|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.
|12.04.10 at 9:12 am ET|
A source familiar with the negotiations confirmed that the Red Sox and Padres have agreed in principle to a deal that would send first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in exchange for prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes. The deal is pending a physical on Gonzalez as well as the negotiation of an extension for the slugger.
ESPN.com was the first to report the deal. Multiple sources familiar with the situation note that there are still roadblocks to a deal, and that there is at least the chance that it could blow up, but both teams expect a deal is likely to get done.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Gonzalez was flown to Boston in order to negotiate a contract extension (the Padres exercised a $6.2 million option on his deal for 2011, after which he is currently slated to be a free agent) and to take a physical, with Major League Baseball having granted a window for a deal to be negotiated. While Gonzalez’ shoulder — which required surgery shortly after the season, and which will prevent him from swinging until March — would require a thorough exam, one source familiar with the situation said earlier in the week that he did not expect it to be an impediment to a deal.
The two sides had been discussing various scenarios for a Gonzalez trade for over a year. Last offseason, discussions of any deal began with pitcher Clay Buchholz. But Buchholz became untouchable due to his breakout 2010 campaign, and so the player whom the Sox had to include in a deal became top prospect Casey Kelly, the pitcher who was taken with the Sox’ first-round pick in the 2008 draft under then-director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod, who is now the Padres’ Assistant GM. Talks intensified in the last couple of weeks when the Sox acknowledged that they would have to part with Kelly and figure out the other players to include, yet even as the discussions gained momentum, they remained quiet even as recently as Thursday, when the two teams felt they were closing on a deal.
Gonzalez is considered one of the elite sluggers in the game. Despite playing in the power-killing environment of Petco Park 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. Gonzalez also leads the majors in road homers over the last four years with 90, suggesting that his numbers could take off in a new ballpark. (Indeed, Gonzalez himself has offered such a suggestion.)
While his 2011 salary is eminently affordable, even for the Padres, Gonzalez and his agent, John Boggs, had an understanding with San Diego GM Jed Hoyer that the first baseman would almost certainly depart in free agency after 2011. Boggs suggested that Gonzalez’ performance has him in line for a contract along the lines of the eight-year, $184 million deal between Joe Mauer and the Twins, the eight-year, $180 million deal between the Yankees and Mark Teixeira and the five-year, $125 million contract to which the Phillies and first baseman Ryan Howard had agreed. (One source involved in the trade talks guessed that it would take a deal of more than $20 million a year from the Sox to sign Gonzalez, but less than the $25 million a year that Howard will be paid.)
San Diego, as a team with a payroll near $40 million, cannot afford such a deal. And so, the Padres faced a difficult choice for the offseason: Do they retain Gonzalez for another run at the postseason after coming two wins short of the Giants in the NL West, or do they trade him in order to acquire a number of talented, inexpensive prospects who can allow them to compete for the long haul?
One major league source described the dilemma of what to do with a franchise icon as he approaches free agency as the most difficult that a team can face. But in the end, the talent package being offered by the Sox convinced the Padres to make their move. And so, the Sox may get the middle-of-the-order slugger whom they covet, while the Padres acquire three high-ceiling prospects with the chance to impact them — at a low cost — for years.
|12.03.10 at 5:38 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced that they have signed minor-league deals with five free agents:
–Jason Bergmann (RHP)
–Brandon Duckworth (RHP)
–Santo Luis (RHP)
–Nate Spears (IF)
–Drew Sutton (IF)
Spears and Luis were both in the Red Sox system last year. All of the players were added to the roster of Triple-A Pawtucket; all but Luis received invitations to big league spring training.
Here is a thumbnail of each of the five from the press release announcing their signings: Read the rest of this entry »
|12.03.10 at 2:08 pm ET|
According to ESPN.com, the Red Sox made a two-year, $30 million offer to Mariano Rivera, with the idea that, had he accepted, they would not have tendered a contract for the 2011 season to closer Jonathan Papelbon. Rivera instead is close to finalizing a two-year, $30 million offer to return to the Yankees, according to the Associated Press.
Rivera had a 1.80 ERA and converted 33 of 38 save opportunities for the Yankees in 2010. Meanwhile, Papelbon — who entered last year with a career 1.84 ERA — had a career-worst 3.90 mark, and while he saved 37 contests, he also blew eight saves.
Rivera turned 41 last week. His strikeout rate in 2010 (6.8 per nine innings) was his lowest since 1999, but he has also had a sub-2.00 ERA in each of the last three years, and in seven of the last eight.
Papelbon, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, made $9.35 million in 2010. When the Sox formally tendered him a contract for 2011, they ensured that the arbitration-eligible closer will receive a healthy raise next season, likely to more than $11 million.
Multiple major league sources have suggested that, had the Sox non-tendered Papelbon, he would have received a 2011 salary that will fall below what he earned in arbitration. One source, for instance, suggested that Papelbon — based on his 2010 struggles, the perception that he is not as dominant as he was from 2006-08 and the fact that he does have a shoulder issue (a subluxation of his right shoulder late in 2006) in his past — might be in line for a deal along the lines of the two-year, $20.5 million deal that Kerry Wood received to close for the Indians in 2009-10 (Wood ended up being traded to the Yankees late in 2010).
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