|12.05.10 at 2:43 pm ET|
The ostensible 2 p.m. deadline for the Red Sox to negotiate a contract extension with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has passed with no word on whether a deal was struck. In the minutes leading up to 2 p.m., a source familiar with the negotiations told WEEI.com that the sides were still talking with no immediate resolution in sight.
The Red Sox swung a deal for Gonzalez on Saturday, agreeing to send pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and outfielder Reymond Fuentes to San Diego in exchange for the slugger.
|12.05.10 at 10:33 am ET|
* – Gonzalez’ OPS vs. LHP over the last three seasons: .675, .770, .937. The .937 he recorded last season was fourth in the majors by a left-handed batter. The Red Sox have had five seasons of .937+ OPS by LHB vs. LHP since 1974 (min. 125 PA):
1.047 – Mo Vaughn, 1997
1.021 – Mo Vaughn, 1994
.988 – David Ortiz, 2006
.986 – Mo Vaughn, 1998
.948 – Wade Boggs, 1984
* – Over the last four seasons, Gonzalez ranks eighth in MLB in home runs (137), two more than Teixiera and 19 more than David Ortiz.
* – Over the same four seasons, Gonzalez is second among among left-handed batters with 39 homers off left-handed pitchers:
In that same span, Ortiz has 18 such homers and Drew has 15. Actually, the Red Sox team had just 38 HR by LHB vs. LHP over the last four years.
* – Gonzalez put the first pitch in play more often than ever in 2010, hitting .375 with a .941 OPS when he did.
* – But when he worked to a full count, his 1.356 OPS was tops in the majors (min. 50 PA):
1.356 – Adrian Gonzalez
1.339 – Felipe Lopez
1.334 – Alfonso Soriano
It was the 6th best such season since 2000.
* – Gonzalez has blasted 18 homers after falling behind 0-and-2 over the last three seasons, EASILY the most in the majors in that span:
18 – Adrian Gonzalez
13 – Miguel Cabrera
13 – Juan Uribe
Boston had a TOTAL of 46 such home runs in that span.
* – A-Gone’s .342 RBI average (RBI divided by runners on base) ranked fifth in the majors last season (min. 200 runners on base):
.452 – Jose Bautista, TOR
.359 – Carlos Gonzalez, COL
.351 – Joey Votto, CIN
.349 – Paul Konerko, CHW
.342 – Adrian Gonzalez, SD
* – His .721 RBI/RISP ranked second (min. 100 RISP):
.799 – Jose Bautista, TOR
.721 – Adrian Gonzalez, SD
.671 – Joey Votto, CIN
.639 – Carlos Gonzalez, COL
The top Red Sox last season: Youkilis (.549), Martinez (.500), Drew (.474).
Note this: Gonzalez hit .407 with a 1.282 OPS with runners in scoring position last season, highest in the majors.
* – Gonzalez has hit 29 home runs with two strikes over the last two seasons, tied for second in that span:
* – It’s a small sample but it’s worth mentioning that A-Gone went 6-for-11 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI with the bases loaded last season.
* – Finally, a couple of quick notes on Gonzalez’ pitch handling:
vs Fastballs – +1.2 runs created above average per 100 fastballs seen ranked #43 among 205 players with 400 or more plate appearances last season. That was a decline from his +1.8 from the year before and was close to his career average (+1.1).
vs Sliders – +0.8 runs created above average per 100 sliders seen ranked #37 among 205 players. It was the first time in his career that he was above average vs. sliders. His last two seasons were -1.7 and -1.4.
vs Curveballs – +0.4 runs created above average per 100 curveballs seen ranked #91.
vs Changeups – +2.6 runs created above average per 100 changeups seen ranked #20. It showed a HUGE improvement from +1.1 and +1.0 in the last two seasons.
* – ONE LAST THING: Over the last three seasons, Gonzalez has batted 37 times against the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays, going 10-for-35 (.286) with three home runs and a .924 OPS. Just sayin’.
|12.05.10 at 7:06 am ET|
The big fish is on the hook, and now needs only to be reeled in. Or does he?
