What a weekend!
Someone — my guess is Gordon Edes or Rob Bradford — will have the official tick-tock on what happened yesterday, and my guess is it will show a huge overreaction by the writers covering this situation to the silence that occurred after the passing of the 2 p.m. deadline. I never saw a single source tied to the Red Sox or Adrian Gonzalez say anything other than some version of: "We're still working on it." Yet once Heyman said the deal was off, the lemming-like surge to say the trade was dead was breathtaking, to the extent that Nick Cafardo called the Red Sox "an embarrassing joke" in a blog post he later removed (without comment, which is unprofessional from a journalistic standpoint).
Indeed, Edes this morning has a piece that makes this very criticism, calling reporting on the trade "increasingly hysterical," and that "at no point was the deal dead." That doesn't mean the extension is in place; Edes says it isn't, which means Jon Heyman was doubly wrong: Wrong to call the deal dead in the first place, and wrong to say the sides had agreed to terms but waiting to announce it, even if he was correct in the interim to say the deal had been completed.
Regardless, the Sox will acquire Adrian Gonzalez and are likely to extend him the first week of April. Edes says the sides are still holding fast to six years vs. eight years on length and $20M vs. $23M on salary, but that Gonzalez himself convinced the Sox he wants to play in Boston, apparently after taking a good look look at how close the left-field wall is to the plate.
So who did the Sox get after all that?
Well, they received a player who spent half his games in a ballfield with a park factor of 91 yet managed a .910 OPS the past three years (good for a 151 OPS+). A player who has been in the lineup all but nine games since becoming a full-time player in 2005. A player who is just 29 next season. A player who has a career road OPS of .943, including 1.045 in 2009 and .980 in 2010. A left-handed hitter with opposite-field power whose hit charts show close to 10 balls that were outs in Petco last season that would be comfortably over the Monster at Fenway, and who ESPN argues would have hit six more homers per season the last three years had his home park been in Boston rather than San Diego.
The obvious comparison, of course, is to the last impact, in-his-prime slugger the Sox acquired: Manny Ramirez, who was a straight free agent signing and who, the last turbulent weeks of his time in Boston notwithstanding, turned out to be worth the huge (8 years, $160 million) contract he received almost exactly 10 years ago (the Gonzalez deal went through two weeks shy of the anniversary of Ramirez's signing).
Are the players truly comparable? Well, no.
Offensively, Gonzalez has been truly elite for just two seasons, posting a 162 OPS+ in 2009 and a 152 in 2010. If you want to include his 139 in 2008, be my guest. Ramirez began posting an OPS+ above 145 in 1995 at age 23 and didn't stop for the next six years with Cleveland. When he signed with Boston, also for his age 29 season, his last two years were monstrous: 173 and 186.
Ramirez then came to Boston, hit a home run in his first at bat, and never looked back. He didn't post an OPS+ below 160 for three seasons or one below 150 for six. That's impressive.
Of course, there's more to a player than just hitting. Ramirez wasn't as durable as Gonzalez has been to date — he played just 118 games his final season in Cleveland, then missed significant time in 2002, 2007 and 2008. He also was one of the worst defenders in the league throughout most of his time in Boston, though less bad at the time of his acquisition. Here's a breakdown of B-R's WAR components for Ramirez and Gonzalez by age:
|Age||MR oWAR||AG oWAR||MR WAR||AG WAR|
For what it's worth, Fangraphs' version of WAR is within a half-win to one win to all of these numbers and broadly agrees with the contention that Ramirez was around league average, slightly below until age 28, after which he tanked as a fielder (likely aided by whatever injury limited his time on the field in the first place), whereas Gonzalez' hitting and fielding both improved substantially at age 27.
Looking at just the last two seasons, the Red Sox are acquiring a player with similar value to Manny Ramirez, with the added benefit of the ballpark (and the surrounding lineup) aiding Gonzalez in ways that are likely to be greater than simply adjusting for ballpark statistically can predict. But Ramirez, of course, had been a much better hitter for far longer. Ten years and two World Championships later, no Red Sox fan would undo Dan Duquette's blockbuster acquisition. Hopefully a decade from now, we will say the same about Theo Epstein's.