Adrian Gonzalez Gone After 2011?

By Alastair Ingram

When asked about the prospect of signing first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a long-term extension, San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “it doesn’t appear to be practical from a financial standpoint, so I’m certainly not counting on [it].”

Gonzalez is eligible to become a free agent after next season and will likely command Mark Teixeira-type money in the range of 8 years for $180 million. This may be stating the obvious given the Padres’ financial situation, but A-Gon can be had for 2012…

San Diego Padres Adrian Gonzalez hits a single against the San Francisco Giants during the fourth inning of their MLB baseball game in San Francisco, California October 2, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Gonzalez has a $5.5 million club option for next year (an incredible bargain for any Major League club), but paying roughly 4 times as much on an annual basis for his services down the road seems unrealistic for the Pads.

The Padres’ opening day payroll sat at just under $38 million this season, and while the club added Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada at the trade deadline, it was a reflection of the standings rather than team finances.

Adrian Gonzalez is one of, if not the only big name on the Padres’ roster, and as a San Diego native, they’d do almost anything to keep him there.

But A-Gon is 28 years old and has been severely underpaid over the last few years given his superior production. This is time for him to cash in, and cash in he will if he signs elsewhere.

Of course, there is always the possibility that San Diego will elect to trade Gonzalez during the 2011 season. The Padres overachieved in the eyes of many this season before collapsing down the stretch, and who knows where they’ll stand in the NL West leading up to next year’s trade deadline.

It would take quite a package to pry Gonzalez away from Petco Park, and if the Pads are admittedly going to lose him to free agency anyway, they’d likely test the market.

Over the last 3 seasons, Gonzalez is averaging 36 home runs, 106 RBI, and a .524 slugging percentage. He’s only missed a total of 4 games over that span and has reached base at clips of .407 and .393 over the last 2 seasons.

Did I mention he’s won back-to-back National League Gold Glove Awards at first base and may be in line for a 3rd straight this winter? Sounds remarkably familiar to a free agent the Red Sox let slip to the Yankees a few years ago.

The Red Sox missed out badly on Teixeira (who’s already had several clutch hits in the ALDS) in the winter of 2008, and can’t afford to do so if and when Gonzalez becomes available. The distance that one signing created between the Red Sox and Yankees is now more glaring than ever.

He’s the same prototypical disciplined power hitter that Theo Epstein saw in Teixeira, and the Sox should do whatever it takes to bring A-Gon to Boston. He’s not a switch hitter; That’s literally the only drawback.

It seems to be a matter of when, and not if Gonzalez will be packing his bags. When that happens, Theo and the front office better be ready to go all in this time.

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