated in December with Gonzalez and his agents, Boggs and Tony Cabral, all parties knew what Gonzalez’ bottom line was for a long-term deal. But for a time, it looked as if the deal wouldn’t happen.

The Sox weren’t going to complete their four-player trade — which sent top prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes, along with utility man Eric Patterson to the Padres — for Gonzalez unless they could get him signed to a long-term deal. And for their part, Gonzalez and his agents weren’t going to accept a deal for a figure below what they considered a fair market wage; at the end of the two-day negotiating window permitted by Major League Baseball, the Sox still hadn’t reached that mark.

Gonzalez and his agents walked away from the negotiating table and returned to their hotel, convinced that the first baseman would return to the Padres, play out his $6.3 million option for 2011 and then hit free agency. Given that Gonzalez had long embraced the idea of playing for the Red Sox while hearing his name attached to Boston via rumors for years, it was a significant let-down.

“When we didn’€™t get there, and the last offer wasn’€™t our bottom line, trust me, it wasn’€™t very easy but we had to get up and we left,” said Boggs. “It was a feeling I hope I never replicate. When you’€™re looking at that kind of significant dollars, you walk away from it, you’€™ve spent the last 48 hours building towards that and even in the interim just leading up to it, the rumors of where he might go, a lot of times, you learn in this business, you learn everywhere, I’€™m a military brat. If you want to get transferred to Hawaii, you’€™ll definitely end up in Alaska.”

However, MLB reopened the negotiating window, and in that time, the Sox told Gonzalez that they knew his bottom line, and so long as that bottom line wouldn’t change based on market circumstances, then once the first baseman proved the health of his surgically repaired right shoulder, the two sides could hammer out a contract. Boggs and Cabral thus arrived in spring training in mid-March to iron out the details of the deal that was announced Friday.

“It was something that was really almost a cursory meeting to say, OK, where are we at, he’€™s looking good, everything is fine, we’€™re ready to pull the trigger at that point,” said Boggs. “At the end of the day, when we had our bottom line, that’€™s exactly what we settled on.”

While some might have been tempted by the fruit of free agency, Gonzalez ultimately had no need to go that route. Once the Sox were willing to commit to his bottom line, he valued the idea of committing to a club for the long term and focusing solely on baseball more than he did on the idea of subjecting himself to a bidding war after the 2011 season.

For the next eight years, barring an unexpected trade, he does not need to think about the market for his services, or where he might be spending subsequent springs. He was in a position to focus this spring on getting ready for the season without his free agent status looming. And so, regardless of whether he ends up walking away from any money (a possibility had he turned in a huge 2011 season) or not, he is able to remain content and focused on his job with the Sox.

‘€œYou know, I’€™m a person that, for the most part, I want to be in a place where I’€™m comfortable, where I want to be. This was a place where it was a perfect fit for me,” said Gonzalez. “I love the city. It’€™s something that (Sox owner) John Henry, (Special Assistant to the GM) Dave Finley, gave me the opportunity to start playing. I’€™m real comfortable with them. I really enjoy being around them and getting to know (GM Theo Epstein). Now the city and the players and the clubhouse, it’€™s a place where I’€™m going to have a lot of fun and I’€™m going to really enjoy playing here. You can’€™t find a better place for this opportunity. It was something that, I didn’€™t need to get to free agency with that.’€

“In a lot of cases, sometimes [free agency is] what you wait for. Then you have the ability to see exactly who is interested in you and what really your market is. But it’€™s a gamble. It’€™s a gamble in every way,” added Boggs. “Really, at the end of the day, on this day, which is a tremendous day for Adrian, it’€™s really not that much of a gamble anymore. It’€™s something that he really wanted, and he obviously is being paid very fairly. It was everything he wanted, so we consider it a victory.”

For their part, the Sox are equally thrilled. Indeed, Epstein suggested that the Sox are even more enthusiastic about locking up Gonzalez now than they were on the day that they traded for him.

“We couldn’€™t ask for more as a player or as a person. Just in the brief time we’€™ve been around him every day, we’€™ve seen how well he fits within our clubhouse and provides some leadership during some difficult times like the ones we’€™re going through right now and a perfect fit for this lineup, this ballpark and this organization. We couldn’€™t be happier about it,” said Epstein. “From an offensive standpoint, he’€™s among the handful of very best hitters in the game. Outstanding defensively as well. Someone whose character we trust.

“Going forward, if you’€™re going to make this kind of commitment, you have to be very not only very comfortable with the player, but also the person and, as Adrian has alluded to, some long-term relationships so that we could vouch for his charcter going forward. If you’€™re going to bet on one player, we’€™re very comfortable betting on Adrian Gonzalez.”

RELATED CONTENT

–The Sox had plenty of good reasons to wait until the start of the regular season to hammer out Gonzalez’ extension.

A look at Gonzalez’ deal in historic context, both in terms of the Red Sox and Major League Baseball.

