By Sean McAdam
Two years ago, the Red Sox were outbid by the New York Yankees for free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira, a move that left both a sizeable hole in the Red Sox lineup and their pysche, having been beaten by their longtime rivals.
Players like Teixeira, who can impact a team both offensively and defensively, are rare and the feeling at the time was the Red Sox missed out on a chance to obtain a game-changing, middle-of-the-order force.
With the pending acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox have made up for their swing-and-miss on Teixeira, though in an least one way, the price they paid was higher.
According to baseball sources, the Sox have a deal in place to obtain the 28-year-old Gonzalez for a package that includes three top prospects -- Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes along with a fourth player to be named later.
The trade was first reported by ESPN.com
The deal is apparently contingent on Gonzalez passing a physical and agreeing to a contract extension, the latter of which is expected to rival the deal signed by Teixiera with the Yankees (eight years, 180 million). Gonzalez is otherwise eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.
Major League Baseball has granted the Red Sox and Gonzalez' agent, John Boggs, a window until 2 p.m. Sunday to work out a contract extension.
According to an industry source, Gonzalez underwent a complete physical Saturday morning in Boston, and while the shoulder is still healing, "should be fine."
As recently as three weeks ago, general manager Theo Epstein doubted that the Padres would deal Gonzalez this winter, believing that the surgical procedure on the first baseman's right shoulder would postpone serious trade talk until teams could see for themselves that Gonzalez was fully healthy.
Epstein also believed that it was more likely that the Red Sox would sign Gonzalez as a free agent rather than involve themselves in any bidding war next July. The reason: the Sox far preferred to sign Gonzalez and lose only compensation draft picks.
The Sox were further emboldened by the knowledge that, this time out, they would not have to compete with the Yankees. With Teixeira signed for six more years, they would have neither a position nor the interest for Gonzalez.
But within the last 10 days, the landscape began to shift, and with it, Epstein's approach. As more and more teams begin approaching San Diego GM Jed Hoyer, Epstein sensed that the time was now.
In between jetting around the country to visit with prospective free agents Carl Crawford (Tuesday night in Houston) and Jayson Werth (Wednesday night in Chicago), talks intensified for Gonzalez.
After initially refusing to include pitching prospect Casey Kelly, the Sox came to the realization that a deal could not be made without him. The Padres, seeking an eventual replacement for Gonzalez at first base, also wanted Rizzo, and the athletic Reymond Fuentes, the last first-round pick by Jason McLeod, the former Red Sox scouting director, now Hoyer's assistant in San Diego.
Having satisfied the Padres, the Red Sox must now satisfy Gonzalez and agent John Boggs on a contract extension.
It seems unlikely that there had not been at least some communication, however preliminary and informal, between Boggs and the Red Sox on what Gonzalez would be looking for.
When Hoyer and Boggs met after the 2010 season to see what Gonzalez would demand in a contract extension, Hoyer was told that the deals signed by fellow first basemen Ryan Howard and Teixeira would be good comparisons.
That was enough for Hoyer and San Diego CEO Jeff Moorad, who understood that the Padres' payroll couldn't handle a player making more than 20 million annually.
The decision to shop Gonzalez, then, became a matter of "when," and not "if."
At the GM meetings three weeks ago, Hoyer said the surgery on Gonzalez wouldn't necessarily stall trade talks, emphasizing that while Gonzalez wouldn't be 100 percent until March, he had managed to play the final four months of the year while injured and without much of an impact on his production.