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Gonzalez Deal Unlikely … For Now

12.16.09 at 3:25 pm ET
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According to multiple major-league sources, there’s very little likelihood of a deal between the Red Sox and Padres involving Adrian Gonzalez in the near future. As has been the case since last summer, the Sox continue to check in with the Padres on Gonzalez and to monitor his availability, but the team has not made a concerted push for the slugging first baseman in the aftermath of signing pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Mike Cameron. Indeed, one source suggested that there was absolutely nothing to the idea that a deal might soon be hatched.

That said, the Sox are in a position of greater strength than they were before the signings to explore a deal. Sox GM Theo Epstein noted in the press conference to introduce Lackey that his club is in better position to explore deals now that it has added two pieces to its 2010 puzzle.

“We like the position we’re in right now. We have some depth, some options, and some flexibility going forward,” said Epstein. “This puts us in a position to have some flexibility if we need to make a move down the road to have some offense.”

Lackey could, for instance, allow the Sox to consider moving a pitcher like Clay Buchholz as the centerpiece of a package. The signing of Cameron to a two-year deal gives the Sox four outfielders — Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew and Jeremy Hermida (the latter of whom the Sox believe will receive his fair share of playing time, in contrast to the possibility that Hermida would be limited to spot bench duty had the Sox signed Jason Bay or Matt Holliday) — who are under team control for the next two years. With Cameron’s arrival, the Sox would find it easier to deal some of the young, athletic outfielders in their system, such as Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish and Ryan Westmoreland, whom the Padres would be almost certain to seek, along with complementary players to add to a potential package. (It is worth noting that some in the Sox organization consider Westmoreland nearly untouchable.)

Even so, there is no sense that there is a fit right now between the clubs. The Padres, understandably, would seek a Brinks truck return for Gonzalez, whose skill set (40-homer power, Gold Glove caliber defense) and salary ($4.75 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011) make him as desirable a trade target as there is in the game. San Diego has shown little inclination to compromise on its asking price.

That may change during the season. If the Padres conclude they will not contend either in 2010 or 2011, then they would likely make Gonzalez available before this year’s trade deadline. At that time, the Padres would have a greater incentive to deal the first baseman, since they would face the prospect of dealing him before this year’s deadline or trying to move him next offseason, when the potential return would be diminished by the prospect of getting just one year of Gonzalez’ services, rather than two. And if the Padres do make Gonzalez available, the Sox would undoubtedly be one of the most aggressive teams to pursue his services (even if it is an exaggeration to say that they would include both Buchholz and Ellsbury in a package).

The Sox have a strong track record in adding major position players mid-year, as evidenced by the acquisition of Jason Bay in 2008 and Victor Martinez in 2009. No doubt, they would love to continue that trend with Gonzalez.

But for now, it would seem, such a trade scenario remains far more likely to unfold during the season than it is this offseason. Padres GM Jed Hoyer and manager Bud Black are both on record (here and here) as saying they expect Gonzalez to remain in San Diego at the start of next year, and there has been little evidence that there has been a status change amidst the swirl of events at Fenway Park in recent days.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, john lackey
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