Were The Padres Right to Trade Gonzalez Now?

Parting with a star player is difficult regardless of the circumstances, but no one could blame San Diego if they admitted their internal struggle was fiercer than the usual. Just two months ago, Adrian Gonzalez played in the regular season finale that proved to be a bittersweet ending to a surprise run that lasted all season. The team fell just short of the playoffs, but still won 90 games.

Teams often make decisions coming off emotional highs or lows. These decisions seem to find a way to bite the team in the hand down the road. San Diego’s season represents a high. The emotional response would ostensibly be to hold onto Gonzalez and make one more run at the division crown before bidding him farewell. As such, it appears the Padres relied on rationale thought instead of emotional response.

They had three options to weigh. One being to keep Gonzalez and collect the draft pick compensation once he went in search of a major payday; the next being to trade Gonzalez now; and the last being to trade Gonzalez in-season. Did they make the right one?

Keeping Gonzalez meant the team would benefit from his surplus value as well as the two draft picks. Dollar amounts can be placed upon draft picks using Victor Wang’s research. Assuming that a team would have signed Gonzalez next offseason without a protected first rounder, then the value of that mid-to-late first round pick is estimated to be $5.2 million. The value of the sandwich round pick comes out to be $2.6 million. Dave Cameron projected Gonzalez to be worth at least 5.5 wins next season. His salary is an insanely affordable $5.5 million, meaning that projection nets $22 million in surplus value (at a $5 million per win rate). Keeping Gonzalez would’ve resulted in a sum of something like $30 million.

Cameron used more of Wang’s research to estimate the prospect return at $20 million. Add the $5.5 million dollar savings and the Padres wind up with $25 million. Now, here is where things get tricky. The Padres will likely use that $5.5 million to sign a stand-in first baseman and could conceivably stretch it even further to sign or acquire multiple players. Without knowing how who or how that works out, the Padres’ surplus value from this option appears to sit around $25 million.

The third option is the most unpredictable of three. Maybe a team would overpay for Gonzalez in a stroke of panic, but maybe Gonzalez would get hurt and lose all trade value. Or maybe the best offer would not have been worthwhile. It’s impossible to say, which means even trying to guess is a worthless endeavor.

From this analysis, it appears the Padres lost out on a few million in surplus value, but don’t be so sure. There are various factors available internally that could skew the differential analysis the other way. Such as:

– The prospect package: Jed Hoyer is familiar with the prospects he received from his days with the Red Sox. There’s a chance his knowledge of them raises his valuation of their worth.

– The draft picks: The above numbers represent the average. Remember, though, that San Diego cannot afford to swipe players who slip due to overslot concerns. Further, San Diego might favor getting known entities closer to the majors with minor league experience (consider it the time value of prospects) instead of wading into the great unknown.

– Gonzalez’s shoulder: Maybe the biggest wild card of them all. No team knows as much about Gonzalez’s health, conditioning, and work ethic than San Diego. That they traded Gonzalez isn’t suspicious due to everything else involved, but even slight differences in projections can change the entire dynamic. (For instance: Gonzalez at five wins is worth $25 million instead of $27.5; that half a win decrease cuts the difference between the picks and prospects in half.)

– Value: The Padres just might value wins in 2012, 2013 and beyond higher than they do in 2011 based on their team outlook.

That combination of factors makes it close. Heck, it may have tilted the scales towards trading Gonzalez. Regardless, just as it is hard to blame San Diego for struggling emotionally in the process, it’s also hard to blame them for not wanting to pin their return on the volatility of affordable draftees and a recovery from shoulder surgery. That’s why their decision is more than defensible.

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43 Responses to “Were The Padres Right to Trade Gonzalez Now?”

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  1. phoenix says:

    what about analysis for the haul the padres brought in? they got 3 of boston’s top 10 prospects supposedly.

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  2. DrBGiantsfan says:

    1. The Padres have some really nice young arms that will now likely go to waste as they will get expensive or injured by the time they have any kind of a supporting cast again. Why not try the Giants’ formula, keep AGone 1 more year and try to put some pieces around him and their excellent pitching to try to make a run for it? If they get off to a bad start, they can still try to trade him at the deadline. If they keep him all season, take the draft picks and start your rebuild then.