–Though they now have their first two deals in excess of $100 million under Theo Epstein, the Sox haven’t changed the way they operate, Epstein insisted.

–In just two weeks of the regular season, Gonzalez has already earned the praise of his new club for his clubhouse leadership.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Contract, john boggs,

Nuggetpalooza: Friday Baseball Nuggets

04.15.11 at 11:20 am ET
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Around the majors for your Friday:

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* – Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks has never allowed a home run after getting ahead 0-and-2. He’s faced 245 such batters, the second most without allowing a homer since they began tracking the stat in 1988 (and the most by any active pitcher):

409 – Rob Dibble (1988-1995)
285 – Bobby Jenks (2005-2011)
280 – Lee Guetterman (1988-1996)

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* – Among the 124 pitchers who have thrown at least 175 pitches this season, Milwaukee’s Chris Narveson has produced the highest percentage of swings that miss in the majors:

42.2% – Chris Narveson, MIL
35.8% – Jonathan Sanchez, SF
33.3% – Jeremy Hellickson, TB
30.9% – Daniel Hudson, ARI

The Yankees‘ Phil Hughes ranks at the bottom:

 6.1% – Phil Hughes, NYY
 9.9% – Brandon McCarthy, OAK
10.1% – Charlie Morton, PIT
10.4% – Brad Penny, DET

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* – Washington Nationals‘ manager Jim Riggleman doesn’t mind changing pitchers in tough spots. Nationals’ relievers have inherited 36 runners already, and average of 3.0 per game. Granted that it’s early, but it’s on pace to break the record (since 1974) of 2.44 per game, set by Detroit in 1996.

Red Sox relievers have allowed only three out of 15 inherited runners to score this season (20 percent), which would be their fourth best April since ’74. All three that scored were credited to Dan Wheeler.

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* – The Phillies’ Placido Polanco already has 11 RBI and has not hit a home run. The all-time record for RBI in April without hitting a homer is 18, set by Bobby Higginson of the Tigers in 2004.

—————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

Gonzalez’ deal in context: Where slugger’s contract ranks in MLB history

04.15.11 at 10:18 am ET
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It is entirely possible that Adrian Gonzalez is leaving money on the table. If he had a monster season in 2011 and then hit the free-agent market as a 29-year-old, there is an excellent chance he could have seen a payday in the vicinity of the one conferred upon Mark Teixeira (eight years, $180 million). Perhaps, with Albert Pujols potentially pushing the bar higher for salaries, Gonzalez could have seen even more than that.

But maximizing his worth on the open market was not his goal. Gonzalez (hitting .268 with a .362 OBP, .439 slugging mark, .801 OPS and one homer in 11 games this year) and his agent, John Boggs, said consistently that he just wanted to be paid fairly in the context of some of the elite position players in the game. This is what Boggs had to say on the subject during spring training:

“Adrian in his mind, he knew what it was going to take, bottom line. He wasn’€™t concerned with chasing after or breaking records. He just wants to be fairly compensated,’€ Boggs said. ‘€œYes, you think that you’€™re giving away something that might or might not happen. In the end, I think he’€™s said it the clearest, you can be very wealthy and play for a team that you don’€™t want to play for or you can be very wealthy and play for a team that you want to play for and is in competition every year.

‘€œThat’€™s really what his goal was,’€ Boggs added. ‘€œTo be treated fairly and be compensated fairly and be on a ballclub that is year after year competitive. I think that was his goal and after that, if he feels that it’€™s fair financially, he’€™s good to go.’€

Clearly, Gonzalez had no qualms with a seven-year, $154 million deal with the Sox — the parameters of which were established in December, during the window granted by Major League Baseball for the Sox and the first baseman to negotiate prior to the completion of the deal with the Padres.

Gonzalez will receive the largest contract (by average annual value) in Red Sox history, surpassing the $20.29 million that teammate Carl Crawford is making. His deal will also carry the seventh-highest average annual value in major league history (see chart).

Among first basemen, Gonzalez will receive more years but a lower annual salary than Ryan Howard, and he will receive one less year than did Mark Teixeira while making a very similar annual salary ($22 million per year for Gonzalez; $22.5 million per year for Teixeira).

The Sox will now become just the second team in baseball to feature two position players who will make $20 million or more per season, as both Gonzalez and Crawford will occupy that select club. The Yankees with Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the only other club to feature two players who making an average annual value of $20 million or more. Read the rest of this entry »

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A reminder why the Red Sox waited to lock up Adrian Gonzalez

04.15.11 at 8:02 am ET
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The Red Sox have agreed to a seven-year, $154 million extension with Adrian Gonzalez, the second richest deal in club history, with an announcement to come Friday. (CSNNE.com was first to report the agreement.)

The timing, as Alex Speier pointed out in December, should come as no surprise.

