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Red Sox complete Gonzalez deal

Report: Slugger will receive eight-year, $167m extension

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / December 6, 2010

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was a day of “it’s on, it’s off.’’ A day of fan frustration ended on a high note last night when, according to a major league source, the Red Sox acquired slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres for prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes, in addition to a player to be named. The deal was agreed to even though Gonzalez had yet to sign a contract extension.

Late last night, the Red Sox announced a news conference for today at 11 a.m. “to make a major baseball announcement.’’

According to SI.com's Jon Heyman, the sides have agreed to the framework of an extension, reportedly for eight years and $167 million.

“This makes them the favorite,’’ said Kevin Millar, the former Red Sox who is working for MLB TV at this week’s Winter Meetings. "He's an unbelievable hitter and he's going to make a big difference. This gives [Kevin Youkilis] a chance to go back to his natural position [third base]. They are stacked right now. I can’t see how they can be beaten.’’

Of course, the Yankees will have something to say about that. The Yankees are expected to be major players for lefthander Cliff Lee and/or outfielder Carl Crawford.

One player the Red Sox did lose out on was Jayson Werth, who signed a staggering seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals yesterday. The Red Sox had eyed Werth to go along with Gonzalez, but when Werth asked for more than five years, the Red Sox were out of it. The Sox also didn’t value the right fielder at $18 million per season. The feeling among baseball people was that the Nationals, in order to attract free agents, have to overpay. And in this case they did and they landed their man.

Sox general manager Theo Epstein is due in Florida this afternoon. Just how many years and how much money it’s going to take to get Gonzalez’s name on an extension is hard to gauge. One theory is the Sox are holding off on announcing an extension until after Opening Day to avoid adding more to their luxury tax threshold. If the Sox go over $178 million in payroll, they are subject to a 30 percent tax for monies over that figure. The Sox had to pay a small tax last year, but it raised their tax rate. Some team officials don’t see that as an issue.

Throughout the day there were varying reports on whether the deal would get done. Some baseball people felt the pressure was on the Sox to cement the deal even without Gonzalez signing an extension because word had leaked that the club was giving up some of its top prospects and the fan base was already stirring about the club making its biggest acquisition since signing Manny Ramirez.

Over the past few days, the Sox put Gonzalez through a series of physicals and an MRI to make sure his shoulder recovery was going according to schedule. They also investigated some of Gonzalez’s past injuries.

The team hosted Gonzalez at the posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston.

According to sources familiar with the talks, the Sox were looking at an extension that was in the five-to-six-year range and also would have increased this season’s $6.2 million salary with a bonus. The Gonzalez side wanted a pact equal to Mark Teixeira’s eight-year, $178 million deal.

Gonzalez and Teixeira are comparable players. Both are Gold Glove-caliber first basemen. Though Teixeira is a switch hitter, Gonzalez has a perfect inside-out stroke for Fenway Park.

The deal was important for the Padres because they could not get three top prospects in any other deal they sought. If the deal fell through, the club would have kept Gonzalez and tried to move him at the trading deadline. If he walked as a free agent after 2011, San Diego would merely receive draft picks. Because several of San Diego’s brass are familiar with Boston’s prospects, this deal was a win for all parties.

This could be a case similar to when the Sox traded top prospect Carl Pavano to Montreal for Pedro Martinez despite not having Martinez signed to an extension. About a month after the trade, however, the ace received his long-term deal.

So what’s next for the Sox?

Scott Boras said yesterday he’s maintained close contact with Epstein on Adrian Beltre. With Youkilis shifting to third, it doesn’t appear the Sox will now be in the market for him. The Sox have ruled out a move to the outfield for Youkilis, so the team you currently see could be the team that starts the season. That would mean J.D. Drew in right, Jacoby Ellsbury in center, and a combination of Mike Cameron/Ryan Kalish in left.

The team will continue to look at relievers, likely lefthander Brian Fuentes and righthanders Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, or Kerry Wood. Right now, the reliever market is stuck on three-year deals which the Sox don’t like. There is a definite need for middle relief/lefty help with Hideki Okajima gone.

There’s also a buzz the team is still trying to move Jonathan Papelbon in hopes of getting something for him in his last year of arbitration. The Sox reportedly offered Mariano Rivera a three-year, $51 million deal before the future Hall of Fame closer decided to stay with the Yankees.

There’s also a developing market for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Trades of Papelbon or Matsuzaka could help the Sox replenish the lost prospects in the Gonzalez deal, though they’ve done a good job of picking up extra draft picks by losing Martinez and possibly Beltre.

With Gonzalez aboard, the Sox can mix and match their lineup. Youkilis could DH when the Sox face a tough lefty, allowing David Ortiz to rest.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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