Monday, December 6, 2010

The Inevitability Conundrum - Trading Adrian Gonzalez

After the 2005 season, Kevin Towers pulled off what could arguably be called the best front office move of his Padres GM tenure. He traded Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka to the Texas Rangers for Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, and Termel Sledge. Apologies to Mr. Sledge, but let's focus on Gonzalez and Young for a second.

At the time of the trade I remember not being crazy about it. I like Otsuka as a set-up man to Hoffman and Eaton at the time seemed a more than serviceable starter. And who were Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez? No one I had ever heard of.

Fast forward to winter of 2010.

The trade of Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox has sent shock waves through two fan bases, for two very different reasons.

For Boston fans, they get a perennial All-Star who hit 30 plus HR playing in one of the most cavernous parks in baseball, coupled with Gold Glove caliber defense at first.

For Padres fans, we are left only with melancholy.

Any fan who has been paying even the slightest of attention knew this was inevitable. When Ryan Howard signed his 5 year, $125 million extension the writing was on the wall. But in reality, the writing had appeared before that. The Moore divorce that has wrecked havoc on the Padres, decimated the Padres payroll nearly in half, down to a paltry $40 million projected for 2011.

There was no way to justify paying one player, no matter how great, nearly 50% of a teams entire payroll. And it was unfair to ask Adrian Gonzalez to not get market value. This is the economic landscape of modern day baseball.

Thus began the Adrian Gonzalez trade rumors, rumors that would dominate the 2009 offseason. But as Opening Day 2010 approached, there he was, firmly in place at First Base.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to Fenway Park. The Padres started winning. And winning.

With the Padres in contention, the idea of trading Adrian Gonzalez, despite his value likely never higher, was unfathomable. The Padres front office pushed their chips in and said "Let's go for it."

Did that decision lesson the overall haul for Adrian Gonzalez this week? Probably. The need to trade Adrian was well known and everyday he was a Padres was a day his value decreased and the Padres need to trade increased.

Do I regret them going for it? Not for one second. As earlier post have pointed out, the 2010 baseball season, despite its outcome, was one of the most enjoyable seasons I can remember as a fan. The team won 90 games, had a real shot at making the playoffs and a World Series. Those shots don't come around all the time. And when they do, you take that shot, consequences be damned.

So here we are. Adrian Gonzalez is no longer a San Diego Padres. The starting First Basemen is unknown and the ability for the Padres to compete in 2011 appears, on paper, to be limited.

Adrian Gonzalez leaves San Diego second on the All-Time franchise HR list at 161, behind Nate Colbert at 163 despite 61 fewer plate appearances. He leaves 4th on the franchise all-time RBI list. And despite his relatively short tenure in San Diego, he leaves as perhaps the 3rd most beloved Padres of All-Time, behind Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman (ok, this one is less a stat and more of an opinion).

Today, despite all the logic and reason behind the trade, is not a good day to be a Padres fan. The organization loss their franchise face for most of the last decade.

I know little of the prospects coming from Boston behind what has already been reported. I know they are all highly touted, all with tremendous upside and that none are MLB ready. And I know that the economics of the situation meant this trade had to happen for the long term health of the franchise.

Going to the dentist is good for my long term health too. Doesn't mean I have to enjoy the dentist when I'm there.

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