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

04.15.11 at 10:18 am ET

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.

Of course, that the Sox now feature two such megadeals after not signing a single player to such a contract during the tenure of GM Theo Epstein prior to this winter (the biggest deal to which the Sox had signed a position player was the five-year, $70 million deal ($14 million AAV) conferred upon J.D. Drew; the biggest overall contract was the five-year, $82.5 million ($16.5 million AAV) contract signed by John Lackey) might seem to represent a departure. But, team officials point out, the team was willing to spend heavily in the past; they simply weren’t able to get deals done. For instance, the Sox had offered Teixeira more than $21 million per year over eight years; likewise, they were willing to commit to Rodriguez as a player making more than $20 million per year during their failed attempts to acquire him from the Rangers in 2003.

And so, the team believes that it did not change its operational philosophy with regards to large, long-term contracts for Gonzalez and Crawford.

“We’€™ve considered contracts of this length for different players in the past. We would have done contracts like these for other players in the past. We just haven’€™t executed. We haven’€™t gotten it done,” Sox Assistant GM Ben Cherington said during the offseason, before the Gonzalez deal was finalized. “It isn’€™t an entirely new thought. It happened this winter that we signed one and if we do an extension with Gonzalez, that’€™s likely to be a significant contract.

“The only way we’€™d commit to that type of contract, consider that type of contract, would be for a player who fit a core need, a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, and still clearly in their prime age seasons. That was a lot of the thought behind Adrian,” Cherington added. “I don’€™t see it as a significant departure. I just see it as the time it came together.”

The deal features the second most guaranteed money in club history, behind only the eight-year, $160 million deal ($20 million) that Manny Ramirez signed with the club in 2000, under a different ownership group and front office. Interestingly, if one were to add Gonzalez’ current $6.3 million salary guarantee to his extension, he would have a $160.3 million guarantee from the Sox over eight years — just edging out Ramirez in club history.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, ben cherington, carl crawford
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