|The conclusion of a deal that was a long time in the making||04.15.11 at 4:28 pm ET|
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.
“You 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.”
–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.
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