I’ve never thought the Red Sox had much shot of adding Adrian Gonzalez this past off-season or any year before his free agency year. So far this season though, Gonzalez and the Padres have made a deal even harder as he is off to a huge start and the Padres are winning. They are currently four games above .500 in this young season with Gonzalez producing very well.
That is not the newest reason for a diminished chance to add Gonzalez. I think the awful signing of Ryan Howard might hinder the future prospects of signing the slugging first baseman. Howard agreed to a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for a total of $125 million. That at first seems like a bit of an overpay, but when you add on a $23 million option with a $10 million buy-out and his two years left on his current deal it is a train wreck.
This has to change the market when looking at all the big name power-hitting sluggers coming up in the next few years. That list includes Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Plus they’re all better and younger than Howard. These guys will all be signing deals that start in their pre-30s except the best of the bunch, Pujols.
They should all then be getting bigger deals then Howard since his new contract is for less production and older years. The question is how much would Gonzalez be worth now and perhaps as a free agent after 2011.
His projections are a step back from this year calling for a regression, but that hasn’t happened so far. His biggest questions going into 2010 was the increased walk rate in 2009 at 17.5 percent and that has held solidly at 15.6 percent so far. Then his HR/FB has matched his 2009 at 22.2 percent. This looks like another huge year for Gonzalez and a generous WAR projection of 6.5 should be fair.
Looking forward we should project a similar number for his age 29 and 30 seasons, but a safe assumption is regression will begin at about 0.5 WAR aging each year. So assuming he got five years that began after his current deal you would be looking to pay for 27.5 WAR in those four years. The five years Howard just signed for only gives the Phillies about 17.5 as his age will be a huge factor.
It seems pretty clear the Red Sox would be well-suited to add Gonzalez and even go longer than five years, but now we need to look at how much a win above replacement is worth right now. The old market called for about $4.5 million, but the past two or so seasons that number has been down. Of course if you go by the Howard market you’re looking at $7.14 per WAR!
So based on the old market, a five-year deal for Gonzalez would be about $123 million or roughly the number Howard got. If he was to get the value Howard pulled out of the Phillies, he would be signed for $196 million over five years. That might seem ridiculous, but his agent would be dumb not to start negotiations there.
The Red Sox are a bit loaded this year at first base, third base and designated hitter, and would have too much trouble fitting in Gonzalez without an injury or other trades. Then getting a solid start by San Diego and Gonzalez you can see there isn’t much reason for Jed Hoyer to move his big name. The Sox then have to deal with a player with just over a year left under contract and very big contract demands.
The prospects for adding Gonzalez before 2012 continue to look dim. This might make someone like Prince Fielder step in as a second prize for the Sox. His defense is a step down, but being two years younger than Gonzalez should not be ignored.