Opinion

Trade Adrian Gonzalez? It Could Happen

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | The Padres have several holes to fill on their roster and high in the farm system.

One way to do it: Trade Adrian Gonzalez.

An All-Star and Gold Glover who is cheaply under contract through 2011, Gonzalez cannot veto a trade and almost certainly would fetch a lot of young talent.

Gonzalez, though, is “the face of the franchise,” in the words of none other than Tony Gwynn. Smooth and powerful, he is the best reason to watch these Padres.

It’s a lot to consider for Jeff Moorad, the team’s CEO and vice chairman.

For now, it’s a non-issue.

Moorad said on Monday there is “no chance” the Padres will trade Gonzalez leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

Will the Padres put Gonzalez on the trade block after the season? “No way, no way,” Moorad said.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Padres will turn a deaf ear in November if another club charges after Gonzalez.

Said Moorad: “There is a dramatic distinction between putting a player on the market as opposed to listening to ideas that could improve your ballclub.”

Gonzalez, 27, is inexpensive enough that the Padres could comfortably pay him both next year and in 2011, when his salaries will be $4.75 million and $5.7 million respectively.

He can become a free agent in November 2011, which must concern Moorad.

I’ve been told the Padres believe that Gonzalez could command $20 million per season as a free agent.

Goodbye, Adrian, if he’s worth that much and bent on getting every last dollar.

I think the Red Sox would be the most likely trade partner. For some time, the Sox and Padres have been sizing up a potential Gonzalez trade. Boston has plenty of money and young talent to make it happen.

Red Sox scout Dave Finley, working for the Marlins in 2000, signed Gonzalez out of Chula Vista’s Eastlake High after Florida selected him first overall.

Doing their homework, the Padres have evaluated several Red Sox prospects.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim inquired about Gonzalez last December at the winter meetings, said Padres General Manager Kevin Towers, whose revelation may have been directed at the Red Sox.

The San Francisco Giants reputedly have a strong farm system and could be shopping for a first baseman. Giants manager Bruce Bochy got to know Gonzalez during their time together with the Padres and voted for him on his Gold Glove ballot last year.

The Padres know that trading Gonzalez would be unpopular with many of their fans.

Heck, they like the guy, too.

Not only the team’s best player, he is a perfect fit for the club’s marketing plan. A citizen of both the United States and Mexico, he is popular in Mexico, a market that Moorad, upon becoming CEO in March, said is a key target area for plans going forward. Gonzalez rooted for the Padres while growing up in Bonita and Tijuana.

“He certainly fits the definition of a solid veteran to build around. At some level, albeit a significant one financially, I could see him fitting in long-term,” Moorad said.

For what it’s worth, I strongly doubt Gonzalez would criticize the Padres if they traded him to a contending club.

Gonzalez wants to play for a winner. Badly. He got a taste of the playoffs in 2006 and another pennant race in 2007. He said he struggled to retain his edge last summer, once it became obvious that the Padres had no chance of sniffing the pennant race.

He insisted in March that this Padres’ club would contend for the playoffs, then watched it fall apart again.

Some of his friends say Gonzalez also actually might benefit from getting out of San Diego, just because he is so popular here and in Mexico, and attempts to please many people.

If the Padres were to trade Gonzalez this off-season — and I believe it’s more likely than not that they will deal him — chalk it up to timing.

At a different time, the Padres would be pushing to lock up Gonzalez. Say, 2004, when the club was moving into a new ballpark and expecting to field winning teams, which it did from 2004-07.

Their farm system is producing several success stories this summer yet could use more impact talent. Entering the season, it was ranked 29th out of 30 by Baseball America.

The Padres had hoped to boost their youth movement by trading Jake Peavy, their ace pitcher, either last off-season or this season. Peavy is still here, and he’s due $52 million from 2010-12. Unlike Gonzalez, he can block a trade to any club. Even if Peavy returns from the disabled list in good form later this season, his trade value would be considerably less than Gonzalez’s would be.

These are difficult times for Padres fans. And for Moorad, who could be known as the guy who dealt Adrian Gonzalez.

Please contact Tom Krasovic directly at tkrasovic@aol.com with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or set the tone of the debate with a letter to the editor.

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