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At long last, Red Sox land Gonzalez

Parameters are in place for extension

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / December 7, 2010

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The Red Sox had long coveted Adrian Gonzalez, so the power-hitting first baseman’s acquisition yesterday after a tumultuous 24-hour period of on-again, off-again negotiations were not part of a recent development. Gonzalez had been on Boston’s radar as far back as his days with the Rangers, but, for one reason or another, the Sox had never been able to consummate a deal.

“We got pretty close to acquiring him at the trading deadline in 2008 when Kevin Towers was the general manager of the Padres, but that one didn’t work out,’’ said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “Last offseason, we had some dialogue with Jed [Hoyer, now Padres GM], but that didn’t work out.

“This winter when I saw Jed had made some public comments it was unlikely that Adrian would stay in San Diego long-term, we kind of took that as a good indicator that they may be more open this winter to listening about a possible trade,’’ said Epstein. “So we got in touch right away and started talking about what a possible package would look like.

“Last weekend, things started to heat up and we made some strong proposals and had a good feeling in the middle of the week we’d get something done.’’

Yesterday, after a protracted process that tested the club’s resolve as well as that of Gonzalez and his representation, the Sox finally got their man. According to major league sources, the sides have the parameters of a seven-year, $154 million contract ex tension in place. By signing the deal after Opening Day, the Sox would save millions in luxury tax.

It appeared, though, the opportunity to add Gonzalez to the roster had been squandered when talks broke down Sunday after a 2 p.m. deadline expired without a contract extension. When he departed Fenway Park and headed back to his hotel, Gonzalez was resigned to the fact he would be going back to San Diego, where he grew up yearning to be a Padre and was a fan of the Red Sox because of Ted Williams’s connection to his hometown.

“When we left, our conversation with them was, ‘We respect you guys more than we did coming in,’ and they respected us more than they did coming in,’’ Gonzalez said. “It was one of the things that allowed us to go ahead and restart the talks of the trade later in the evening when they caught us before we got back on the plane.

“It was one of those things where the relationship got so good, it allowed this to happen.’’

Both sides resumed talks Sunday evening after making a leap of good faith that resulted in a trade with the Padres for three minor league prospects — righthanded pitcher Casey Kelly, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo — and a player to be named.

“This is a win-win-win situation,’’ Epstein said. “To me, the only part of the deal that I have any regrets about whatsoever is losing those great prospects, because they’re great kids. We have personal connections to all three of them, especially Anthony Rizzo, who fought cancer as a member of the Red Sox and someone who made the organization so proud during that whole process. We’ll miss all three of those kids, but I do think this is a win-win for everybody.’’

After Gonzalez’s press conference, Epstein flew to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the winter meetings. Regarding the extension, he said, “Both sides have an understanding of what it would take when the time is right.’’

Waiting until after the season starts to finalize the extension would not only spare the Sox from any added luxury tax, it also would give them the latitude to further evaluate Gonzalez’s right shoulder, which he injured in May and had surgically repaired Oct. 20.

“My shoulder feels really good,’’ said Gonzalez, who played 160 games last season. “My shoulder is ahead of schedule. I’ll be ready for Opening Day, there’s no doubt about it. I know my body and I know it feels great.

“We went through a lot of physicals and they looked at every aspect of my shoulder and my body and it looked healthy.’’

“There was a lot of negotiation over the weekend with Adrian’s agents in town,’’ Epstein said. “We sat down, Larry Lucchino was involved, and we learned a lot about each other’s positions and there was a lot of good faith that developed over the course of negotiations . . . We got close to a deal, but in the end the deadline lapsed and we didn’t have a deal and we decided to go forward with the trade anyway as a demonstration of the good faith that had developed.

“Had we not gotten to know Adrian and his wife [Betsy] and what they’re all about, we wouldn’t have had that comfort, I think,’’ Epstein said. “It’s such a good fit. Adrian wants to be a Red Sox and we want him to be a Red Sox, but we’re very confident that when the time is right, we’ll be able to work something out.’’

Asked what the last 24 hours were like for him, Gonzalez said, “It was very emotional, very up and down, but I’m very excited that everything was able to be worked out. I’m just very excited to be here in Boston and ready to beat the Yanks.’’

As Gonzalez sat with Epstein and principal owner John Henry, he wore a jersey that did not have a number on the back. It appeared to be in keeping with his unresolved contract extension — the numbers will be sorted out later.

“There’s some numbers in mind, but, obviously, nobody that’s on the roster right now,’’ Gonzalez said. “Let’s see what happens in the offseason and see what numbers they take, and I’ll just take a number that’s available. I’m not big on numbers, it’s not of great importance to me right now.’’

Gonzalez will add a powerful lefthanded bat to the middle of the lineup. Last season, he hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs, to go with a .904 OPS.

“He has power to all fields, but his natural stroke is probably to opposite field, which is a great fit for our ballpark,’’ Epstein said. “He hits the ball really well with ease and with loft, so we think he’s going to wear The Wall out. Just going from Petco [Park] to Fenway Park should do wonders for his overall production, not that it needs any help.’’

Gonzalez’s arrival moves Kevin Youkilis back to third base, effectively ending any pursuit of free agent Adrian Beltre.

“Right after the season ended, I told Youk that he’d be moving to third base, unless we had Adrian,’’ Epstein said. “I didn’t use the last name, because I knew it was either going to be Adrian Beltre [or Gonzalez], but it turns out we got Adrian Gonzalez.’’

“He’s not only a great baseball addition to the team, but, boy, he and Betsy Gonzalez are going to be great additions to the community, too,’’ Lucchino said. “Mark my words, they’re going to be embraced by our fan base. They’ve got big hearts. A big bat and a big heart.’’

Last night, his first in Boston as a Red Sox, Gonzalez took in the Patriots-Jets game at Gillette Stadium.

“Who do you think’s going to win it?’’ he asked a reporter.

Told it would be a sweet irony if Danny Woodhead, a Jets castoff, wound up helping the Patriots win, Gonzalez replied, “That would be great. I’ve got him in my fantasy league.’’

It’s yet another reason Boston is likely to fully embrace Adrian Gonzalez.

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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