The Red Sox made their trade to acquire star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez on Saturday, giving up the richest package of prospects they’ve parted with since they sent Hanley Ramirez to the Florida Marlins as the headliner in the Josh Beckett deal. It’s a landscape altering deal in many respects, but as much as the Sox love Gonzalez, they were not going to agree to such a rich prospect package without the opportunity to have an exclusive negotiating window to talk to the slugger and his agent about an extension.
Since GM Theo Epstein became the head of baseball operations in late-2002, the Sox have almost always used their key chips to get players whom they would have under contract for more than one year. That has been especially true in recent years, when the team acquired Victor Martinez and Jason Bay for two seasons of control. In ’09, when the team was discussing dealing a number of its best minor leaguers for players like Martinez, Gonzalez, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez during the season, it was in part because all of those players would have impacted the Red Sox in at least two seasons.
The Sox are not going to give up their top pitching prospect (Casey Kelly), their top power hitting prospect (Anthony Rizzo) and one of their top defensive prospects (Reymond Fuentes) without getting Gonzalez for several years. But, of course, the Sox have the negotiating window with Gonzalez, so they can do precisely that: Talk with the player and his agent in order to make sure that the two sides see eye to eye on his value, thus allowing the team to secure the 28-year-old’s value for the next several years.
But in at least some respects, the best course the team can take might be to agree with Gonzalez to the parameters of a deal right now, and then wait until, say, April 8 (the day of the Fenway opener against the Yankees) to announce it.
Disclaimer: This scenario is entirely speculative. But there was, at the least, this intriguing tweet from Jon Heyman of SI.com late on Saturday night:
“[The Red Sox] may be willing to do [a Gonzalez] deal without extension and may actually prefer to just talk parameters now, then watch him in spring,” Heyman wrote.
The right shoulder, on which Gonzalez underwent surgery in October and that will keep him from playing until spring training, could serve as the ostensible justification to delay a deal. The Sox could say that they simply want to see the slugging first baseman back on the field and healthy before they formalize the extension. But no one involved in the deal appears to think that the shoulder will actually be a significant concern going forward, and multiple reports suggested that Gonzalez’ physical went without a hitch on Saturday.
The real reason why the Sox might want to wait until after the start of the regular season to announce an extension, if at all possible, is financial. Specifically, the luxury tax implications for the timing of the announcement of a long-term deal are huge.
Right now, Gonzalez is slated to play the 2011 season for a bargain basement $6.2 million option. That salary would give the Sox tremendous financial flexibility to address other needs, most notably, to dip their toes in the water and gun for another big offseason kahuna, namely an outfielder along the lines of Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.
But, 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 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.)
All of that being said… It should surprise no one if Gonzalez and the Sox announce by 2pm EST on Sunday (the deadline for the negotiating window, as reported via twitter by Ken Rosenthal FoxSports.com) that they have a deal in place. This is a marriage that both parties want to enact.
BUT, if there is not an extension, it is far from a worst-case scenario for the Sox. You may hear statements suggesting that the sides are close, but that they wanted to get to know each other a bit better, and to see where Gonzalez’ health stands entering the season. But the reality is that if the Sox and Gonzalez don’t have an extension officially in place, it may just be a matter of waiting for the start of the regular season to announce it so that the team will maximize its financial flexibility to pursue other deals this offseason.
|12.04.10 at 3:11 pm ET|
Dave Magadan was sold from the very first swings.
Magadan first witnessed Adrian Gonzalez‘ left-handed swing in the San Diego Padres‘ 2006 spring training, when the then-24-year-old first baseman was being integrated into his new environment just more than a month following his trade from the Rangers.
‘I liked him from the beginning,’ said the Red Sox hitting coach. ‘He’s got such a pretty swing. I remember the first time I threw batting practice to him. I was like ‘I can’t throw anywhere where he doesn’t drive it to that part of the park where I’m throwing it to him.’ I really liked that about him. He uses the whole field. He’s patient. He swings at strikes. He was a very mature hitter at that age where I first saw him. He had a really good idea what he was doing at the plate.’
Gonzalez wasn’t supposed to make the Padres that season, but because of an injury to starter Ryan Klesko he was forced into action. The results were a .304 batting average to go with 24 homers in 156 games, and an expanding appreciation from Magadan (whom was the Padres hitting coach at the time).
