This morning, the Red Sox and Adrian Gonzalez have agreed to a seven year, $154 million contract extension, which kicks in after the 2011 season and will keep the first baseman in Fenway until 2018. Along with Carl Crawford’s seven-year, $142 million contract signed in the offseason (not to mention Clay Buchholz’ recent extension), these are some huge numbers that seemingly lock up even the Red Sox’ finances for the foreseeable future. But will they really?
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Going into the 2011 season, the Red Sox payroll stands at about $163 million. As of this writing, the Gonzalez extension won’t impact that number, and he’s scheduled to make about $6.3 million in 2011. Even when his number kicks up to $20 million next season, and Crawford’s number moves from about $14.8 million to over $20 million himself, the Red Sox have huge amounts of money coming off the books after the season:
- J.D. Drew: $14 million
- David Ortiz: $12.5 million
- Jonathan Papelbon: $12 million
- Mike Cameron: $7.75 million
So, even when you factor in the Gonzalez extension, arbitration for Jacoby Ellsbury, and the albatross contracts of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox will be in great financial shape moving ahead, with about $121 million in payroll for 2012 currently, leaving at least $40 million of room to work with. That can free them up for pretty much anyone in the fall.
Potential front-line free agents look to include Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Mark Buehrle, and Roy Oswalt. While you wouldn’t expect the Sox to pick up a Fielder or a Pujols, they would certainly have the money available to at least do their due diligence. They could also take on a larger salary in trade.
The other aspect that can’t be overlooked with the Gonzalez extension is how it will impact the farm system, as first base is essentially locked up for most of the next decade. The only real prospect of note the Red Sox have at the position currently is Lars Anderson. The 23-year-old has torn up double-A Portland in the past, but struggled at triple-A Pawtucket (.263, 10 home runs) and during a cup of coffee in Boston (.200 batting average) in 2010. He’s still young, though, and if he can play to his potential in Pawtucket this year, he could be a useful trading chip should the Red Sox need some help in July.
In short, the Gonzalez extension is a great, great move for the Red Sox. Locking up a 28-year old slugger during the prime years of his career is a smart move, and Gonzalez, with his spectacular defense and opposite-field power is a perfect fit for Fenway. He may not be raking at the moment, but a switch to the AL East and April home games in 40 degree weather rather than 70 degree weather will do that. In a bit of time, though, he’ll come around and be a huge piece of the Red Sox’ championship hopes for years to come.