Cast your minds back two years. Philadelphia had just won the World Series; New York had finished third in the AL East; CC Sabathia was a hero in Milwaukee; Cincinnati, San Diego and Atlanta were irrelevant and Angels slugger Mark Teixeira was about to sign a blockbuster deal with Boston.
How things have changed.
Seemingly from nowhere, the Yankees reminded everyone why they were the Yankees and signed Teixeira to an eight-year/$180m deal. They also landed Sabathia and AJ Burnett, although they might like to forget about the latter.
18 months later, the new-look bombers were the World Champions; the Reds, Padres and Braves were amongst the best teams in baseball and Boston was desperately patching their team together with Minor Leaguers.
Losing Teixeira – especially after being so close to landing him – was a cataclysmic blow for the Red Sox and, in particular, the ownership and front office. It made Red Sox Nation doubt John Henry’s willingness to spend the money and further mistrust Theo Epstein’s ability to handle the free agent market.
Now, it looks as if all is well in Boston – at first base, at least.
With Adrian Gonzalez donning a Boston uniform in 2011, the Red Sox have gotten back much of what they lost in Teixeira.
Next year looks like it could be another great one in the storied Sox-Yanks rivalry. And when people compare the teams, they will focus specifically on first base.
It is reported that Boston and Gonzalez have reached an agreement on a seven-year extension worth $154 million. If that is the case, we will not find out until April, so that the Red Sox can avoid the luxury tax. For the sake of argument, and in the absence of any other figure, let’s go with that.
With both teams set up at the position for at least six years with very similar players, the question will be: who is better? And by extension, did it all work out better in the end for the Sox?
Let’s start with the basics: Both are multiple-Gold Glove-winning first basemen, with the ability to hit for both average and power, playing in ballparks very well-suited to their respective swings.
Teixeira will be 31 next season, Gonzalez will be 29, so both were 28 when they were acquired by their respective teams.
Both will have eight-year contracts, but Adrian will average $20m a year whilst his pinstriped colleague will make $22.5m. Slight difference, but it does add up to a rather significant $20 million over the life of the deal.
As for the numbers, they are very close to one another. Teixeira has played three more years at the Major League level and each season has been outstanding. In his last seven seasons he has clocked up 30 HRs and 100 RBIs and has finished in the top 20 in the MVP race five times. Last year, he had the worst average of his career, hitting .256, but he still slugged 33 homers and collected 108 ribbies.
In the last four years, Gonzalez has averaged 161 games, 34 HRs, 105 RBIs and a .284/.377/.517 line.
Over the same span, Teixeira has averaged 151 GP, 34 HRs, 114 RBIs and a .290/.389/.539 line.
Remarkably similar stats, but then we get to the biggest plus for Adrian Gonzalez.
Whilst Teixeira was putting those up those numbers (for the last two years in particular) in good hitting parks, Gonzalez has been playing at Petco, which is renowned for being incredibly pitcher-friendly.
Also, he was batting in a lineup of weak hitters, unlike Tex. Frankly, if anyone batting cleanup for the New York Yankees does not drive in 100 runs, he should be in the Minors.
The last two seasons, Gonzalez’ OPS+ (which is adjusted to account for the ballparks in which they play) is 157. Teixeira’s is 133.
One big plus for Tex is that he is a switch hitter. He would have been wonderfully suited to Fenway Park. However, he is also well-built for the sandbox that is New Yankee Stadium. If one were to move him to the Fens, his numbers would be very similar.
Adrian Gonzalez on the other hand, has put up very comparable stats in Petco. Move him to Fenway – as a left-handed hitter with great opposite-field power – and his numbers could improve drastically.
In all fairness, it is very hard to choose between the two, especially when we are yet to see Gonzalez play in his new stadium.
However, if his offense improves to the degree most people expect, one would have to say that it all worked out for the best for the Red Sox.