‘He’s just a really smart hitter,’ said Magadan on Gonzalez, who appears to be on the verge of joining the Red Sox via a trade that would send minor-leaguers Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, and Reymond Fuentes to San Diego. ‘He’s very mature. He knows himself, pitching and how he’s going to get pitched. He’s a student of his swing, and it shows.
‘He always took a lot of time to look at video, look at the pitchers. Look at how pitchers he was going to face pitched against hitters that were similar to himself. He always went in with a really good plan. He always had a really good idea how he was going to get pitch. You look at his numbers over the last four years and the proof is in the pudding. He’s put up big numbers in a park that’s hard to hit in, in a lineup he wasn’t exactly surrounded by the ’27 Yankees, and he still put up the numbers. That’s pretty impressive.’
All that is left to officially reunite Gonzalez with Magadan appears to be the slugger agreeing on a contract extension. (He is slated to make $6.23 million in 2011, the final year of his current deal.)
And while Gonzalez’ numbers, and history, aren’t hard to digest, like many others, the Sox’ hitting coach sees the production only improving if/when the middle-of-the-order bat starts calling Fenway Park home.
‘I think he would hit anywhere. He put up great numbers playing at Petco (Park) 81 games a year. He’s going to hit no matter where he is at. But that being said, I think he’s would thrive at Fenway,’ Magadan said. ‘He’s got the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field with height. He’s going to be able to get balls over the Monster. He’s going to have the ability to line balls off the wall for doubles. And he’s got good pull power, too. He picks his spot, looks for balls on the inner-third, and does damage with it.
‘I always loved Adrian. He’s a great guy. He’s a great teammate. He’s got a lot of passion for the game. He takes a lot of pride in not only his bat, but his glove. I think he would fit in nicely what we’re trying to do in Boston.’
|12.04.10 at 2:14 pm ET|
Two things happened in 2010 when it came to Adrian Gonzalez that should make you feel better about the Red Sox‘ acquiring the first baseman: 1. He didn’t let the pressure get to him; 2. He did a complete 180-degree turn when it came to hitting against lefties.
The first item stems from the constant talk that came from potentially being dealt, along with trying to carry a team through a pennant race. Gonzalez remained remarkably consistent throughout the ’10 season while constantly being Googled by Red Sox fans, as his splits would suggest: April: .288/6HR; May: .252/3HR; June: .363/7HR; July: .276/5HR; August: .308/6HR; September: .294/4HR.
First half of the season: .301, 18 HR, .930 OPS.
Second half of the season: .294, 13 HR, .873 OPS.
So many question a player’s ability to succeed once they are thrown in the firestorm that can be being a Red Sox. And while living life as a professional baseball player in San Diego most likely can never fully simulate being in Boston, the combination of the rumors and run at the pennant offered a fairly decent test case.
Secondly, Gonzalez managed to actually perform better in regard to a key element of his game, hitting against left-handed pitching. From 2007-09 the lefty hitter managed a .236 batting average and .744 OPS against southpaws: In 2010? He came in at .337 and .937.
He clearly figured something out after April, in which he hit just.188 against lefties. From then on Gonzalez hit .350 vs. left-handers with the following breakdown: May: .357; June: .349; July: .267; August: .357; September: .361.
(Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus points out that Gonzalez went to a lighter bat to compensate for his shoulder pain, allowing him to stay back longer, which paid off against left-handers. Here is a story on Gonzo’s alteration.)
For what it’s worth:
- Of Gonzalez’ eight homers against lefties last season five came on fastballs, which also accounted for 37 of his 67 hits.
- His contact rate against left-handers went up to 80 percent in the second-half of ’10. For the entire season it was 76 percent, a three percent improvement from the previous season.
- He hit .414 with runners in scoring position in ’10, .396 vs. left-handers.
Here is the swing that got it done:
Just a few more things to contemplate while thinking about the merits of Gonzalez.
|12.04.10 at 12:06 pm ET|
A source with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed that the Red Sox have agreed to send Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named to the Padres in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. While the deal is not yet done — Gonzalez must pass a physical, and he and the Sox would have to agree to an extension — here is a look at the prospects whom the Sox would be parting with.
