Theo Epstein’s journey to sign Adrian Gonzalez

The story of Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox did not just begin this off-season.  The Red Sox journey to acquiring a power hitting first baseman began six years ago.  While they may have finally landed A-Gon, they still don’t have a long term deal with their new slugger.  That’s just one of many circumstances that led to Boston acquiring one of the best players in the game.

I was heading out of town to visit family for the 2008 Holidays.  Leading up until the moment I was leaving, the stories on Sportscenter, WEEI, and NESN were all the same; the Red Sox were on the verge of signing Mark Teixeria.  As I drove south on I-95, with WEEI fading behind me, I was happy with the news.  I felt as though Theo Epstein had just given Red Sox fans an early Christmas gift.

Upon reaching my destination, one of the first things I did was turn on ESPNews.  I just wanted to hear that it was official.  Indeed it was, though not how I thought it would be.  Mark Teixeria was signing with the New York Yankees.

Looking back now, it all makes sense.  Mark’s agent, the serpent-like Scott Boras, had screwed the Red Sox yet again.  As far as Theo understood, Boras was to be going between the Red Sox and the Yankees, taking offers and then seeing if the rival would beat it.  However, unbeknownst to Mr. Epstein, Boras accepted an offer from the Yankees, without giving Boston the chance to beat it.  There it remained.  The Red Sox were still missing the piece they so wanted.

The Red Sox need for a power hitting first baseman came about as a result of the 2005 trade for Josh Beckett.  The organization wanted him to the point that they were willing to meet the steep conditions the Florida Marlins had set for the trade of their 2003 World Series MVP.  But Boston was ace-hungry, as Curt Schilling was on the decline and Pedro Martinez was long gone.

Along with sending the Marlins their top prospect, Hanley Ramirez, Boston would also be picking up the remainder of Mike Lowell’s contract.  To make room for the third baseman, Bill Mueller would not be returning for the 2006 season.  Furthermore, Kevin Youkilis would have to make the transition from the backup corner infielder (primarily third base) to the full time first baseman.

Not only did Youkilis make this transition, he won a Gold Glove the following year.  Mike Lowell also stepped up to the situation.  In the 2007 season, Lowell had a career high batting average of .324, and career high RBI total of 120.  He went on to be  Boston’s World Series MVP.  However, for reasons still unclear, a rift began to develop between Boston’s front office and Lowell.  This, combined with his deteriorating play, led the Red Sox to desire a power hitting corner infielder.

Enter free agent Mark Teixeria.  Theo’s ideal situation would have been to sign him, and trade Mike Lowell. With Teixeria at first, Youkilis would move back to third.  While he is an amazing first baseman, Kevin has the agility required to be a hot corner Gold Glove.  And it all looked like it was going to happen.  However, Theo Epstein had fallen into a Scott Boras trap.

The repercussions of this failure were still being seen in 2009, when the Red Sox traded Justin Masterson to Cleveland for Victor Martinez.  Just last season, Boston gave Adrian Beltre a one-year deal.  Both of these moves were done in order to add more depth to the offense.  Looking back, clearly they were bridge-year moves, put in place temporarily, while they continued to work on the plan that had been in motion for five years.

Theo quietly waited for his power hitting first baseman.  instead of Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez would be the focus.  While it is no secret that the Boston brass has long coveted the Gold Glove first baseman, it was never known if San Diego would be willing to trade their hometown star.  However, it was known that the Padres could not afford to keep Gonzalez after his current contract expired.

When Boston assistant general manager Jed Hoyer was hired as the general manager for the Padres, it all started to fall into place.  Extremely familiar with Boston’s minor league system, he knew how to get the most out of the Red Sox.  He had helped scout and draft their prospective players in his Red Sox days.  Now he could “re-acquire” them, by bringing them to his new organization.

On December 6th, 2010, Adrian Gonzalez was dealt to Boston, chiefly for two top prospects; power hitting first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and pitcher Casey Kelly.  The Red Sox received the remaining single year of Gonzalez’s contract.  As of right now, there is no long-term contract officially in place.  However, it is thought that Boston has not yet announced a contract in order to avoid paying more luxury taxes.  Appearing on WEEI this morning (2/22/11) Larry Lucchino said, “You are anticipating what the future contract will be. We’re not going to let him get away, we’re going to get him signed for sure.”

There was so much that led to the signing of Gonzalez.  It took no less than Theo Epstein, Scott Boras, Jed Hoyer, Bill Mueller, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Teixeira, and probably many others.  Losing Jed Hoyer to the Padres turned out to be the key to this move getting done.  Now that they have their slugger, the Red Sox look to be the favorites in the American League.  The fact that Gonzalez has a questionable contract situation is a fitting end to such a saga.

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