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Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Gonzalez’

Before Spring Training, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman labeled the Boston Red Sox as the team to beat. In September, everyone who played them seemed to agree.

In the past, Red Sox fans could blame misfortune on the Curse of the Bambino.

Thanks to a 7-20 record down the stretch, the Red Sox blew a nine game advantage over the Rays in the standings, thereby authoring the “greatest” final month collapse by any team in baseball history.  Since the fabled sale of Babe Ruth in 1919, such disappointment has been an integral part of life in Red Sox nation. From the Babe to Bucky to Buckner and Boone, the Red Sox have regularly been on the short-end of many historic moments. Now, you can add Baltimore to that list.

Of course, before the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, all of the team’s most tragic moments could be explained away by the Curse of the Bambino. That one catchall was the perfect way for Red Sox fans to both retain their passion and their sanity. Because Boston has won two World Series since then, however, that security blanket has been stripped away. So, as Red Sox Nation begins to deal with the aftermath of the team’s September to misremember, below are a few suggestions for a new curse that the Fenway faithful can use once they are done with the four letter ones.

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Baseball’s recession is officially over. In case you weren’t paying attention when Bud Selig announced that the sport raked in $7 billion in 2010 (an over 15% spike during an economic downturn), the Nationals sent a friendly reminder by inking Jayson Werth’s to a mega-$126mn, seven-year deal.

Although many in the baseball world were left scratching their heads after the Nationals’ announcement, there really shouldn’t be any mystery. After a flattish period in 2008-2009 marked by “fiscal restraint”, baseball has resumed its exponential revenue growth, which should usher in an offseason of big money deals. By the spring, contracts to Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee should join Jayson Werth’s and Troy Tulowitzki’s as being among the most lucrative in the game’s history.

The first big sign that the market would be more robust this year occurred when Adam Dunn signed with the White Sox. Only two years earlier, the slugging first baseman/outfielder was forced to accept a two-year/$20 million deal at the age of 29. This year, however, he was rewarded with a four-year/$56 million deal (to likely be a DH no less). Also, in addition to throwing money at the big names, major league owners awash in cash have once again begun to extend their generosity to lesser players. Lance Berkman ($8 million), Rod Barajas $3.25 million and Juan Uribe ($21 million/three years) are just three examples of contracts that probably wouldn’t have been offered over the last two off seasons.

The return of bigger contracts isn’t a bad thing, although it will likely be portrayed as such. What it reveals is that the sport is not only financially healthy today, but the internal projections for future growth are robust. However, is this a case of the rich getting richer and a widening gulf between baseballs haves and have nots?

The Adrian Gonzalez trade to Boston has already been naively portrayed as “exhibit A” for why baseball needs an economic overhaul (i.e., a salary cap). And, you can’t blame people for feeling that way after listening to Padres GM Jed Hoyer talk about how the team couldn’t afford to re-sign him after the 2011 season. But, is that statement true?

2010 Operating Income, By Team ($ million)

Source: Forbes.com

According to Forbes, the San Diego Padres ranked fifth in baseball with $32.1 million in 2009 operating profit, despite having revenue near the bottom of the sport. I guess it helps to have a new ballpark built with 57% public financing? No one asked Hoyer why a team with such an impressive EBITDA couldn’t afford a player like Gonzalez, but too many in the media seem to accept it as a given that “smaller markets” can’t afford high priced free agents. If asked, he undoubtedly would have had a creative answer, but the bottom line is the Padres are more interested in their bottom line than place in the standings.

Ironically, during his press conference, Hoyer talked about hope for increased attendance and a new lucrative cable deal, both of which might help the team expand its payroll in the future. It was a curious statement because when it comes to making money, you usually have to spend it first. After all, can the Padres really expect more fans in the seats if the team flounders in the NL West? Also, wouldn’t it have more leverage negotiating a cable deal while the team is playing well? Maybe Hoyer thinks the team can still be competitive, but without Gonzalez, it’s hard to see how the already offense-starved Padres are going to score any runs at all. After surprising the baseball world with a 90 win season in 2010, the Padres now seem poised for an immediate return to the cellar. If that happens, why should San Diego care about the Padres?

Since 2002, the Padres’ franchise value has increased 132%, while its revenue has increased 87%, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, its payroll rose only 5%, which helps explain how the team went from an $8 million EBITDA loss to over $32 million in operating profit last year. How much more successful (both on the field and in the board room) could the team have been if it invested more of its growth into players? We’ll never know, but the bigger question is whether the Padres are going to treat the current decade in the same manner as it did the last one? Unfortunately for fans in San Diego, it seems as if that might be the case. If so, their outrage shouldn’t be directed at the economics of the sport, but instead toward an ownership group reaping its benefits.

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(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?

The Red Sox hope to add Gonzalez’ powerful opposite field swing to their lineup.

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.

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