The Human Trade Rumor is closing his suitcase and boarding a plane. Goodbye speculation, hello Boston. San Diego for New England. Fish tacos for clam chowder.
It is the Trade That Has Seemed Inevitable for nearly two years now, Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, and now Boston general manager Theo Epstein and his merry men have finally pulled the trigger, and it's a doozy.
|The Padres, surprise contenders in 2010, kept Adrian Gonzalez for the push. (Getty Images)|
That'll almost certainly come later this year. By not doing it now, the wily Red Sox will save themselves millions in luxury tax in 2011.
Gonzalez in Fenway Park is like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a T-shirt two sizes too small. After flashing 40-homer power in giant Petco Park, he'll be busting at the seams in Fenway. And with this done, now it's full steam ahead toward Carl Crawford for the Red Sox.
This move covers and strengthens the Red Sox in so many ways you need an umpire's clicker to count them all.
As the sun sets on David Ortiz, the Red Sox get another in-his-prime (28 years old), booming lefty bat that becomes a serious middle-of-the-lineup force.
In adding Gonzalez, the Red Sox make up for losing out on Mark Teixeira to the Yankees during the winter of 2008-2009. Not only does this fill that void, it neutralizes the fact that Teixeira is in the Yankees' lineup.
Gonzalez is the consummate on-base guy (.393 last season, fifth in the NL) and perfectly fits the Red Sox's ongoing goal of improving their run prevention (two Gold Gloves). He brings everything Boston needs except a plan to ease traffic congestion in the Ted Williams Tunnel.
But if he hits anywhere remotely close to Williams, it easily will be enough.
Can he handle the big market? This is one tough hombre. The numbers he put up the past two seasons -- 71 homers, 200 RBI, 60 doubles, 212 walks -- were in the midst of wave after wave of trade rumors (not to mention a right shoulder that last year bothered him significantly from May on and was cleaned up arthroscopically as soon as the season ended). Not until the Padres stunningly found themselves in first place last July did they temporarily dissipate.
He is fazed by neither trade rumors nor bright lights and big cities.
Nor, as he told me during a conversation this spring, is his wife.
"Her story to everybody is, the first year we were married, we moved into nine different condos," Gonzalez said on that March day, chuckling, going back to his transitional days between being Florida's first-round pick (2000) and then being traded to Texas (2003).
|Gonzalez to Red Sox|
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"I had surgery the year before, so we were in spring training and I was rehabbing, then I got sent to Albuquerque, then to Carolina, then I was traded and went to Frisco [Tex.], then they sent me to hang out with [the Rangers] for a few days, then they sent me to the Arizona Fall League.
"I stayed in Scottsdale, but then I went to Tempe to train [for the winter] and then I went to spring training in Surprise [with the Rangers]. When the season started, I went to Oklahoma City.
"She just says, 'I'm used to it. I learned how to put everything in a car and go.'
"Wal-Mart and Target are her best friends."
This guy has been around, and he has made it work everywhere he has gone.
Gonzalez has been a goner in San Diego since his agent, John Boggs, told him months ago that Teixeira's eight-year, $180 million deal with the Yankees should be a touchstone in negotiations for his next contract.
As soon as Boggs and the Sox hammer out an extension that lands somewhere in the neighborhood between Teixeira and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (five years, $125 million), Betsy Gonzalez will have enough to buy her own Target.
This is a franchise-changer for San Diego, too, in that it not only is GM Jed Hoyer's biggest trade so far, it probably will be the most important deal he ever makes during his time in charge of the Padres. Players as multitalented as Gonzalez do not come around very often. The young prospects headed west -- pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes -- had better click.
They do, and the Padres again have a future. They don't, and San Diego is in for more years as a backwater baseball town.
Truth is, relatively new ballpark or not, San Diego mostly is just a pit stop on the way to somewhere else. As Jon Garland (Dodgers), Miguel Tejada (Giants) and Yorvit Torrealba (Rangers) already have shown this winter, and as Ramon Hernandez, Mike Cameron and Randy Wolf did before them, it is the perfect place for the veteran player to make a brief stop, re-establish himself, then sign for bigger money elsewhere.
Or, in the cases of Gonzalez and Jake Peavy, it is the place for the young player to grow into a superstar and then become too expensive. The Padres have fielded offers for Gonzalez over the past 16 months the way a neighborhood ice cream truck draws kids on a July afternoon.
Seattle took a serious run at him. The Angels. The Dodgers. The Cubs. Last spring, Peavy publicly lobbied the White Sox to go out and get him.
But since the Red Sox first talked about Gonzalez with the Padres in July 2009 -- back when that ol' gunslinger Kevin Towers was in charge in San Diego -- nobody had their staying power.
They always did make the most sense, by far. Deep pockets. Rich in prospects. Smart front office that values the overall game, including glove-work. If you could draw up a prototypical player for both Fenway Park and for the current Red Sox brain trust, he would look a lot like Gonzalez.
Toss in the fact that Hoyer spent eight years in Boston's front office before becoming San Diego's GM in October 2009 -- including the last few as Epstein's top lieutenant -- and the fact that Hoyer's assistant Jason McLeod spent seven years in Boston and most recently was the Sox director of scouting, Gonzalez-to-Boston was inevitable.
It wasn't a question of if, but when.
Now we know the when.
Now, let the AL East arms race kick right back into full throttle. The Yankees already are breathing heavy over free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee. Will this cause them to put the full-court press on Crawford?
It's easy to imagine Gonzalez bludgeoning one baseball after the next over the Fenway fences for the next several years.
The Red Sox are on the move.