In summary: the Red Sox would be giving up three young, high-ceiling prospects who are considered excellent makeup guys. All three are viewed as future big league starters.
Kelly has been described as having the potential stuff and makeup to become a superstar on the mound. His athleticism on the mound has been compared to that of Royals ace (and 2009 Cy Young winner) Zack Greinke. While he had a 5.31 ERA in Double-A Portland this year, and saw his tremendous command numbers take a hit (he more than doubled his walk rate, from 1.5 per nine innings to 3.3 per nine innings), he saw the development of a power arsenal. His fastball velocity regularly touched 93-94 mph in 2010 (up from 90-92 in 2009), peaking at 96 mph, and he added a potential swing-and-miss curve to a changeup that his Arizona Fall League manager, Mike Sarbaugh, described as “a separator.”
The Sox believe that Kelly will hone his command anew with another year, and that if he has advanced command combined with three solid to plus pitches, he could be a future No. 1 or No. 2 starter. Kelly, ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Sox system by Baseball America, was the prospect whom the Padres had to have to make a deal happen.
“Watch the stuff. If you watched Casey Kelly pitch, and watched all of the swinging and missing going on — even though the strikeout numbers aren’t huge — you’d have a hard time, if you know what you’re looking at, saying, ‘This guy [is a disappointment],’” Sox farm director Mike Hazen said during the season. ‘In the case of Casey Kelly, I know people are going to look at stats and say, ‘This guy didn’t have that good of a season.’ … We beg to differ on that. We feel that he’s had a really good season.’
Is he replaceable? Kelly is (was?) the consensus top talent in the Sox system. There is no other player in the system who so clearly projects to be a star. That said, the team is hopeful that it has two pitchers who could develop into No. 2 big league starters, at least based on their talent. The first is 2010 sandwich pick Anthony Ranaudo, a player who, but for injuries he suffered in his junior year, would have been one of the top five to 10 picks in this year’s draft. Still, Ranaudo has yet to throw a pitch in a professional game, so while his talent appeared elite as an amateur, it remains to be seen how that will translate. The other is right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, a 20-year-old with a 3.64 ERA in his four minor league seasons as well as 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He was added to the major league 40-man roster recently, and Pimentel received strong feedback for his 2010 performance.
This is what Adrian Gonzalez did for the Portland Sea Dogs as a 20-year-old in 2002: .266/.344/.437/.781, 17 HR, 96 RBI, 138 games
This is what Anthony Rizzo did for the Portland Sea Dogs as a 20-year-old in 2010, following his early-season promotion from Hi-A Salem: .263/.334/.481/.815, 20 HR, 80 RBI in 107 games
Rizzo became the 20-year-old to hit 20 or more homers in the Eastern League since Dernell Stenson in 1998. Between his two levels, Rizzo finished the year with 25 homers, 42 doubles and 100 RBI, hitting .260/.334/.480/.814.
‘We haven’t seen this kind of power production from a player in the last five years that I’ve been here, especially not from a high school kid,’ said Hazen. ‘He’s an exciting hitter. The numbers speak for themselves, I think. To do that at that age and at that level is pretty impressive.’
It is even more impressive when considering that Rizzo missed almost all of the 2008 season while being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He showed few ill effects of the cancer treatment during an outstanding 2009 season, but Rizzo emerged with an enormous 2010 that established him as the Sox’ best power-hitting prospect. He clubbed his 20th Double-A homer in his final game of this season.
‘Right then and there, I reflected on my season and said, ‘Great year,’’ said Rizzo. ‘This year, there were a couple balls I hit where I got into the dugout and I said, ‘I didn’t know I could do that.’ Hopefully as I get older, stronger, more mature, even more power is to come.’
Rizzo was named the No. 3 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America. He was taken by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2007 draft.
Is he replaceable? The Sox do not have another power-hitting prospect with the proven track record of Rizzo. Because the Sox are getting an elite first baseman in the deal, the idea of parting with the organization’s top prospect at that position seemed a natural.
