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Gonzalez extension done

Seven-year, $154m deal was long expected

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 16, 2011

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Consummating what essentially had been a handshake arrangement, the Red Sox signed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to a seven-year, $154 million contract extension yesterday, formalizing an understanding that revived Gonzalez’s trade from San Diego in December after initial negotiations proved fruitless.

“Very grateful for this opportunity,’’ Gonzalez said during a news conference at Fenway Park. “Like I said back in December, I’m really excited about being able to play here for the next seven years, hopefully longer. I just want to really thank John Henry, the whole front office, and Theo [Epstein] for this extension.

“I’m really excited about being here and winning some championships.’’

Gonzalez, 28, is due $6.3 million this season, the final year of a five-year, $15 million contract he signed with San Diego. He will receive a $6 million signing bonus, $21 million per year from 2012-16, and $21.5 million in the 2017 and ’18 seasons.

The deal also includes limited no-trade protection. Gonzalez can designate two teams he cannot be traded to.

“We’re thrilled to have him here,’’ said Epstein, the general manager. “We know he’s going to be a core member of the organization for a long time. We couldn’t ask for more from him as a player or as a person, just from the brief time we’ve been around him every day.

“We’ve seen how well he fits within our clubhouse and provides some leadership during some difficult times like the ones we’re going through right now. He’s just a perfect fit for this lineup, this ballpark, and this organization. So we couldn’t be happier about it.’’

Gonzalez’s contract is the richest awarded under Henry’s ownership group, surpassing Carl Crawford’s seven-year, $142 million contract signed in December. The only contract in Sox history with a bigger total value was the $160 million pact signed by Manny Ramirez in December of 2000.

“We hope this will go down, and I believe this will go down, as a great day for the organization,’’ Epstein said. “Adrian’s going to make a major impact here for a long time.’’

After last night’s 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays, Gonzalez is hitting .244 (11 for 45) with two doubles, one triple, one home run, seven RBIs, six runs, six walks, and a stolen base in 12 games. A three-time National League All-Star, Gonzalez hit .298 with 33 doubles, 31 home runs, 101 RBIs, 87 runs, and 93 walks in 160 games with the Padres last year.

“I’m a person, for the most part, who wants to be in a place where I’m comfortable and where I want to be,’’ Gonzalez said. “And this was a place that was a perfect fit for me as well.’’

When initial negotiations broke down, it didn’t appear Gonzalez would land in Boston. But Epstein credited Gonzalez’s representatives, John Boggs and Tony Cabral, for working “under some trying circumstances those three days in the winter,’’ when both sides walked away from the negotiating table. Gonzalez had begun preparations to fly back to San Diego when talks resumed and an understanding was reached on the parameters of a long-term extension, a requisite to making a trade.

“We talked about how this would go,’’ Gonzalez said. “Show ’em you're healthy, get ready in spring training, play the season and we’ll get down into the contract [talks], and that’s how it went.’’

Still, it required not only good faith by both sides, but a leap of faith as well.

“Both sides developed a lot of trust in a short period of time and there was a general feeling we weren’t too far apart on a contract,’’ Epstein said. “We had a lot of common ground on length of contract and where Adrian’s value fit in the marketplace. Given the trust that developed and the confidence we had that we weren’t too far apart, the [right shoulder] surgery that Adrian was coming off, it made sense to wait until a later date.

“We talked about waiting to see Adrian get out there and play every day and become an everyday player again. He hasn’t missed a game and we don’t see him missing too many games going forward. He promised he’d be ready by Opening Day, and he was absolutely ready by Opening Day. So it made all the sense in the world to move forward.’’

Another reason it made sense — dollars and cents, that is — to wait on an extension was that it saved the Sox millions in luxury tax money.

“The uniqueness of this contract negotiation was that it was a handshake deal, and that’s not the norm in this game,’’ Boggs said. “It’s something he really wanted and obviously he’s being paid very fairly. Again, it’s what he wanted, so we considered it a victory.’’

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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