While the 2012 season is not lost at this moment, there remains a false front over this club after the trading deadline that came and went this past July. Rumors were aplenty and while Ben Cherington didn’t make his bold move that he was given power to seek out, we learn that the LA Dodgers had asked about the Red Sox first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe reported that the Dodgers were interested in Gonzalez at the deadline as they were seeking a power bat for their stretch run in the NL West. While the Red Sox brass still entertains the thought of competing for their own stretch run, the thought of dealing Gonzo was at least entertained. Only to have the talks stall almost immediately when Cherington asked for a king’s ransom and then some in order to pry the gold glove first baseman away from Boston.
Peter Gammons of MLB.com then reported that the talks went nowhere when the Dodgers refuted to give up prospects or major leaguers for Gonzalez, slightly contrary to Shaughnessy’s reports. While one feels the Sox should have made the move and acquire players to build around for the future (Shaughnessy), the other states a deal was never discussed when the price tag for the former San Diego Padres was announced.
Regardless of who’s right or who’s wrong, it brings up an interesting debate. Clearly team’s are interested in Gonzalez and perhaps this winter more clubs will show a willingness to give up a boatload of prospects for Gonzo’s services. This begging the question of whether the Red Sox should look at moving him and acquire multiple prospects and current major leaguers to build around?
You will recall that Theo Epstein had been drooling over Gonzalez for years and finally landed the big slugger in the winter prior to the 2011 season, giving up top Red Sox prospects in the deal. Then in true Epstein fashion he threw hoards of money at Gonzalez, inking him to a 7-year, $154MM extension, averaging over $21MM per season. Not bad for a guy who averaged over 30 home runs over five year’s in San Diego and the pitcher friendly Petco Park.
His first season in Boston he belted 27 long balls and 117 RBI while producing a slash line of .338/.410/.548/.957 and threatening for the AL batting title into the final weeks of the season. This year he’s struggled out of the gate and while he’s on fire at the plate as of late, climbing his average to .307, it’s the lack of power that has most concerned. Only 10 home runs for Gonzo to date and while he’s hitting over .400 with runners in scoring position and is likely to push for the century mark in RBI yet again, it’s hard to pay someone $21MM for maybe 20 home runs.
While the Dodgers aren’t exactly prospect rich in their farm system, perhaps other clubs will inquire on Gonzalez this winter. Do the Red Sox keep the all-star first baseman as someone to build their future franchise around? Surely his power will return next season, if not in the final two months of this season.
But what about unloading his salary? What about freeing up over $20 million dollars per season to go out and sign some impact players that could hit free agency over the next few years. What about dealing for Matt Garza and signing him to a long-term deal? All possibilities but given that Gonzo does much more than just drive in runs, makes him a difficult player to replace.
Gonzalez is a three-time Gold Glove winner and we’ve all witnessed first hand how smooth he operates over at first base. He’s constantly digging out low throws in the dirt, scooping them and securing the ball to record the out at pivotal times of the game. Or how about his quick decision making when he’ll throw the ball to third to nab the lead runner instead of taking the easy out at first. Both perfect examples of how valuable Gonzalez is when looking at both sides of the ball.
So the home runs aren’t there this season. He’s one of the top hitters in the majors with runners in scoring position and that is pretty damn impressive when you consider the elite hitters in the game. A struggling Red Sox club with a magnitude of story lines outside of baseball tend to over shadow the finer stats such as this one with Gonzo.
When we posed the question on Facebook a couple of days ago the reaction was mixed with the majority of commentors against the thought of trading Gonzalez. Considering that the Sox just traded away a former first baseman of the future in Lars Anderson and gave up Anthony Rizzo to get Gonzo, there isn’t exactly a prospect ready to assume the everyday duties at first. While free-agency is an option to sign one, we are all hoping that Cherington heads down the path of resistance to play with house money and focus on trades and drafts to improve this club in the long run. Theo’s mistakes are still front and center with this club and we don’t need another costly signing. While Gonzalez is a far cry from a bust this season and almost certainly never will be, his numbers will likely be down from his career average, but that doesn’t mean a complete fire sale is required.
Hang onto Gonzalez, Mr. Cherington. Sure the prospects would be a nice asset to have, but finding someone who has a swing made for Fenway Park that can play award winning defense at first base will be difficult. And if you were to find that special someone, his price tag is likely to be higher than what Gonzo is signed for over the next five seasons, making the move now, a regret later.