The acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez by the Red Sox would have far-reaching implications throughout baseball.
Boston is in negotiations with Gonzalez on an extension, but if they can come to terms with the All-Star slugger — and the deal that would send four Red Sox prospects (right-handed starter Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and center fielder Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named later) to San Diego is completed — the ramifications would be felt throughout baseball.
The Red Sox
With the addition of Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter, Jayson Werth suddenly would become a better fit in Boston than the other big free-agent outfielder, Carl Crawford.
Werth, as a right-handed hitter, would provide greater balance. Crawford would make the Sox predominantly left-handed.
Consider this potential lineup for 2011:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (L)
Dustin Pedroia, 2B (R)
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (L)
Kevin Youkilis, 3B (R)
David Ortiz, DH (L)
Werth, LF (R)
J.D. Drew, RF (L)
Marco Scutaro, SS (R)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (S)
There is another scenario, however: Sign Crawford, trade Ellsbury for prospects and platoon Mike Cameron and Ryan Kalish in center.
Finances also could be a consideration: The Sox have had only one $100 million contract in their history — Manny Ramirez’s eight-year, $160 million deal.
If they signed Crawford on top of Gonzalez, they may be looking at two such agreements in a matter of weeks.
Hoo boy. They remain the favorites to sign left-hander Cliff Lee. They still need to re-sign lefty Andy Pettitte. But the Red Sox’s burst of activity could spur them to make a strong push for Crawford or Werth.
Signing either likely would force the Yankees to trade one of their other high-priced outfielders, either Nick Swisher or Curtis Granderson.
The upgrade might not be worth the vast investment, but in the Yankees’ perpetual zero-sum game with the Red Sox, it’s which team has the most toys.
Still sitting pretty.
The Red Sox, for now are, still interested. So are the Yankees, who might not view Lee as enough of a counter to the Sox’s moves.
Both AL West powers also are in. The Angels badly want Crawford, and the Rangers view him as a potential fallback if they fail to sign Lee.
The Gonzalez trade would cost him critical leverage — the Red Sox, if they get Gonzalez, would replace Beltre by moving Youkilis to third.
The Athletics reportedly bid five years, $64 million for Beltre, an offer that has been neither confirmed nor denied. The Angels also figure to be involved; they are not especially high on free-agent closer Rafael Soriano, according to a major league source.
In late August, when the Padres were still in first place, CEO Jeff Moorad told FOXSports.com that it was “a foregone conclusion” that Gonzalez would be in San Diego to start the 2011 season.
The Padres will officially concede 2011 with this trade.
The move actually might be the right baseball decision. The Padres were not going to sign Gonzalez long-term, so they might as well extract the best possible return.
If right-hander Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes develop into quality major leaguers, or even stars, all the better. But once again, after nearly making the playoffs, the Padres are rebuilding.
Could stay in San Diego — at least for now.
While one source said the Padres will “absolutely” trade Bell on top of Gonzalez, another indicated that such a move is “highly, highly unlikely.”
The Padres would not want to further upset their fans. They would not want to destabilize their bullpen. They also believe Bell would bring more in a July trade.
A number of closers are available as free agents — Soriano, Bobby Jenks and even Kerry Wood, J.J. Putz and Kevin Gregg.
Bell will receive an increase from $4 million in his final year of arbitration, then become a free agent.
The first-base market
If the Red Sox sign Gonzalez, the Great First-Base Market of the 2011-12 offseason would be reduced to Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Gonzalez’s extension, though, probably would have a greater effect on Fielder, virtually ensuring the Brewers cannot re-sign him — not that they ever had much of a chance.
Pujols’ yardstick is Alex Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees — different stratosphere.
Fielder, 26, is two years younger than Gonzalez and boasts a higher career OPS-plus — that is, his OPS adjusted to his league and ballpark.
His body type and below-average defense will alarm some clubs, but in an era of decreasing power, he still will have great value. And if the Cardinals sign Pujols, he could end up the only first baseman on the open market.