Gonzalez and Red Sox delighted to be together

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Gonzalez and Red Sox delighted to be together

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

You know the phrase "perfect fit"?

That phrase may have been invented for Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox.

Gonzalez? He wanted to be in Boston.

"Growing up in San Diego, my first dream was to play in the major leagues and be a Padre," Gonzalez said Monday morning. "My second dream was to be a Red Sox. It was one of those things where you always root for a National League team and an American League team, and the Red Sox have always been the American League team I rooted for. All-time Red Sox great Ted Williams was from San Diego, so there's always been a lot of connections for me and the Red Sox."

The Red Sox? They wanted him in Boston.

"We've been on Adrian for a long time, starting with his days in the Texas organization from 2002-05," said general manager Theo Epstein.

So the trade -- from San Diego, which couldn't afford his upcoming megacontract, to Boston, which can -- seemed all but inevitable.

"Both sides knew from the very beginning that they wanted Adrian in this uniform for the rest of his career," said owner John Henry.

And, this weekend, it came to pass, as the Red Sox sent four minor-leaguers -- pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and a player to be named later -- to the Padres for Gonzalez. The official announcement was made Monday, and Gonzalez was introduced to the media immediately afterwards.

"I'm extraordinarily pleased," said Henry.

No contract extension has been agreed upon yet, and that caused quite a bit of angst in Red Sox Nation Sunday after the 2 p.m. deadline that Major League Baseball granted the two sides to reach agreement on a new deal. Rumors spread that the trade was off.

But just as anger and virtriol began to erupt, news was leaked Sunday night that the trade would be made without the extension. On Monday, Epstein explained why.

"I think we learned a lot about each other's positions," said Epstein about the negotiations with Gonzalez, his wife Betsy and his representatives, John Boggs and Tony Cabral. "A lot of good faith developed over the course of the negotiations, and both sides have an understanding what it will take to reach an agreement when the time is right.

"We got close, time lapsed, but we decided to go forward with the trade anyway . . . There wasn't a single person in the room who didn't think we won't get a deal done when the time is right."

The time will probably be right after Opening Day 2011, when Gonzalez' new salary won't count against the Red Sox' '11 payroll for luxury-tax purposes. As it is, he is under contract for a modest 5.5 million. It's likely the new deal will be for six or seven years with an AAV (average annual value) of over 20 million.

But no one was talking money on Monday. Instead, it was a love-fest of the highest order.

"Adrian is one of the very best hitters in the game," said Epstein. "A left-handed hitter with tremendous ability to control the strike zone, hit, hit for power . . . He hits the ball hard and with loft and he should be able to wear the left-field wall out. He's a thinking-man's hitter who controls the at-bat and knows what he wants to do up there."

And that's not all.

"He's a playmaker on defense," continued Epstein. "He has outstanding makeup. He's an outstanding person who leads vocally and leads by example and wants to win."

For Gonzalez' part, the feeling is mutual.

"You want to be in the best situation possible when you're in your prime, and this is the best place, the best situation," he said.

"Ex-Red Sox outfielder and current Padres coach Dave Roberts is one of my dear friends and told me nothing but incredible things about Boston," he said later. "I've gotten to know a lot about the city from his perspective . . . Ex-Sox and Padres catcher Josh Bard, he was only here for a little while, but he had nothing but great things to say about Boston. So I know it's the best place to be."

"He's had his eye on wanting to be part of what we have going on here for a long time," said Epstein.

Epstein said the Red Sox nearly acquired Gonzalez at the trade deadline in 2009, and also had talks with San Diego last July. Both deals fell through, and he seemed resigned to the notion that Gonzalez might not get to Boston until he hit free agency after the '11 season.

But then . . .

"Jed Hoyer, the Padres' general manager, who formally worked in the Red Sox' Baseball Operations department made some public comments that it was unlikely Adrian would stay in San Diego long-term. So we took that as an indicator they might be interested in talking trade.

"We worked on the prospect package with the Padres over the last couple of weeks. Last weekend, things started to heat up. And by the middle of the week, we had a deal."

And now the Red Sox have the middle-of-the-order hitter they'd been seeking, and the one they'd missed out on when Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees. Henry continues to insist that wasn't a blunder on the Red Sox' part -- "At his press conference when he signed with the Yankees, Teixeria said he was going to New York all along" -- but no matter.

"It's such a good fit," said Epstein. "Adrian wants to be a Red Sox, we want him to be a Red Sox for a long time, and we have every confidence a contract will be able to be worked out."

"I'm excited to be in Boston," said Gonzalez, "and ready to beat the Yanks."

Perfect fit, indeed.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.