    2. If they were determined to trade him now, I’ve got to think they could have gotten more for him from either Boston or some other team. I’m just not impressed enough by this package of prospects to think it was the offer they couldn’t refuse, especially when there are reasonable options down the road.

    3. I’m sure Hoyer’s knowledge of these prospects did raise his valuation of their worth. The question is whether his familiarity with them caused him to overvalue them.

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    • Rob says:

      Agreed 100% on everything you say. Given that we heard no other legitimate rumors, it seems as if Hoyer picked the team then the prospects. That’s bass ackwards.

      As it is, it looks like the Sox made the deal with a wink, wink extension. But if AGon has trouble with his shoulder, is there any doubt they’ll hold back?

      Could the Pads have gotten a better deal if they opened the bidding to any other team? Would the M’s have moved Smoak or Ackely? The Rangers Perez? The Rays Davis or McGee? the o’s Matsuz?

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      • Mark says:

        By all accounts at least 3-4 other teams were involved, with the White Sox dropping out after signing Dunn.

        There aren’t many holes in the Hoyer front office as of yet, as an example they traded for Maybin without anyone hearing about it before the deal was complete.

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      • Rob says:

        By which accounts? And you don’t think other trades would look to milk the media with reported offers?

        Take the O’s or Rays? Both need an excellent 1B. The O’s could afford him long-term too. We didn’t hear about offers there because this wasn’t an opportunity to bid for the player. The team was picked then the deal was settled.

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      • Bolton says:

        How many teams can afford Gonzalez? There’s a very limited number of teams to which he could be dealt, especially since the Yankees have Tex. I think now was the right time to deal him. His trade value would plummet next season if he got off to a slow start and there were whispers about the shoulder.

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      • Mike Savino says:

        Pads fan. Can’t follow the Giants’ “formula” for a few reasons.

        A) We can’t afford to throw money away on these pieces Aaron Rowand, Barry Zito,….god, DeRosa, Burrel, Huff, Renteria. Miguel Tejada made 6 million last year. That was the highest salary on the team and it wasn’t even all paid by the Padres.

        B) The Padres, unfortunately, can’t call up Buster Posey halfway through the season. Or…Madison Baumgarner.

        C) The Padre rotation is nowhere near as established as Lincecum, Cain, Zito, Sanchez, Bumgarner. Nowhere. Near. Last year, the Padres second best (arguably) pitcher was Jon Garland. Their number 1 was Mat Latos who pitched brilliantly. But he doesn’t exactly have a track record of pitching brilliantly. The Padres cannot assume that the rotation will be as good as it was last year.

        D) The Padre bullpen is a bullpen and it was excellent last year. Bullpens, however, are volatile. And they really can’t be expected to repeat. Unless the bullpen is Mariano Rivera. So the Padres cannot assume the bullpen will be as good as it was last year.

        E) The Giants’ “plan” last year was to have…check this out: Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, Pat Burrell, and Freddy Sanchez account for 20.3 fangraphs WAR. That would be 20.3. You can claim you saw this happening before last season. I will tell you you’re a liar. This is not the way to build a team for the long haul. Somehow it worked and props to Brian Sabean for somehow making it work.

        Whatever. Screw the Giants…they had the best player in the history of baseball on their team and couldn’t win a world series. Then they scratch together a bunch of garbage players and beat my Padres on the last day of the season. I would stop watching baseball before I wished the Padres followed the Giants’ lead.

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      • david says:

        Rob… you realize that the Orioles’ farm system is pretty atrocious, right?

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Mark Savino,

        Whoa, easy there friend! I know you are upset right now, but….wow! That’s a lot of hostility for no reason.

        1. The last time I checked, Rowand was sitting on the bench and Zito wasn’t even on the post-season roster, so the Pads certainly woudn’t have to spend money to get the equivalent production out of them!

        2. Yeah, you know, why couldn’t Maybin be next year’s Andres Torres? I don’t think he will, but a lot of people that visit this site seem to think he has a pretty high ceiling. The Pads won 90 games last year. I don’t think it’s much of as stretch to think by adding an inexpensive piece or two they might be able to squeeze out 4 or 5 more wins and that may welll get the into the playoffs where, like the Giants, they would be dangerous.

