By Art Martone
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 firstname.lastname@example.org