|First baseman Adrian Gonzalez established himself as a regular in 2006, his first year with the Padres. Shortly thereafter he graduated to one of the best players in the National League, smashing 30-plus home runs in each season from 2007-10 while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. But San Diego qualified for the playoffs only once—during Gonzalez’s first year with the club. So with their marquee player heading to free agency following the 2011 season, the Padres opted to trade him at peak value rather than make one last run at the NL West led by Gonzalez.
The Red Sox have long been viewed as natural trading partners for the Padres because so many Boston expatriates populate the San Diego front office, from general manager Jed Hoyer to vice president/assistant GM Jason McLeod to new VP of baseball operations Josh Byrnes. This familiarity with the Red Sox farm system appears to have helped facilitate a trade between the two clubs that sent Gonzalez to Boston for righthander Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who ranked as the Nos. 1 and 3 prospects with the Red Sox at the time of the trade, as well as center fielder Reymond Fuentes, a second-year pro who played in low Class A. Kelly and Fuentes were successive Boston first-round picks in 2008-09. The Padres also will receive a player to be named.
On Dec. 16, about a week and a half after the principals switched teams, the Red Sox completed the transaction by shipping 27-year-old Eric Patterson to the Padres as the player to be named. Patterson spent the entire 2010 season in the big leagues with Oakland and Boston (save for a four-game rehab stint with Pawtucket) for the first time in his six-year pro career—though that was largely a function of his being out of options. While he’s shown potential with the bat in the minors, batting .303/.367/.478 mostly at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Patterson hasn’t translated that success to the big leagues. He’s a lefty hitter who runs well, but he simply lacks the defensive chops to handle an up-the-middle position like second base or center field on an everyday basis, while not hitting enough to hold down left field. Still, he’s cost-controlled for five years and could forge a career as a reserve, a la Willie Harris.
The Red Sox briefly considered backing out of the deal when they could not agree to terms on a contact extension with Gonzalez. (As this was going on, the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal.) But according to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Red Sox may benefit if they wait to sign Gonzalez. A deal signed during the 2011 season will not impact the 2011 payroll and thus will not count toward the luxury tax.
Few teams leverage their prospects in trade as well as the Red Sox. They spend a lot of money in the draft as well as internationally, but never seem to get too attached to their prospects. Through the years, Boston has dealt from minor league depth to take fliers on young underperformers (Jeremy Hermida, Andrew Miller, Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and predictable veterans alike (Paul Byrd, Coco Crisp, Eric Gagne, Alex Gonzalez, Mark Kotsay, Adam LaRoche, Billy Wagner). They kicked in just Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates in 2008 to simultaneously acquire Jason Bay and make Manny Ramirez go away.
But two other trades more closely mirror the Red Sox’s acquisition of Gonzalez, in which they surrendered multiple top prospects to acquire a star player hurtling toward free agency. Following the 2005 season they traded four prospects, including Hanley Ramirez (No. 1 heading into that season) and Anibal Sanchez (No. 5), to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, who turned out to be key players for the ’07 World Series winners. Then at the ’09 trading deadline, Boston packaged lefty Nick Hagadone (No. 3) and righthanders Justin Masterson (big leagues, but No. 4 in ’08) and Bryan Price (No. 20) in a trade to the Indians to acquire Victor Martinez.
Player capsules below are re-published from Jim Callis’ most recent Red Sox Top 10 Prospects.
|Casey Kelly, rhp
Born: Oct. 4, 1989 in Sarasota, Fla.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Sarasota (Fla.) HS.
Career Transactions: Selected by Red Sox in first round (30th overall) of 2008 draft; signed July 17, 2008.
A two-way standout in high school, Kelly spent 2010 as the youngest starting pitcher in the Double-A Eastern League. His fastball sits at 90-94 mph, up from 89-92 in 2009, and peaks at 96. He showed the ability to consistently locate his fastball on both corners with sink in 2009 but didn’t command it as well this season. With his fluid, athletic delivery, Kelly should regain that skill once he fully grows into his body. His struggles came in part because he couldn’t paint the black as effectively, causing him to fall behind in the count. His most effective pitch right now is an above-average changeup that he delivers with the same arm speed and slot as his fastball. His curveball gives him a potential third plus pitch. It’s a power breaking ball at times, and more of an average pitch that he just gets over for strikes at others. Kelly has an advanced feel for pitching, though he needs to trust his stuff and challenge hitters more rather than trying to live on the corners. His athleticism enables him to keep basestealers in check and field his position well.
|Anthony Rizzo, 1b
Age: 21. Position: 1B (134 G).
Born: Aug. 8, 1989 in Fort Lauderdale.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla.
Career Transactions: Selected by Red Sox in sixth round of 2007 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2007.
Rizzo generates plus power with strength and leverage, and he drives the ball well to the opposite field. With his willingness to use the entire field and his patience, he should hit for a solid average and draw some walks, though he needs to refine his two-strike approach. He also needs to make adjustments against lefthanders after hitting .217/.290/.380 against them in 2010. Managers rated him the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League, as he has smooth actions and does a good job of picking throws out of the dirt. He can get nonchalant in the field, however, which led to 15 errors last season. He’s a below-average runner but moves well for his size.
|Reymond Fuentes, cf
Age: 19. Position: CF (96 G).
Born: Feb. 12, 1991 in Manati, Puerto Rico.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Fernando Callejo HS, Manati, P.R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Red Sox in first round (28th overall) of 2009 draft; signed July 1, 2009.
A premium athlete, Fuentes draws comparisons to Carlos Beltran (his cousin) and Johnny Damon. His plus-plus speed gives him impact potential in center field and on the bases. Managers rated him the best defensive outfielder in the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he stole 42 bases in 47 attempts. He enhances his quickness by getting great jumps on balls, and he compensates for a below-average arm by charging balls and making accurate throws. Fuentes has a line-drive stroke, and his bat speed portends some future pop once he adds some much-needed strength. He’s still learning the strike zone but made some good adjustments in the second half of 2010.
|Eric Patterson, lf/cf/2b
Age: 27. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2011-15 seasons ($405,000 salary in ’10).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
|Red Sox Acquire|
|Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
Age: 28. Bats: L. Remaining Commitment: 1 year, $5.5 million.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.