        3 Are you really telling me the Padres are so hard up they can’t afford to put a decent team around Adrian Gonzalez when he only costs them $6.5 million? I mean, even the poorest teams in baseball can afford a $40 million payroll before they sell one ticket!

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      • Mike Savino says:

        I feel I’m entitled to be bitter towards the Giants after this season…the Padres lost the division by 1 game and the lost 10 in a row at one point…I am allowed to hate the division rivals as much as I want.

        My point was that the Padres could not expect to win 90 games again. Its not a question of adding 4-5 wins. Its adding 4-5 wins AND replacing all the wins the Padres really weren’t good enough to get last year. Last year is over…those 90 wins are gone. They absolutely do not imply that next years team would win 90 games if they all stay together.

        My other point was the Giants’ plan was to get seriously lucky…or, if your a Giants fan, be seriously genius. No one could have predicted those seasons from like 5 of their top 6 position players. The sixth was Posey, which can’t exactly be mirrored by the Padres because, yeah, it’d be awesome to have a slugging catcher to call up from the minors but the Padres don’t got one. Who should the Padres sign to duplicate it? Its slim pickings out there right now for a low budget team…

        They could have signed Adrian Gonzalez, true. But it would cost them like $23 MM a year…even on a $75 MM payroll that’s a freaking third of it. On one player. If he gets hurt, starts drinking, decides he likes hot dogs in between innings the team is screwed. What if those were his best years and the Padres have a Zito-like fiasco on their hands? Its not a point in the Giants favor that they spent like $30 MM on a bench player and a pitcher so bad they left him off the postseason roster.

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    • Bigmouth says:

      The Giant’s formula? How is that the Giant’s formula? You mean like when we kept Bonds around?

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        I wasn’t suggesting San Diego sign AGone to a long term contract. I was simply suggesting that with their excellent pitching plus a fairly cheep A Gone for 1 more season, they could easily piece together a run for next season.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        If the Giants formula is nailing 3 consecutive top 10 draft picks, San Diego is going to get a chance to duplicate that real soon!

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  3. Rob says:

    “There’s a chance his knowledge of them raises his valuation of their worth.”

    Or that his knowledge overinflates his valuation of their worth.

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    • Max says:

      Hoyer said in an interview on MLB network that his familiarity (and knowing each of the Boston prospects personally) helped and he mentioned makeup and character of all the prospects… wonder how that plugs into the sabremetric value models?

      There were two other interesting things mentioned….
      – He has zero intention of moving Bell or any other player near FA (which kind of conlflicts with the stockpile talent for 2013 theory)
      – Hoyer views Kelly as #1 and Rizzo #2 in the SD system right now (he seems high on Rizzo)

      The other thing mentioned on MLBtraderumors (take with whatever grain of salt) was that Ellsbury, Lowrie and wait for it…. Felix Doubront were also discussed. If Doubront was even talked about for more than a second, this does seem like a bit of a blind spot in terms of valuing Boston’s prospects by Hoyer. Ellsbury was apparently the only one seriously considered but deemed to be too expenxive with arbitration coming up (and he would end up being another dump before FA type player)

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  4. L. M. Gumby says:

    Nice analysis. I like the method, but you seem to have overlooked two important elements.

    1. With the new CBA coming up isn’t likely that San Diego wouldn’t get the picks. At the very least it makes the estimated value of the picks highly unpredictable.

    2. Trading Gonzalez puts an immediate damper on fan’s hopes for 2011. That comes with a very real loss of gate receipts for the upcoming year, but a potential, as you mentioned, to win more, and bring in more in ’12 and ’13.

    In the end these two factors probably come close to canceling each other out, but I imagine this had to be the route the FO took to reach their decision.

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    • chuckb says:

      This is a good point about the draft picks. If there’s a possibility that SD would lose him for nothing, they had to trade him.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    #2 is interesting to me.

    SD’s att was 29K in 08, 23K in 09, and back up to 28K in ’10.

    Had the kept him in 2011, the fans would have known that a 90-Win team with their best player on the roster, had a chance to “do it”, and know that AGon was bye-bye if things did not work out, or he stayed on SD’s roster for the remainder of the season.

    That *might* cause more fans to attend games, or the same general number of fans may attend Padres games regardless.

