Deal for Gonzalez is close

Sox work into evening; final piece is extension

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By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / December 5, 2010

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The only thing standing in the way of a monster deal between the Red Sox and the San Diego Padres for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was a contract extension, which the Sox and Gonzalez’s agent, John Boggs, were trying to hammer out last evening.

The sides were working within a window — somewhere between 24 and 72 hours — to come to terms on a long-term agreement, and given that Gonzalez’s dream has been to play for the Red Sox and the Red Sox’ dream is to have Gonzalez play for them, the sides probably wouldn’t let dollars get in the way.

However, one American League executive speaking on the condition of anonymity said he believed Gonzalez was seeking an eight-year deal worth about $160 million. It seemed doubtful the Sox would go that far, but a compromise seemed likely.

Gonzalez, 28, hails from the San Diego area and has been playing for his hometown team, but that team decided that the star player was too expensive for them.

The Padres decided to end the relationship now, and with a management team of Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod, and Josh Byrnes — all former Sox executives — working on it, a deal almost a year in the making was all but solidified yesterday.

The Padres are expected to receive pitcher Casey Kelly, who had a down season in Double A; first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who could very well emerge into a Gonzalez-like player; speedy outfielder Reymond Fuentes, who has many of the same skills as Jacoby Ellsbury; and a player to be named.

There had been a lot of talk about Ellsbury being a part of any Gonzalez deal, but it appears the Padres wanted to go younger. There also are very real injury concerns about Ellsbury.

Gonzalez was flown to Boston Friday on Sox owner John Henry’s jet. Yesterday morning, he went to Massachusetts General Hospital for a physical and MRIs. According to team sources, Gonzalez had no physical issues to speak of, and the right (non-throwing) shoulder he had operated on at the end of the season was healing well. All indications are that Gonzalez will be ready to swing a bat March 1 and will have ample time to ready himself for the season.

Gonzalez is a lefthanded hitter who hits the ball a lot to left and left-center. When he hit the ball to left and left-center last season, his batting average was .516. Many baseball experts feel that Gonzalez could hit more than 40 and possibly 50 homers playing half his games at Fenway Park.

“He’s a tremendous player,’’ said Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. “He’s a force from the left side, and given the way he hits, it’s almost like having another righthanded hitter in the lineup. If that happens, that’s a tough move for our division.’’

The Sox have been trying to find the bopper they missed out on when the Yankees scooped Mark Teixeira two years ago.

Gonzalez would seem to fit as the No. 3 hitter in an evolving Boston lineup. The Sox are still in the market for an outfielder and have courted free agents Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. Given that Gonzalez is lefthanded, the Sox might prefer the righthanded Werth over the lefthanded Crawford. But a team source said, “We haven’t ruled anyone out yet.’’

If Werth comes aboard, right fielder J.D. Drew could move to left or the Sox could use Werth in center and deal Ellsbury.

Gonzalez is under contract for $6.2 million in 2011; his salary for next season could get a bump in the form of a signing bonus.

Because Gonzalez is under contract to another team, the Sox had to get permission from Major League Baseball to negotiate an extension and execute the sign-and-trade within the window, which can be up to 72 hours. They would love to get the deal done before the winter meetings begin tomorrow.

With Gonzalez to play first, the Sox would shift Kevin Youkilis to third base, which would negate the possibility of re-signing free agent Adrian Beltre.

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