Adrian Gonzalez Traded to Boston for Guys You Haven’t Heard of… Yet

Slow news day, eh? Neither team has confirmed this, but sources too numerous to count are reporting that the Padres and Red Sox have agreed to a trade that would send All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston for right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, center fielder Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later.

This has felt inevitable for a very long time. Not just the fact of Adrian’s leaving town but his ending up in Boston. There’s been way too much smoke around these parts for the past, I dunno, 18-24 months… there had to be a big fire somewhere, right?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m sorry to see Adrian go. He represented the team and his hometown well. He was a pleasure to watch, both at the plate and in the field. The Red Sox and their fans are very fortunate to have him. (Think Mo Vaughn in his prime with a glove, or Justin Morneau with more power and fewer MVP awards.)

This is where a dig about deep pockets would go if I felt it were appropriate, which I don’t… so we’ll skip all that… Although I couldn’t resist giving Tom Werner “bonus irony points for taking salary off the Padres hands” (I said there had to be a fire, not a fire sale). Or as Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins put it, “San Diego has given Boston Ted Williams and Adrian Gonzalez. Boston gave San Diego Matt Antonelli.”

In moving to a media market that matters in such things, Gonzalez becomes an immediate threat to win the American League MVP in 2011 (not to mention filthy rich assuming he’s able to work out a contract extension with the Red Sox). As I said in the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual, “If Gonzalez played in New York or Boston, you’d be sick of hearing about him by now.” So, yeah, prepare to be sick. Maybe invest in paper bags.

Okay, whatever. So Gonzalez becomes the new Tom Brady… some guy on the other side of the country that gets talked about all the time. Good for him.

We don’t care anymore because we’ve got a team to follow here, and he ain’t on it. (I was talking about Gonzalez, but the same applies to Brady… although his former backup’s brother once pitched for the Padres; do connections get any more tenuous than that?) So morn the loss… grab some tissues (or one of them thar paper bags that I mentioned a bit ago), do what you gotta do and then…

Let’s look at what the Padres got (Alex Speier does an excellent job of this, so we’ll refer to his article early and often). It’s like Christmas time in… oh wait, this is already December so… uh, let’s skip the metaphor.

Casey Kelly

Kelly, a right-handed pitcher, was Boston’s top prospect according to Baseball America, which in July 2010 rated him the no. 24 prospect in all of baseball (Simon Castro placed no. 17). Kelly struggled last season, posting an unimpressive 5.31 ERA at Double-A Portland, but there may have been mitigating circumstances.

Dan Hayes notes that Kelly’s “fastball velocity increased from 89-92 to 90-94″ and suggests that “learning how to handle increased velocity” could have contributed to his poor showing in 2010. Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen (as related in Speier’s article) offers similar thoughts:

Watch the stuff… I know people are going to look at stats and say, “This guy didn’t have that good of a season.” … We beg to differ on that. We feel that he’s had a really good season.

Even bearing in mind that Hazen is part of the organization and has a vested interest, those are encouraging words. Pitchers are an unpredictable lot, especially young ones who are learning their craft. Smart people acknowledge Kelly’s potential, and who am I to argue with smart people?

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo is a 6’3″, 220 lb first baseman out of Fort Lauderdale. Taken in the sixth round of the 2007 draft under the watch of current Padres staffer Jason McLeod and ranked no. 3 in the Boston organization by BA, Rizzo elicits comparisons (hype alert) to Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira.

Speier notes that both Gonzalez and Rizzo spent their age 20 campaigns at Double-A Portland in the Eastern League. How nice of them to be so accommodating for our comparison purposes:

Player   Year  PA   BA  OBP  SLG BB/K PA/HR
Gonzalez 2002 573 .266 .344 .437 .482 33.71
Rizzo    2010 467 .263 .334 .481 .450 23.35

This is promising, but be careful not to become too enamored of the numbers… past performance is no guarantee, your mileage may vary, three for a dollar, step right up… Look, Ruben Rivera led the SAL with 28 homers as a 20-year-old in 1994. That year, at the same age, in the same league, Jermaine Dye hit 15… Magglio Ordonez hit 11… dig? Don’t dismiss Rizzo’s stats, but keep them in their proper perspective.

It’s easy (and tempting) to look back, knowing what we now know about Gonzalez, and make certain assumptions about players who put up those types of numbers. But let’s not set ourselves up for unncessary disappointment, okay? (Seriously, losing Gonzalez is disappointing enough… we don’t need any other appointments.)

Rizzo is a promising young player who could fill a need sooner rather than later. We’ll leave it at that for now and see what more we can divine, say, eight years hence.