    Now, I don’t see any reason for the fans to really buy into the Padres for 2011.

    So, these prospects might be MLB redy as Latos is ready to leave?

    I thought teams like the Padres only chance was for their young hitting and pitching to develop and be ready at the same time, and here they have it, if only for just 2 years. The idea for rebuilding is to rebuild for a “peak moment”, not just to rebuild only to start rebuilding 2 years later. That “peak moment” could be 2011 (or it could have been 2010).

    I don’t think the Padres could really get “equal value” in terms of prospects for AG, whether it’s now or trade dealine. Trading him then or now both have their pros/cons, risks & rewards. The thing about waiting until the trade deadline is that more teams might be interested, because some teams might just want him for the remainder of the season, wheras this year, teams looking to acquire him might want his re-signing to be an expextation (clearly BOS did).

    The big con of wiating for the trade deadline is if AG has a “David DeJesus” moment, where he’s injured just before the deadline. Then, we’d all be saying that SD should have traded him before 2011 when they could have “cashed in” with a great prospect deal (even though, IMO, a great prospect deal didn’t happen and probably would not).

    The crappy part of the situation is that SD had no shot at resigning a player they acquired and developed. It could also be said that the Padres were just lucky that AG panned out as he did after the trade (with Young & Sledge) and be thankful they got such a steal for a former #1 pick playing for his 3rd team.

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    • Mike Savino says:

      Just to clarify…the Padres really didn’t develop Adrian, they got him from Texas with 200+ PA appearances in the majors already.

      Second of all, this will be his fourth team as he was drafted by the Marlins->Ranger->Padres->Red Sox.

      Not that it matters all that much.

      Also, doesn’t recent history suggest that its much easier to lock up a starting pitcher? Pitchers know they’re prone to injury and they may never get their fastball back after tommy john…pitcher contracts are also less money…I’m thinking they re-sign Latos if he performs well.

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  6. MikeS says:

    The last point is the most important one. The object of the exercise is to win the World Series. Obtaining surplus value is, at best, a surrogate endpoint, ameans but not an ends. It gives a team flexibility and resources to pursue the ultimate (only) goal. If you don’t use that opportunity succesfully it means a whole lot less.

    To use this specifiic example, if the Padres have decided they have no real chance at a championship this year then they are better off trading him now and getting more prospects back than waiting, even if the model shows that they get less “value.” Other things play into this also. Do they have an mlb ready 1B replacement? Do they feel that one of the current FA’s is a good, cheap fit? Will fans stop buyong tickest, depriving them of future resources to build with? Fangraphs sometimes talks about the variable value of a win to different franchises depending on how close they are to success but sometimes it seems that these calculations favor winning 85 games a year when maybe it is better to win 70 one year and 100 the next.

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  7. BWOzar says:

    I have one huge issue with this analysis and that’s the reliance on Cameron’s Victor Wang research. I think he vastly underestimated the value of the prospects (looking at Kelly as late Top 100 and Rizzo as fringe Top 100). Most analysts would have the prospects, Kelly especially, valued much more highly than that. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say Kelly would rate Top 40 (maybe Top 10 among pitchers) and Rizzo rates in the 80-90 range depending on the rater.

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    • Tony says:

      I agree. I think he really undervalues the prospects. Kelly had a down year, but is still ranked as the Sox #1 prospect by BA. There’s no chance he slips that much. I bet he’s still top 50, I bet Rizzo easily cracks the top 100 too. I bet Sickels gives Fuentes a B grade as well. That’s more like 33M in prospect value.

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  8. Htpp says:

    If teams view themselves as out of playoff range, then does the exact number of wins they end up with matter? LIke if the Padres viewed themselves as noncontenders next year even with Gonzalez, would the difference between, say, 86 wins and 80-81 wins in their final record really be worth the $22 million to them?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Why would they view themselves as being out of the playoffs? ( know you said “if”, but what reason would they have for not considering themselves a contender?)

      Why would they think that they’ll have a better chance in 2012 or 2013, given that there same basic situation will not have changed?

      As it would have stood, in 2011 they’d have legit candidates for both the MVP and CYA, as well as, a good bullpen and decent supporting cast.

      My preference would be that the owner announces that “they’re going for it” and maybe even add a piece, even though it might set them slightly back for a couple years.

