The San Diego Padres have traded first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox for a trio of top prospects, despite the failure of Gonzalez and the Red Sox to come to terms on a contract extension before today's early-afternoon deadline.
Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman and the Associated Press report that the deal will go through, though it remains a bit unclear whether Gonzalez and the Red Sox have now agreed to a long-term deal.
Gonzalez has 107 home runs since the start of the 2008 season, despite playing his home games in baseball's least homer-friendly environs, in San Diego's PETCO Park. The Red Sox paid a steep price to acquire him but they should find Gonzalez well worth their investment: He could easily swat 40-or-more home runs and reach base at a .400-plus clip in 2011.
The AL East is fundamentally different because of the trade, as is the free-agent market. This deal, in combination with Jayson Werth's seven-year free-agent pact with the Nationals, will cause upheaval—and a whole lot of movement—at this week's Winter Meetings in Florida.
Read on for five ripple effects Gonzalez's acquisition will have on the goings-on at the MLB swap meet.
If the season started tomorrow, the Red Sox (with a healthy Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia to complement Gonzalez) would be the runaway AL East favorites. That cannot possibly sit well with Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, and they will surely show some extra aggression this week in an effort to move back into the driver's seat.
Cliff Lee remains far from a deal with any club, but he and his agent will reportedly take interest in serious offers beginning this week. Expect the Yankees to bid high and be even more eager to bring him in than they might have been before the Gonzalez trade. Having the left-handed Lee in the fold would also directly help the Yankees offset Gonzalez, a critical consideration for the two-to-four times annually that Lee would face the Red Sox.
The Red Sox took a lot of pressure off themselves by acquiring Gonzalez, thereby solidifying their lineup for 2011. Theo Epstein and company now have the freedom and flexibility to address the other things on their winter checklist. Those include an upgrade to the back of the rotation, filling out a bullpen that lost lefty Hideki Okajima to a non-tender on Thursday and (possibly) trading shortstop Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro has far less utility to the Sox in light of the organization's ability to obtain Gonzalez without giving up shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias. Iglesias remains a year or so away from the big leagues, but shortstop Jed Lowrie finally showed some sign of his promise in limited action in 2010, so Scutaro still could be a goner.
Boston should have the wherewithal to acquire at least one solid left-handed reliever from the free-agent market, in which the best available guys are Arthur Rhodes and Pedro Feliciano. Beyond that, any serious additions to the team will have to stem from dealing Scutaro.
Free-agent closers like Rafael Soriano and Bobby Jenks just got a whole lot more leverage going into the most critical week of the offseason. With Gonzalez gone, Padres GM Jed Hoyer seems to be very reticent about trading closer Heath Bell—perhaps fearing a fan revolt if the front office aggressively dismantles any more of the team that won 90 games and came within a rough final week of winning the NL West.
If Bell is off the market, there are suddenly fewer legitimate top-tier closers than closing jobs to be had on the open market. That scarcity gives Soriano, Jenks, Kevin Gregg, Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood much stronger legs on which to stand in their negotiations with teams in need.
As recently as this week, multiple reports had Adrian Beltre eager to return to the Red Sox. Since Youkilis will move to third to accommodate Gonzalez's arrival, though, that option is now out the window.
With teams beginning to swirl around Carl Crawford with ever more intensity, the early favorites for Beltre's services (the Los Angeles Angels) have become almost his lone suitor. The Oakland Athletics, reportedly intrigued by Beltre (who fits their new defense-first philosophy brilliantly) but intimidated by his price tag, are probably out of the running, leaving Beltre and the Angels to work out a deal that will likely be worth less than Beltre's true market value.
Gonzalez, Adam Dunn and Lance Berkman all came off the market between Thursday evening and Sunday, leaving the shelves somewhat bare for those teams still in need of a power infusion at first base.
Teams with talent to trade and money to spend can try to take aim at Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, but the price tag is daunting and Fielder's expressed desire to test free agency could scare off some suitors. Fielder is essentially the last remaining elite power threat on the market with the pact between Werth and the Nats becoming official.
After that, teams like the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Orioles and others have some very flawed options. Adam LaRoche, Carlos Pena and Paul Konerko headline the remaining free agents. None of them gains any special measure of leverage because of scarcity, though, because the tier below them (guys like Xavier Nady, Lyle Overbay, Nick Johnson and Tory Glaus) is not much less desirable.