Reymond Fuentes

Boston’s no. 6 prospect according to BA, Fuentes is Carlos Beltran’s cousin, which is exciting until you remember that Cristian Guerrero is Vladimir Guerrero’s cousin (or Tony Gwynn Jr. is Tony Gwynn’s kid… what, too soon?). Fuentes was taken with the 28th pick overall in the 2009 draft and spent last season (his first full season) at Greenville of the Low-A SAL, where he hit .270/.328/.377 and stole 42 bases in 47 attempts… which sounds suspiciously like Carlos Gomez to me. compares him to Jacoby Ellsbury and notes that Fuentes possesses “close to 80 speed.”

Fuentes gives the Padres a fallback option in case the whole Cameron Maybin thing doesn’t work… or Donavan Tate (whom Marc Hulet at FanGraphs places behind Fuentes in his updated Top 10 Padres prospects). You know, it sucks to be Blake Tekotte right about now…


It’s all speculation at this point. Bill Center mentions 2010 draftees Kolbrin Vitek and Anthony Ranaudo as possibilities, but who knows.

Other Implications

We knew headed into the off-season that Gonzalez was the lead domino and that the direction in which he fell would determine how the rest of this winter would unfold. With one question answered, several more come into tighter focus, among which are these:

  1. Who’s on first? I have no idea, but my suspicion is that he’s not currently in the organization. Kyle Blanks is hurt, Kyle Phillips is old, Rizzo is young, Mike Baxter profiles more as a supporting player… As far as I know, Ryan Ludwick doesn’t play first base (insert obvious right-field defense joke here)… Chris Denorfia? Aaron Cunningham? As for external options, the best of the available free agents that won’t cost draft picks are Lyle Overbay and Adam LaRoche. I kind of like Overbay in a David Segui kind of way but don’t know what he might be asking. Nick Johnson, who is listed as a DH, might be worth a flier if he can still play the field and/or keep from getting hurt (neither of which is a given).
  2. What about the middle infield? It’s a disaster, thanks for asking. I was hoping the Padres might land a second baseman or, better, a shortstop in any potential Gonzalez deal, but you can’t have everything (as Steven Wright observes, “Where would you put it?”). As it stands, they’ll probably go with Don Mason and Enzo Hernandez. Less facetiously… well, I don’t have a less facetious version. Hope that Everth Cabrera remembers how not to suck and think really good thoughts.
  3. What happens to Heath Bell and Ryan Ludwick? My guess is, nothing… at least not now. With Gonzalez gone, the Padres should be able to pay both of those guys. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both leave San Diego at some point next summer.

There are probably other questions I’m missing, but it’s a long winter and we’ll have plenty of time to discuss those as we think of them.

Wrapping Up

The real question, in the end, is whether the Padres were better off a) hanging onto Gonzalez in the hope that they could duplicate last season’s unexpected success, then letting him walk after the season and getting two draft picks that they might be able to develop into something or b) moving him for four promising young players who already have professional experience in the hope that long-term gains from said players would offset any fan backlash that might accompany trading a hometown superstar mere months after a 90-win season. The backlash issue can be dismissed somewhat as a mitigating factor because it was going to happen whether he left as a free agent or via trade.

So the bottom line is, were the Padres better off with the right to sign two amateur players and another year of Adrian or with four professional players? Most likely, it is the latter. In equation form:

3-4 top prospects + fan backlash > 2 draft picks + 1 year of Adrian + fan backlash

Someone should (and probably will) apply the Guttridge-Wang trade model to this bad boy. You, in your mom’s basement (really? really?), get to work on that.

What makes this difficult is that the Padres are coming off one of the most successful (and most surprising) seasons in franchise history. (As Corey Brock notes in an exchange with Padres GM Jed Hoyer, “When asked when Gonzo’s trade value would be highest, Hoyer said ‘last year.’”) But the fact that it was so surprising should give us pause.

This doesn’t belong anywhere, but you can infuriate your friends by pointing out that with Gonzalez gone, Chase Headley has hit more career home runs as a member of the Padres (32) than anyone on the current roster. Will Venable (27) and Nick Hundley (21) are right on his heels. Nate Colbert’s record (163) is safe for a while.

It’s helpful here to consider a question once posed by Jonah Keri: “Where in the success cycle does my team stand?” On the heels of two poor seasons, 2010 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. If you’re in Hoyer’s shoes, do you cash in on the feel-good story (that would have felt a lot better and presumably been more marketable had they held on to win the NL West) and hope to claw your way to an 80- to 85-win season? The Giants won the World Series. The Rockies aren’t going anywhere.

Last season made for a fun ride and a great story. But with the anticipated payroll being what it is (whether anyone likes it or not is immaterial), and with few palatable options available to reinforce what the Padres currently have, the team realistically was looking at a third-place finish in 2011 with or without Gonzalez. And before you scoff at that, consider that a third-place finish is a heckuva lot better than what the Padres were thought to be looking at coming into 2010. (Sure, they could surprise again… but then, it would be a surprise.)

I view last season as a blip on the radar, and it seems that Hoyer and company do as well. This may upset some people in the short run, but as a long-term strategy, I’m completely comfortable with it. And hey, if folks jump off the bandwagon again… that just means more room for me at the ballpark.