By many accounts, the parameters for the deal were nearly in place dating back to when the Red Sox traded for the first baseman just prior to the Baseball Winter Meetings. It was a notion supported by the comments of Gonzalez’ agent, John Boggs, who said when visiting the team late in spring training that he hadn’t talked to the Sox since December, but was confident a deal would be struck at some point in April.

Boggs explained that the Red Sox wanted to be assured that there would be no lingering problems with Gonzalez’ surgically-repaired right shoulder.

‘€œAt the end of the day everything has been as expected. We sat down and discussed where Adrian is at. I just think it’€™s going to move very positively in the direction of probably trying to get something done sometime in April,’€ said Boggs in Fort Myers. ‘€œThe main thing is the health issue. When he’€™s seen to be every day playing competitively in a championship season I think they’€™re going to have a degree of comfort and obviously that will be a time to probably get something done.

‘€œPrudently probably on their part, they just want him, to see him play back-to-back-to-back-to-back, get into the season, then say, ‘€˜OK, we’€™re good to go,’€™’€ Boggs added. ‘€œI would anticipate something around April. When in April, I don’€™t know. It could be beginning, middle, end, but that’€™s it. That’€™s really the parameters we’€™re looking at. If something drags it on past that, then yeah, we’€™ll probably have to revisit a lot of things, but I don’€™t anticipate that at all.’€

But there was another reason, besides the shoulder, that the Red Sox waited. It was a motivation first pointed out by Speier, and it has to do the money the Sox would save by not officially inking the deal until after Opening Day due to luxury tax considerations. As Speier wrote at the time of the trade:

For the purposes of calculating the competitive balance tax (CBT) on the Sox’€™ 2011 payroll, Gonzalez’€™ contract would no longer be calculated at $6.2 million if he signs an extension before the start of the season. Let’€™s say that the Sox are able to sign Gonzalez to a six-year, $132 million extension to run from 2012-2017, after the expiration of his current contract. (Again: purely speculative numbers.)

For luxury tax purposes, Gonzalez’€™ option and the extension would be added together. So, he would be viewed as receiving a seven-year, $138.2 million deal, with an average annual value of $19.74 million per year.

The implications would be significant. The Sox have always viewed their CBT payroll as being more significant than their actual payroll, and with good reason: If they can avoid doing so, they don’€™t want to pay the luxury tax.

The Sox did exceed the $170 million luxury tax threshold in 2010; every dollar they spent beyond that sum will be taxed at a rate of 22.5 percent. In 2011, the tax rate will rise to 30 percent for every dollar they spend beyond the $178 million threshold outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If Gonzalez is playing under the terms of his current contract, it would go a long way towards helping the team avoid paying the tax in 2011. Superstar production for a $6.2 million CBT can help transform a payroll.

But if the Sox sign Gonzalez to an extension now, the team would have an additional $13.5 million in taxable payroll (again, as calculated for luxury tax purposes). That would make it very difficult ‘€” indeed, almost impossible barring a move to shed payroll ‘€” for the team to sign a Werth or Crawford while staying under the luxury tax threshold of $178 million. That, in turn, could cost the Sox over $4 million in luxury tax money. (Under a six-year, $132 million deal, it could be as much as $4.05 million.)

So what does that have to do with signing the extension after the season starts? If the extension is signed after Opening Day rather than before it, then it would not be factored into the calculation of Gonzalez’€™ AAV for the 2011 season. So, he would have a $6.2 million CBT hit in 2011, and then count for $22 million (or whatever the average salary is of his long-term deal) against the luxury tax threshold during the life of the extension. Under that scenario, the Sox could likely afford to hand out a monster contract to Werth or Crawford while still limbo-ing under the luxury tax threshold for next year.

Keep in mind that the Sox have frequently gone to such lengths in order to minimize their luxury tax hit. A few examples:

‘€“ The team structured its one-year, $10 million deal with Adrian Beltre to ensure that he would only count for $7 million against the CBT.

‘€“ The team waited to announce extensions for Coco Crisp (2006 for the 2007-09 seasons), David Ortiz (2006 for the 2007-10 seasons) and Josh Beckett (2010 for the 2011-14 seasons) until after the start of the season so that they would be able to minimize their luxury tax hit.

(A footnote to this idea: The Sox would, of course, be increasing their luxury tax hit for the 2012-17 seasons in this scenario, from $19.74 million to $22 million. But: 1) No one knows what form, if any, the luxury tax will take in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is currently open to negotiation between players and owners; 2) The extra $2 million and change represents a fairly small increase; and 3) The Sox will have contracts for J.D. Drew ($14 million AAV), David Ortiz ($12.5 million), Jonathan Papelbon (approx. $11 million), Mike Cameron ($7.75 million), Marco Scutaro ($6.25 million), Tim Wakefield ($2 million) and Jason Varitek ($2 million) coming off the books after the 2011 season. That is a mind-boggling $55.5 million coming off the books for luxury tax purposes.)

One big deal, no big surprise.

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