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Padres are open to Gonzalez trade

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 6, 2010

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The San Diego Padres have acknowledged what was inevitable. They cannot afford to keep Adrian Gonzalez.

General manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday he expects Gonzalez to be on the Opening Day roster, but would be willing to discuss trading him after being informed by agent John Boggs that Gonzalez is seeking a contract in line with fellow All-Star first basemen Mark Teixeira (eight years, $180 million) and Ryan Howard (five years, $125 million).

The Red Sox lost out on Teixeira to the Yankees before the 2009 season, a decision that shifted the balance of power in the American League East. Obtaining Gonzalez would go far in balancing that out.

By moving Kevin Youkilis to third base and playing Gonzalez at first, the Red Sox would essentially replace the production of third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is a free agent.

Gonzalez, who turns 29 in May, hit .298 with a .393 on-base percentage, 31 home runs, and 101 RBIs this past season. He is a two-time Gold Glove winner.

Gonzalez is signed through next season for a manageable $6.2 million. But the disparity between what he would command as a free agent and what the Padres can afford is such that Hoyer did not bother to make an offer.

“It’s a situation where Jed and the Padres obviously know his value. The question is, what are we going to seek. We’re going to seek market value for Adrian Gonzalez,’’ Boggs told the Associated Press. “Obviously, I don’t think the Padres will dedicate that much of their salary structure to one player.’’

Hoyer has said in the past that he would be willing to keep Gonzalez for the duration of his contract and take draft picks as compensation once he leaves as a free agent. The Padres finished a surprising two games behind the World Series champion Giants in the National League West.

“All along, I felt like the most likely thing is that we’re going to have him as our first baseman and No. 3 hitter next year, and that’s a great thing,’’ Hoyer told a San Diego radio station on Thursday. “If something comes up that I feel like is absolutely in the best interests of the franchise, we have to talk about it, but my expectation is that we try to do even better than 90 wins next year and we bring back our first baseman and see how that goes.’’

According to Boggs, a team would have to make a trade proposal the Padres could not refuse.

“The long-term plan is Adrian will be here unless someone knocks down their door,’’ he said.

The Red Sox have the prospects to make such a door-splintering deal. In outfielder Ryan Kalish, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, righthander Casey Kelly, and shortstop Jose Iglesias, the Sox have four cost-controlled players who are close to major league readiness.

It is unlikely the Padres would be interested in Jacoby Ellsbury, who is eligible for arbitration and represented by Scott Boras, an agent who almost always takes his clients into free agency.

One complication is that Hoyer spent eight seasons with the Red Sox under GM Theo Epstein. Hoyer’s top assistant, Jason McLeod, is the former Red Sox amateur scouting director. They have what amounts to institutional knowledge of the Sox prospects and won’t be bamboozled into taking overhyped players.

Epstein has shown reluctance in the past to pay twice for the same player, parting with prospects and the cash needed to sign him. The Sox would likely prefer that Gonzalez play out his deal and become a free agent.

But other teams, the Cubs, Orioles, and Nationals among them, would be interested in Gonzalez as well, and could be willing to make a trade. Any deal for Gonzalez would almost certainly have to include the opportunity to sign him to an extension first.

For now, a deal seems unlikely. But as the Red Sox try to improve on this season’s third-place finish, the knowledge that Gonzalez is at least a little more available than he was before has to be intriguing.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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