(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)
Over the last 24 hours, the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres have all but agreed to a deal that would send All Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez headed east for a package of prospects. Although no one can dispute Gonzalez’ talents as a player, does the move alone make the Red Sox better?
There are two small red flags with Gonzalez. The first is he has played most of his career in one of the weakest divisions in baseball: the National League West. Because performance is best measured relative to competition, the Padres’ 1B may not be as successful playing in the AL East. Again, that’s not really a major concern, but it could suggest a lower level to what should be high expectations. The second question mark deals with Gonzalez’ recent surgery to repair his injured right shoulder. Speaking on XX1090AM in San Diego, the Padres’ slugging 1B indicated the surgery would require a long rehab and that he might not be able to swing a bat for 4-5 months. That was on November 10. Doing the math, it’s possible that Gonzalez will not be ready to take his normal cuts until at least Spring Training, but perhaps as late as Opening Day. If the latter, it’s very possible that Gonzalez wouldn’t be in peak form until several weeks, or months, into the season.
Even with both of those concerns noted, acquiring Gonzalez is close to a no-brainer for the Red Sox, provided they are able to sign him to a long-term contract. Of course, picking up star players in the trade market also comes with another cost, which in this case could be Casey Kelly (ranked 18th overall by ESPN’s Keith Law), the team’s top prospect. If the combination of money expended (Gonzalez’ 2011 salary is a low $6.3 million, but a renegotiated deal could inflate that figure) and prospects traded prevent the team from making another acquisition (e.g., Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Justin Upton, etc.), the end result might not look so good.
Finally, if the deal for Gonzalez is consummated, that likely means the end of Adrian Beltre’s brief time in Boston. Going forward, it’s almost certain that Gonzalez will be a more productive hitter than Beltre. However, it isn’t for sure that he’ll perform much better than Beltre did in 2010. So, when you also consider Beltre’s top-shelf defense at a key position like third, the exchange becomes even less favorable. After all, Gonzalez’ gold glove at 1B will be replacing Kevin Youkilis’, who would be asked to move across the diamond to third, where he isn’t as sound defensively. Even if Youkilis is able to play third base at an acceptable level, he likely will not be in the class of Beltre. As a result, with all things considered, the Red Sox could be taking a step back in terms of infield defense.
With the departure of Beltre and Victor Martinez, the Red Sox have some ground to make up on offense. Without a doubt, Adrian Gonzalez goes along way toward doing just that. However, Boston will need its new acquisition to be healthy as well as able to make a quick adjustment to the AL East. What’s more, after wrapping up the deal, the Red Sox will need to have enough flexibility to make another addition. If everything falls into place, the deal should revive Boston’s standing in the division, but if the questions mentioned above are not answered in the affirmative, the benefit of adding Gonzalez might wind up being a more long-term proposition.