Trade Analysis: The Adrian Gonzalez Deal


Before we look at the biggest blockbuster deal of recent days, I’d like to state two things about my approach here:

1.) I tend to favor teams that receive prospects for their superstars.
2.) Since I covered the Padres for most of 2010, I became quite familiar with their front-office stylings, which I found generally solid.

So, there are plenty of scenarios that Padres GM Jed Hoyer could have dealt his superstar first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, that would have been met with applause from this remote corner of the blogosphere.

But this?

Hell no.

Gonzalez was shipped to the Red Sox for righthanded pitching prospect Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and outfielder Reymond Fuentes. Oh, and a player to be named later, which I suspect is either a coming Rule 5 selection or someone else rather insignificant.

Adrian Gonzalez is a fantastic baseball player. Sure, sabermetrics say that conventional wisdom overvalues his defense at first base, but given that he played half his games in Petco Park, he’s an absolute titan of a hitter who could threaten for a .400 OBP and .600 SLG at Fenway if given good lineup protection.

Now, I tend to favor the teams who get prospects back in deals like this, mainly because a player of Gonzalez’s caliber nets a couple of potential superstars.

Unfortunately, that all but rules out the Red Sox as a suitable trading partner for Hoyer, a former Red Sox exec–they didn’t have any top 100 prospects on my list, and you’d be hard pressed to make a case that any Boston farmhand has a good shot at stardom.

You could have made that case for Kelly entering the year, and I would have been all ears. But he didn’t pitch well in Double-A this year and has taken a big step back in mine and (presumably) others’ rankings since then. I saw him pitch back in the summer and was not impressed by his mechanics or his stuff–while I’m not the greatest of scouts, the numbers back me up, and you don’t need to go through scouting school to know that an 88-93 mph fastball isn’t the greatest place to start. Even at his best, Kelly has never put up the sorts of strikeouts that jump off the page, so his potential ace-dom is dependent on his development of spotless control, which is far from a foregone conclusion. More likely, he’s an athletic, strike-throwing, innings-eating middle of the rotation guy.

Rizzo is also nothing special from a statistical perspective or a scouting one. Watching him play and looking at his numbers bring me to the same comparison–Adam LaRoche. LaRoche is a fine first baseman, but he’s no upper-tier hitter, let alone anywhere near Gonzalez’s caliber.

And Fuentes? Like Kelly and Rizzo, he’s young for his level, but unlike them, he’s never had a tremendous amount of success statistically, as he stumbled to a .270/.328/.377 line in Low-A this year. That’s hardly damning for an athletic 19-year-old outfielder, but Fuentes lacks power and patience, meaning he’s going to need to hit .300 and play excellent defense to have any shot at an All-Star appearance.

So, it looks to me like San Diego got a potential third starter, potential OK starting first baseman, and potential OK starting outfielder. Kelly may look better than that, and Rizzo and Fuentes worse, due to Petco Park’s wonkiness, but even if all three meet those ceilings and the fourth player serves some sort of MLB purpose, it’s still an underwhelming haul for such an incredible player. When you deal someone like Gonzalez, you have to get a prospect back with some sort of chance of getting there, in my opinion, and I just don’t see anything close to Gonzalez-esque potential going to San Diego here. Given the attrition rate for prospects, it’s a good bet that at least one of the three doesn’t meet his modest ceiling, making the deal even worse for them.

One has to wonder if Hoyer, still relatively unproven after just a year on the job, fell victim to Dayton Moore/Ed Wade-itis on this one, as he overvalued players from his old organization. It’s certainly something for Padres fans to keep an eye on in the future.

With the Gonzalez acquisition, Boston took a big step toward hanging with Tampa Bay and New York in the AL East, something I was previously skeptical they’d be able to do, at a price that shouldn’t be too significant to them. It’s pretty clear Boston wins this deal, barring a dramatic turn of events in coming years.