      As it is now, they’re preparing for a future team that may never materialize. Why?

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      • Hank says:

        Agreed… it’s nice to always have the future in mind, but at some point you have to take a shot or decide to just run the team as a straight business (meaning maximize operating profit and consider winning relatively unimportant)

        This is a team that barely missed the playoffs last year…. and they have a grand total of 800K committed in 2011 in contracts (Cots) and absolutely ZERO committed in 2012… Everything else at this point is arbitration (or pre arbitration) with only Bell, Ludwick and maybe Mike Adams going to be making significant money in arbitration in 2011. If the plan is now 2012, 2013… might as well dump both Bell and Ludwick as well (they are FA next year).

        If the plan was really 2012/2013,, why not look get at least one prospect a little closer to MLB level to hedge some of the uncertainty associated with 19/20 year olds? These prospects MIGHT be breaking in in 2012 (more likely ’13) and assuming they need a little MLB time to start maturing these propsect sound more like a 2014 plan if they are expected to be centerpieces.

        Given the value of the various scenarios that RJ presented and the fact they were relatively close (depending on how you put a dollar amount on the prospects), why not take a shot and if things go horribly wrong, do a mid year trade (sure you’ll probably get less value, but the fanbase will at least know you took a shot).

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    • Mark says:

      I think it is just as simple as that. They didn’t believe that their combination of pieces and money available for FA’s could bring in enough talent to make another playoff run.

      Better to gain the most value in the 2013 season once the sale of the team has been finalized and theoretically there is another 30M+ added to payroll.

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    • Trev says:

      Sadly 86 wins is right around where you want to acquire players since each win is much more important than if the true talent of your team is 80 wins.

      Essential San Diego said that they think they’ve got a 80-82 win team with Gonzalez. (Coincidentally the Padres had 92 pythag wins, but only 81.6 WAR wins [35.4 Total team WAR]).

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  9. Name: Mark says:

    start with 7yrs 161 million 23/yr.It’s more then Texiera makes a year!Don’t worry Theo gets it done.You don’t give up that much and not sign Agon!Sign Crawford and a couple of guys for the bullpen!And we’re ready to roll!Nice job with trade Theo!Anthony Renaudo will help us forget Casey Kelly!

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    • phoenix says:

      agreed on the approximate extension, but disagree on crawford. he is going to cost a ton now that werth signed for so much, especially if they have to outbid the angles that desperately need him. the red sox still have elsbury and cameron in left and center, as well as some good OF prospects that showed promise last year. crawford is not worth that much when he is just a luxury to have, not a necessity. the bullpen is a bigger problem.

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    • chuckb says:

      It’s possible, isn’t it, that Renaudo is the PTBNL? He hasn’t been w/ the organization for a year yet.

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      • Judy says:

        I could be wrong, but I believe since last year’s draft began June 7, and today is Dec 6, and the trade must be completed in 6 months, it seems not possible that the PTBNL could be anyone who was drafted in 2010.

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  10. Tony says:

    Adrian’s due 6.3M next year because of some incentives that kicked in, not 5.5M. I know it’s just a slight difference, but whatever.

    Also isn’t 20M undervaluing the prospect package a bit? It seems those are based on rankings going into 2010.

    Kelly had a down year, but supposedly had a good ‘developmental year’ or whatever so he’s going to stay top 50 in BA list for sure. So according to Wang that’s 15.9M.

    I think it’s a lock that Rizzo cracks the top 100. I read something quoting Callis from BA recently that said Kelly, Rizzo, Iglesias, and Ranaudo will all likely be in top 100 with a couple other red sox prospects fringe guys. So if Rizzo is 75-100 according to Wang that’s 12.5M.

    I’m not sure about Fuentes, but Sickels had him at B- last year and Fuentes didn’t suck so he should at least stay there. So that’s another 5M or so.

    I know this isn’t an exact science, but it seems using Wang’s research you should have arrived at a number higher than 20M.

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    • Mark says:

      Seems like Kelly dropped dramatically in Wong’s ranking immediately upon being dealt to SD. That’s interesting.

      I haven’t heard a single scout or evaluator claim he’s anything but a 1/2 starter given enough time.

      The guy did fine at AA as a 20 year old-isn’t the type of season that top pitching prospects are made of?

