Adrian Gonzalez: 7 Player Contracts He'll Target During Red Sox Negotiations
Adrian Gonzalez is one of the top first basemen in baseball. He is just entering his prime at 28 years old and has surpassed 30 home runs and 100 RBI in each of the last four seasons—an accomplishment reached in Petco Park, a pitcher’s paradise.
Gonzalez is poised for a monster season in Fenway Park’s cozy confines with protection and run-producing opportunities he never had in San Diego.
Yet his contract is still an issue. While much of the groundwork for an extension was done before the Red Sox dealt for Gonzalez, nothing is in writing as of yet.
While there is a general understanding that a tentative deal for seven years and $154 million (average of $22 million per season) is in the works, nothing is certain until pen hits paper.
Continue reading to see which first basemen Gonzalez and his agent, John Boggs, might use to compare with his potential contract.
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Red Sox and Yankees fans will argue all year over which team has the better first baseman.
In reality, both players are very similar. Gonzalez is two years younger, but Teixeira has a longer history as a run producer (nine years with over 30 home runs and 100 RBI).
Following the 2008 season, Teixeira signed an eight-year deal worth $180 million for an average of $22.5 million per season.
It is no coincidence that the proposed contract for Gonzalez is so close to Teixeira’s, as the players are so similar and play in such close proximity.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Cabrera is only 27 years old, but already he has put together a remarkable career. With 247 career home runs, this five-time All-Star is one of the most prolific offensive forces in the game.
Gonzalez would only be slightly stretching his own ability if he tried to compare with Cabrera. Gonzalez is a better fielder, but Cabrera has proven himself a better hitter thus far, his .313 career average being the key difference (Gonzalez hits .284).
Prior to the 2008 season, the Tigers signed Cabrera to an eight-year, $153.3 million contract (about $19 million per year).
This deal was signed pre-Teixeira and was a monster deal at the time, but Gonzalez will almost surely surpass it given the current market.
Ryan Howard, Phillies
The 30-year-old Howard is one of the best power hitters in baseball after leading the league in home runs and RBI in 2006 (his MVP season) and 2008.
Howard has benefited from playing for a Phillies team that has always had a much stronger offense than the Padres, and Citizens Bank Park is a notorious hitter’s park.
With a move to Fenway Park and the Red Sox, Gonzalez has the opportunity to put up Ryan Howard numbers with a Gold Glove to boot.
Last April, Howard agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $125 million. The average annual value of $25 million is one of the highest in baseball history.
The Red Sox are lucky Gonzalez is not demanding Howard-level money.
Prince Fielder, Brewers
Another one of baseball’s great power hitters, Fielder led the league in home runs in 2007 and in RBI in 2009.
In 2010, Fielder struggled by his standards and only hit .261 with 83 RBI. He still had 32 home runs, but the run production Brewers fans had become accustomed to had all but disappeared.
In January, Fielder signed the richest single-season contract for a non-free agent player in arbitration for $15.5 million. Fielder’s real payday will come after this season when he hits free agency for the first time.
In all likelihood, he will be looking at Gonzalez’s contract to determine his worth.
Justin Morneau, Twins
The 2006 AL MVP has never led the league in any significant category, unless you count his 163 games in 2008. But his consistent power and on-base percentage make him a valuable asset at first base and one of the best first basemen in the game.
Prior to the 2008 season, Morneau re-signed with the small-market Twins for what was then the biggest deal in franchise history—$80 million over six years (Joe Mauer has since eclipsed this).
Gonzalez is a class above Morneau, and some think Morneau took a discount to stay in Minnesota.
But Morneau’s contract still sets a baseline for what other first basemen have signed and provides context for Gonzalez and the Red Sox beyond the Teixeira and Howard deals.
Adam Dunn, White Sox
Adam Dunn is a far less versatile player than Adrian Gonzalez. He hits home runs at a rapid pace, but he strikes out at an even quicker pace.
Dunn hasn't hit fewer than 38 home runs since 2003, but his career batting average is mired in a career of 1-for-4 games at .250. While his value is significant (sabermetrics proponents will note his career OBP of .381), Dunn is a single-minded player who does not measure up to Gonzalez.
Yet even at 31, he signed a four-year deal with the Chicago White Sox worth $56 million.
Gonzalez will warrant a much larger contract from the Red Sox, but when a player of Dunn's caliber is making $14 million annually, a player like Gonzalez moves into the Teixeira/Howard range of contracts rather quickly.
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Pujols is the best hitter in baseball and will likely go down as one of the all-time greats. Yet since 2004 he has only received $14.5 million per year.
Entering the final year of his deal, many are speculating the 32-year-old first baseman is looking for a record-setting 10-year, $300 million deal that will take him into his 40s.
The likelihood of the Cardinals agreeing to such a deal is unclear, but anything close to that would reset the market. The Red Sox should work to get Gonzalez’s deal done before Pujols signs.
It looks like the Sox have all season, as Pujols has said he will not talk contract during the season.