As a 19-year-old in full-season Single-A Greenville, Fuentes hit .270/.328/.377/.705 with five homers and 42 steals in 47 attempts. When the Sox drafted him, they suggested that the cousin of Carlos Beltran has surprising power, with his wrists reminding some of Alfonso Soriano. Even so, speed is more Fuentes’ game. He is a burner with a chance to make an impact on the bases and, especially important for the Padres, in the outfield. Fuentes is considered a potentially well-above-average center fielder, a significant consideration for the Padres in spacious Petco Park, where games are truly won and lost with pitching and defense.
“This guy has some pop. He’s an impact defender,” Hazen said during the season. “He’s a traditional gazelle.”
Is he replaceable? The Sox are dealing with a position of some strength and depth in center field. Ryan Kalish showed that he might be able to play center in the majors, and the Sox believe that Josh Reddick can do so as well. Che-Hsuan Lin, in Double-A, was the best defender in the organization, and had a .386 OBP in his age 21 season. And Jeremy Hazelbaker also turned in a tremendous season as Fuentes’ teammate in Greenville. While he is not viewed as the same high-ceiling prospect (or defender) as Fuentes, he has great speed on the bases (he stole 63 bases, most by a Sox prospect in more than 30 years) with solid pop.
|12.04.10 at 10:22 am ET|
With a deal that would bring Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to the Red Sox appearing close — with one source familiar with the situation suggesting that he was cautiously optimistic even as a few roadblocks remain — it is worth considering what kind of slugger the Red Sox are getting. On its own merits, Gonzalez has offered remarkable performance in his time in San Diego. He has hit 30 or more homers in each of the last four seasons, hitting .284/.377/.517/.894 in that time while averaging 34 homers and 105 RBI per season. He has been named an All-Star in each of the last three years, and has won two Gold Gloves.
But that production may simply be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he is capable of accomplishing if in Fenway Park. Several talent evaluators have noted that playing in San Diego’s home of Petco Park is like playing baseball on a different planet, with balls that appear to be long gone off the bat dying before the warning track in the spacious park.
Indeed, Gonzalez himself remarked on the phenomenon to WEEI.com at the 2009 All-Star game, and suggested that the power-suppressing effects of Petco made him curious about the idea of playing elsewhere.
‘You get there for the first time and everybody talks about it. Nobody really knows until they experience it. You have to play there as the home team to understand,’ said Gonzalez. ‘This is where I’m at, and I’ve got to be okay with it. I can’t dwell on the fact that I hit there. I would be interested in the future to see what that would be like (to play in another park).’
(At that time Gonzalez also had this to say about the idea of being traded: ‘As far as the future, all I can say is I have two years left on my contract, and I don’t know what’s going to happen after that. I signed it with the idea for security ‘ for financial security. … I’ve always said that I’m a guy who can be on a team that contends for a World Series. For me, the most important thing about playing the game is to win. We all play to win the World Series. That’s our main goal every year. That’s my greatest desire.’)
Gonzalez is not the only one to remark on the Petco effect. He has an ability to hit for power to all fields, something that was masked at times in his San Diego numbers.
“His numbers would definitely be better [outside of Petco],” former teammate Scott Hairston said in 2009. “You could probably tack on another 10 home runs to his stats, and RBIs, about 20. His average would probably go up 20 points as well. It really plays a difference because Adrian hits a lot of deep flyballs. I think people are starting to realize that.
“I think he’d be an MVP candidate if he were in a different park,” he added. “Obviously, if he was in a bit city like New York, Chicago or L.A., he’d get a lot more publicity. … He was kind of overshadowed by the ballpark. He’d be a superstar in a lot of other cities.”
Over the last four seasons on the road, in fact, Gonzalez has the most homers in the majors (90), while hitting .306/.382/.591/.973. Both his road slugging percentage and OPS rank second in the majors (to Albert Pujols) during that time. In 2010, the splits were similarly pronounced: he hit .279/.383/.438/.821 at home, and .315/.402/.578/.980 on the road.
For that reason, the Red Sox might be on the cusp of acquiring not just a 28-year-old in his prime, but also one who is prepared to make a leap forward in terms of his production once removed from the cavernous parks of the NL West, including his own.
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