12/06/10 10:24 PM EST
Gonzalez 'ready to beat the Yanks'
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
"I'm very excited that everything was able to be worked out and I'm very excited to be here in Boston," said Gonzalez during his introductory news conference on Monday. "And I'm ready to beat the Yanks."
Yankees manager Brian Cashman acknowledged Monday from the Winter Meetings that beating the Red Sox becomes a bigger challenge with Gonzalez in the middle of Boston's lineup.
"It makes them a great team." Cashman said. "He's a heck of a hitter. That's a huge addition for Boston. We know what our areas of weaknesses are that we need to tackle, and that's what we need to continue to focus on. But they just obviously improved themselves in a significant way. He's one of the premier players at that position in the game."
Through Gonzalez's telling of his admiration for Ted Williams and the Red Sox since his childhood to general manager Theo Epstein's praise for how Gonzalez's bat would play in the heart of the lineup and at Fenway Park, the question of Gonzalez's contract extension hadn't disappeared.
The key term, from both camps, was "good faith."
There was good faith from the start of the deal between Epstein and Padres GM Jed Hoyer, Epstein's former assistant in Boston. After Epstein pursued Gonzalez for more than a year and a half, the package that landed him included three of the organization's better regarded prospects: outfielder Reymond Fuentes, right-hander Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, as well as a player to be named later.
"I know all three of these players," Hoyer said Monday. "Perhaps the biggest anxiety you have with any trade is the unknown. You don't know the players, you don't know the personality. You don't know the toughness. All of that is taken out of the equation in this trade for us. We know these guys."
The trade was left for dead, if only briefly, on Sunday afternoon, when a deadline to negotiate a contract extension passed without a deal and the camps walked away from intense talks. Agent John Boggs couldn't pinpoint how long it took for the Red Sox to call back -- but they did. Now, the two sides will wait to sign a contract extension, in part to see if Gonzalez is healthy. He had surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder in October.
According to multiple reports, parameters are in place for a seven-year, $154 contract that will become formalized perhaps at the beginning of the regular season. That way, Boston's luxury tax for 2011 won't be adversely affected.
Shortly after Gonzalez was introduced, Red Sox owner John Henry had a brief goodbye with Boggs.
The two exchanged pleasantries and thanked each other.
"We'll get it done," Henry told Boggs in the Fenway Park interview room, ending the conversation.
Negotiations could pick up once the season nears, but whenever they do, Gonzalez isn't expected to hit free agency next offseason.
"We learned a lot about each other's positions, there was a lot of good faith that developed over the course of the negotiations," Epstein said. "We got close to a deal, but in the end, the window lapsed and we didn't have a deal. ... There wasn't a single person who felt like, at the end of the day, we won't get a deal done when the time is right."
"We both understand where our limits are," Boggs said. "It was a pretty gut-wrenching decision to get up and leave. At that point in time, we thought it was done, we were going back to San Diego."
Instead, Gonzalez is going to watch the Patriots play the Jets on Monday night in Foxboro, and the Red Sox will have at least one season with the No. 3 hitter they couldn't land in Mark Teixeira two offseasons ago. Boston has always been in Gonzalez's heart, the Red Sox in particular -- even though he's a San Diego native who's had the chance to play for his hometown team for five years.
"You always root for a National League team and an American League team, and the Red Sox have always been the American league team I rooted for," Gonzalez said.
Williams, perhaps the greatest hitter of all-time from either side of the plate, grew up in San Diego. Gonzalez used to watch his brother play at Williams' high school ballfield, and he remembers first asking his father who Williams was. Gonzalez's style at the plate isn't the same -- he's more inclined to use the whole field. But that didn't stop him from feeling a connection to Williams and Boston as a child.
"I definitely let the ball get as deep as I can. I'm not afraid to break a bat," Gonzalez said. "I believe his idea was get the bat out and pull it, but I'm not trying to be like him. That's somebody that I deeply admire, but I'm going to be myself."
Gonzalez has been one of the best left-handed hitters in the game for a few years. He's one of just nine players to hit at least 30 home runs in each of the last four seasons, and he's been a NL All-Star each of the last three years. He hit .298 with 33 doubles, 31 homers and 101 RBIs in 160 games last season, and perhaps most important, he's just 28 years old.
"Assuming that we're able to follow through with a contract extension as we hope, it sets us up," Epstein said. "Adrian's not someone who's in his decline years, he's in his prime. He can be a staple of this ballclub for a long time. We have what I think is a really good young core."
Epstein confirmed Monday that Gonzalez's arrival means Kevin Youkilis will move to third base, a position he played regularly in the Minors and has 168 starts at in the big leagues. Gonzalez's addition means free-agent Adrian Beltre's return becomes even less likely.
"Right after the season ended, I told Youk that he'd be moving to third base unless we had Adrian," Epstein joked. "I didn't use a last name."
Epstein left for the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., after the news conference and said completing the Gonzalez deal was indeed a priority before heading south, where other teams could have swooped in and where he has other needs to fill. He's still targeting a right-handed bat, possibly for the outfield.