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15 Responses »

  1. Well, knowing it was going to happen isn’t any better when it does happen… it just did happen. Sigh…

    Thanks, Adrian Gonzalez. Good luck in Boston; they are going to love you with adoration and money, too. Be prepared to be hated by the Yankees.

    I’ll always remember you as the trigonometry teacher in a sling. :)

  2. I don’t think the PTBNL can be a 2010 draft pick. Draft picks can’t be traded for one year, and PTBNLs can last only six months. Six months hasn’t passed since the 2010 draft yet (let alone six months since the pick signed), so 2010 draftees aren’t eligible to be a PTBNL yet. I guess they could officially delay the trade a few weeks to until they become eligible, but I think that’s an unlikely scenario. More likely, it’s someone who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but can’t be traded until after the Rule 5 draft is over.

  3. Looks like Center agrees with you, Ken. The Vitek/Ranaudo suggestions seem to be removed from his article now.

    Peter Gammons says the PTBNL is not a prime player, which is true of almost the entire Rule 5 pool.

  4. It was a great story while it lasted. Hometown boy. Mexican-American. Superstar. Charitable. All-around good guy. The great story doesn’t end for Adrian, though. He’ll now get to play in front of a packed house at historic Fenway Park on a team that will contend for the World Series Championship every year. And don’t forget about the $100+ million he’ll be pocketing. Sunny San Diego will be here for him in the offseason when it’s cold in New England. Can’t wait to see how many HR’s he hits now. I’m guessing a minimum of 45 but wouldn’t be surprised if he hit 50+.

    I’m gonna stay optimistic for the same reason I was before last season. Heath Bell (assuming he’s still a Padre on opening day), Mike Adams, and Luke Gregerson are freakin’ good. Game over after 6 IP if they can manage to get there with a lead. And the rotation still looks pretty solid, in my opinion. The question is whether the offense can scrap together the 2-3 runs necessary. The veterans that were usually coming up with the big hits during the ’10 season (Torrealba, Hairston, Jr., Tejada, Eckstein) are gone so some of these young guys (Headley, Venable, Maybin) are going to have to step up their clutchness. Would be nice to get Hairston back to start at SS or 2B and see what Jed can do to upgrade the other middle infield spot. They did just free up over $5 million, after all. Orlando Hudson can’t cost anymore than that, can he?

    Regardless of what else Hoyer can do this offseason to upgrade the team, Geoff is 100% right. The WS Champs are in our division. The Rockies are very good. And even though Geoff is ignoring the Dodgers (probably on purpose) in this piece, they have as deep a starting rotation as anyone and appear to have some deep pockets once again and could continue to upgrade. Even with A-GON on this team, they’d be lucky to scrap together 85 wins. Not enough in this division. It was the right thing to do. I’ll take three top-6 prospects who have already had their bonuses paid by the Red Sox over two draft picks that the Padres would be responsible for paying. Looking forward to see what else happens with the Pads before spring training. It’s already been one exciting offseason.

  5. I’m just really disappointed they didn’t get any major league ready talent like they were able to get in the Peavy deal (and considering how much time Peavy missed and how much he’s getting paid, that trade looks like it’s only getting better, especially if Poreda lives up to his potential). This is now a team with basically one infielder (Headley, who I’m still not completely sold on) and basically one known quantity in the OF (Ludwick, who looked terrible at times down the stretch). At least the FA depth at first is pretty good, maybe we’ll grab someone on a 1 or 2 yr deal and not lose too much at 1B (though I doubt Konerko is coming to town), and I like a lot of the options out there for SP. I would go so far as to say that the Padres should be able to get 2 veteran SPs on one year deals, and that each could win 15 games because of Petco. Even in the outfield, I think there are a few guys out there that could add some value (maybe Scott Podsednik?). But outside of the O-Dog, is there any middle infielder you would even bother calling about an asking price? Orlando Cabrera, if we get desperate I guess? And where I can I bet the UNDER on the most HR a Padre will hit next year?

  6. It had to be done. The Padres will, for the foreseeable future, not have the money to compete for quality free agents. They will succeed through the farm system or not at all. Suddenly, the Padres have a much more impressive farm system than they had yesterday. You never know with young players, but it’s not unreasonable to speculate that they could have gone through the 2011 and 2012 drafts and gotten less value than they got in a single day. And they still get to go through the 2011 and 2012 drafts anyhow.

  7. Geoff,
    Thank you for the solid breakdown of what has happened in the past 24 hours or so. You mentioned briefly the hole at first base. I’m kind of hoping that the Padres fill the position for 2011 from within the organization. I feel like after Baxter’s year at Portland he deserves a spot on team, so why not give him a look at 1B, at least until Blanks is ready (even then they could share the position). Nothing in FA is particularly promising (especially if Lance Berkman is worth 8 mill next year). The team is even more unlikely to repeat last season’s success, so why not get a look at as many of the minor league guys as we can in 2011?