The Red Sox kicked the tires on Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez at the trading deadline during the regular season. They might want to buy the whole car this winter.
We?re talking about a high-performance vehicle.
Gonzalez is 27 and entering his prime. Last season, he hit .277 with 40 home runs and 99 RBIs. He led the majors in walks and had a .407 on-base percentage. He slugged .556 and scored 90 runs.
He?s a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman. Gonzalez committed seven errors in 1,367 chances in 2009 and has a .994 career fielding percentage. He eats up groundballs for breakfast, lunch and dinner and picks anything that?s in his zip code.
He?s durable. Since becoming a full-time player in 2006, he has played 156 games, 161 games, 162 games and 160 games the last four seasons. And in each of those seasons (except last year), his power and production numbers have increased — from 24 jacks and 82 RBIs in ?06 to 30 and 100 in ?07 to 36 and 119 in ?08 to 40 and 99 in ?09. That?s the kind of steady, upward trajectory that makes scouts salivate.
His RBI total may have dipped a little bit last season, but remember, he?s been playing his home games at Petco Field (a notorious pitchers? park) on a team that?s won 138 games over the last two years.
On top of all that, Gonzalez is a bargain. He made $3 million in 2009 and is scheduled to make $4.75 million in 2010 with a club option for $5.5 million (no buyout) in 2011.
There?s not much downside to the slugger.
To land Gonzalez would take a monster package of prospects and perhaps a proven major leaguer, but the reward would be worth the risk for years to come.
The Red Sox just need to figure out which pieces to deal.
If Red Sox assistant GMs Jed Hoyer or Ben Cherington ends up becoming the new Padres? general manager — which appears to be a possibility — Boston and San Diego could reach an agreement that makes sense for both sides. Gonzalez is the face of the Padres, so they are not going to give him up for a bag of bats and a box of balls. But a four- or five-for-one deal could be a win-win deal. San Diego gets top-notch talent to start the rebuilding process, while the Red Sox acquire the All-Star thumper they?ve been craving.
Boston?s lineup would become as potent as any in the majors. Imagine:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Victor Martinez, C
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Lowell/David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Alex Gonzalez, SS
Before Terry Francona can make out the above lineup card, the Red Sox have some big unknowns:
Will Bay accept their contract offer?
Do they want Gonzalez to be their full-time shortstop?
Will Lowell and Ortiz agree to a designated hitter platoon?
The last option might not even be on the table. But having Ortiz hit against righties and Lowell hit against lefties (while getting spot starts at third) is something to consider. Each of them could get about 350-400 at-bats and stay fresh over the course of the season. This would be an unorthodox solution to the too-many-players-not-enough-positions conundrum, but winning a ring might be enough motivation to convince both veterans to share a role.
A lot of things have to shake out before Theo Epstein is introducing Adrian Gonzalez as a Red Sox at a news conference. But if the Red Sox can figure out a way to get him and every other chip falls into place for them this offseason, they could be taking joy rides in duck boats next fall.