LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In a weekend as bizarre as any in recent franchise history, the Red Sox Sunday decided to go through with their blockbuster deal for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, despite failing to get him signed to a contract extension by the prescribed deadline.
The trade will be formally announced Monday at 11 a.m. at Fenway Park, with Gonzalez present -- and the rest of the baseball world already gathered here for the start of the annual winter meetings.
General manager Theo Epstein and Gonzalez's agent, John Boggs, worked through Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday morning before adjourning at 2 p.m. without an agreement.
Indications were, however, that the sides made enough progress in their talks to form the framework of a deal. Gonzalez can become a free agent after 2011 unless signed to an extension.
There had been speculation that the trade, completed Friday, would be voided in the absence of a contract. But in the end, the Sox elected to send Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named later in exchange for Gonzalez, a 28-year-old slugger whom the Sox havepursued for some time.
Epstein and Boggs reportedly differed on their expectations for a new long-term deal, with the former looking for a deal of shorter duration, while Boggs sought a deal of at least six years with an average annual value (AAV) of 25 million.
The 25 million AAV would equal the contract given to Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (five years, 125 million) last spring.
While there's risk involved for the Red Sox in trading three prospects for a player who is currently under their control for just one season, there are also some benefits to waiting to get a deal done.
For one thing, the team can more closely evaluate Gonzalez's health following October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Gonzalez will not be cleared to resume full baseball activities until at least February. He passed a physical Saturday at Massachusetts General Hospital, but the shoulder has not completely healed from the procedure.
For another, should the Sox reach agreement on a deal with Gonzalez after the start of the season, there would be a significant accounting benefit. Under baseball's rules, contracts signed after Opening Day are not counted toward that year's luxury tax threshold.
If the Sox were to sign Gonzalez to a deal before the start of the season, the AAV of that new deal would count toward the 2011 threshold.
That's a critical difference for the Sox, since, if Gonzalez were to be unsigned past 2011 when the season begins, his relatively modest 6.25 million salary would be the number counted toward the luxury tax. If, on the other hand, Gonzalez signed a mega-deal before Opening Day, he would have a luxury tax number in excess of 20 million -- or the average annual value of the new contract.
Keeping Gonzalez off the books past Opening Day would also give the club some flexibility in pursuing other free agents this week and throughout the rest of the offseason.
One name the Sox can now cross of their list is outfielder Jayson Werth, who shocked the baseball world by agreeing to a stunning seven-year, 126 million deal with the Washington Nationals.
Werth had been one of two free-agent outfielders the Sox courted last week prior to the acquisition of Gonzalez. Epstein and manager Terry Francona visited Werth Wednesday in Chicago and Carl Crawford Tuesday night in Houston.
Crawford remains unsigned, but the number of teams interested in him (Texas, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Red Sox), coupled with Werth's contract, is sure to send Crawford's demands to at least eight years, and perhaps ashigh at 160 million or more.
Crawford is more than two years younger than Werth and regarded by most as a more skilled player than Werth.
Under John Henry's ownership, the Red Sox have not given out a contract longer than six years (Daisuke Matsuzaka), or one richer than 82.5 million (John Lackey).
Given the difficulty the Sox had in trying to reach an agreement with Gonzalez, it's hard to believe they would be willing to spend at least that much -- or more -- on Crawford, especially with other teams in on the bidding.