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      • Rob says:

        Did fine? He got smacked around and with pedestrian K numbers. FIP, for instance, doesn’t show how easily he was hit. That’s hardly front of the rotation stuff.

        Scouts can like how he looks. But he still has to perform. This is a big year for him. The Sox were obviously pumping his trade value by pushing him to AA.

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      • Trev says:

        At 22 Clay Buchholz had a 1.95 FIP in AA
        At 19 Madison Bumgarner had a 3.56 FIP in AA
        At 21 Jon Lester had a 3.23 FIP in AA.

        But batters batted .184 against Buchholz and .210 against Bumgarner. They batted .301 against Kelly.

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    • Max says:

      People need to stop looking at Wang’s analysis and applying it as a single # as opposed to a range of values. While the AVERAGE over hundreds (thousands?) of players is meaningful, trying to apply an average outcome to a single event (or 3 events) is problematic.

      If a prospect is 52 which value do you use? Is that player really different than a guy at 48? Is a guy at 90 really any different than someone at 110? The numbers will hold when applied to a large # of outcomes (or simulations), but without any mention of an error bar or use of a confidence level using simply an average outcome value is a limited way to evaluate single trades/events.

      What if the range of the outcome of the 3 prospects is 5-60mil (and the expected average outcome was 20mil)? Still seems like a good deal. What if the probability of having an outcome at 20mil or above was <20% (the distribution of outcomes was asymmetric)?

      What if instead of using 4.5 (or 5mil) per win to determine how much excess value in 2011, we consider how the supply/demand at a specific position might alter that equation and a maybe a blanket $ per win shouldn't be used.

      I think folks have gotten comfortable doing these back of the envelop calculation without really understanding some of the limitations involved or at a minimum considering a range of expected outcomes as opposed to focusing only on an average outcome.

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  11. Scout Finch says:

    Is it possible Gonzalez meant more to the Padres lineup than Bonds did to the Giants circa 2005-7 ?

    Like the Giants during said window, the Padres are seemingly horrendous at developing MLB position players.

    Look out NL West, here comes Max Venable & Chase Headley. I could be wrong, but in spite of their pitching advantages, the Padres should be horrendous in 2011and Padre fans will outnumbered by visiting fans at Petco.

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  12. Jake says:

    The math is off. You are comparing apples to oranges because in option no. 1 you only look at Gonzalez’s value over his present salary (i.e. $27.5m – $5.5m) but in option no. 2 you treat Gonzalez’s foregone salary as part of the value of the deal. His proper value for option 2 is just the value of the prospects received.

    To illustrate the point, imagine a player who earns $30m and is worth $30m in wins. Under your analysis, the value of retaining him is $0 (plus any compensatory picks) but the value of trading him for nothing is $30m because now the team won’t have to pay his salary.

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  13. pft says:

    One of the reasons the Red Sox were willing to give up so much is they get Adrian at 5.5 million for a full year. That’s 18 million in value right there if he produces at a 23.5 million rate, and pretty much offsets the value of the prospects if that 20 million is accurate.

    The 20 million seems low as I am not sure bonus payments for these players are included and if just one of the 3 become an All Star under cost control for 6 years this is easily worth 50 million.

    If the Padres waited, A-Gon might have shown some adverse effects from his shoulder surgery, or the Red Sox may have had another injury filled year in which case they may have been content to wait until Adrian became a FA rather than lose prospects for a lost year.

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  14. Sean D says:

    Adrian Gonzalez’ salary in 2011 is not $5.5M. That was the minimum value for the option, but through incentives it was increased. I think it may be as high as $6.5, but I’ve heard $5.9 and $6.2M. I think the option increased by $300K per All Star appearance or something like that.

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  15. rick p says:

    “As it is now, they’re preparing for a future team that may never materialize. Why?”

    A better question may be : Who owns this team and why?

    You dont finish tied for the playoffs over 161 games and then dump your best player over 7 mill. (well Jeff Loria might but everybody knows he’s a scummy carpetbagger) Good luck with that fan base and “revenue” going forward.

    These guys and their “cant compette” mantras kill me. You just did compete. What you are doing (to your fans) now is like having the ball in place to try a 57 game winning FG but punting cause you might not make it

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