News and Views: The Adrian Gonzalez Trade
News: The Red Sox and Padres have reportedly agreed to a deal in principle that will send first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in exchange for three prospects — pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and outfielder Reymond Fuentes — plus a minor league player to be named later.
Views: While it's difficult to not like the trade from the perspective of the Red Sox, this agreement may be one of those deals that truly benefits both teams. There was no way that the Padres were going to re-sign Gonzalez before, during, or after the 2011 season. Therefore, it makes sense that San Diego GM Jed Hoyer would try to move him sooner rather than later. Hoyer and AGM Jason McLeod worked under Boston GM Theo Epstein for years and know the Red Sox talent as well as anyone.
Kelly, Rizzo, and Fuentes were ranked as the first-, third-, and sixth-best Red Sox prospects by Baseball America last month. All three were projected to be part of Boston's starting lineup in 2014 (with Kelly and Rizzo reaching the majors no later than 2012 by most estimates). According to Baseball America, Kelly had the best curveball, Rizzo the best power, and Fuentes the best athlete in the system.
As touted as this threesome may be, I would have expected San Diego to hold out for either Jose Iglesias or Ryan Kalish as the fourth player in the puzzle. Instead, it appears as if the PTBNL is not on the 40-man roster and is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next week. Look for this player to be nothing more than a throw-in, perhaps a mid-level minor league pitcher whose upside might be as a major league reliever.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez is a monster. The lefthanded-hitting slugger ranked fifth in on-base percentage (.393) and times on base (271), sixth in total bases (302) and runs created (119), seventh in on-base plus slugging (.904), and ninth in slugging average (.511) in the National League while playing in the least-friendly home ballpark for hitters in the majors. His ballpark-adjusted OPS (or OPS+) ranked third in the league at 152, trailing only 2010 MVP Joey Votto and three-time MVP Albert Pujols.
For proof as to how much Petco Park has damaged Gonzalez's stats, look no further than his career record at Petco and on the road.
The above splits may not even tell the whole story. You see, Petco is death on lefthanded sluggers. According to the Bill James Handbook, from 2008-2010, Petco Park has produced park factors of 87 for AVG and 59 for HR (with 100 equivalent to the MLB average), meaning it reduces the former by 13 percent and the latter by 41 percent for LHB. By comparison, Petco's PF were 89 and 96 for RHB.
Despite the ballpark handicap, Gonzalez ranked as the most productive opposite-field hitter last season, according to our own Jeremy Greenhouse. His inside-out swing is a perfect fit for Fenway Park.
Check out Gonzalez's 2010 spray chart at Petco Park, then take a look at Fenway's dimensions. He pulls the vast majority of his ground balls but hits the bulk of his fly balls to the opposite field, which should be just what the doctor ordered in Boston.
Courtesy of River Ave Blues, here's Gonzalez's spray chart overlaid onto Fenway Park (h/t Patrick Sullivan).
I count 30 home runs. In 81 home games. With 14 fly outs turning into four baggers. Ten of those fly-outs-would-be-home runs were hit to straightaway left field. Whether Gonzalez slugs 30 or 25 or even 20 HR at Fenway, the impact is going to be huge as Adrian has averaged 11-12 jacks at Petco since joining the Padres in 2006. Add the 21 HR he has averaged on the road during this period and it doesn't take too much imagination to project the newest Red Sox banging 40 or more homers in each of the next few seasons.
We can also view Gonzalez's home *and* road taters via HitTracker. Thirteen of his 31 HR were hit to left field, a phenomenal rate for a lefthanded batter. The image on the right displays the location of all home runs at Fenway Park last year.
Gonzalez looks like a pretty good fit for Fenway, no? Importantly, he doesn't turn 29 until next May. While he had shoulder surgery in October, he is expected to be fully recovered by the time the 2011 season opens. You can be sure that the Red Sox put him through a full physical this weekend and wouldn't proceed with the trade if management had any doubts about his health.
In addition to the exam, the Red Sox have been given a negotiating window by MLB to work out an extension with Gonzalez. If it's true that he wants a Ryan Howard-like, 5-year/$125M contract, I would combine the last year of his current deal that pays him $6.2M into a new 6-year/$132M pact that allows him to earn an average of $22M right off the bat.
Should the Red Sox not sign Gonzalez and proceed with the deal anyway, the organization gets his services at a discount of $15M-$20M in 2011 plus two valuable picks in the 2012 draft for the loss of a Type A free agent. As a result, short of Gonzalez suffering a major injury after signing a long-term contract, I don't see how Boston can lose.
San Diego might win, too. Maybe in a big way. Only time will tell. But the Padres could lose if the three prospects don't pan out.