BOSTON -- For nearly two years, the Red Sox had been trying to find a way to acquire Adrian Gonzalez's elite left-handed bat from the San Diego Padres. On Saturday, Boston general manager Theo Epstein's persistence finally paid off.
MLB.com has confirmed that the clubs have agreed to a deal in principle, in which the Red Sox will ship three highly regarded Minor League prospects to the Padres in exchange for Gonzalez, one of the most dynamic hitters in the game. ESPN's Buster Olney first reported the deal on Saturday morning.
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner declined to comment when asked if the deal had been agreed upon, as Boston has a blanket club policy of not responding to any trade rumor until a deal is completely official. The Padres also had yet to comment.
Getting to know Casey Kelly
The 2008 first-round Draft pick out of high school in Florida, Kelly is the son of longtime coach Pat Kelly, so he entered pro ball with an advanced knowledge of how to carry himself and play the game. A shortstop and a pitcher as an amateur, the Red Sox allowed him to hit and pitch in his first full season. He went 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA on the mound in 2009, representing the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game that July. After he reached an innings limit, he switched gears and played shortstop every day in the second half, hitting .222/.302/.340 over 57 games. After playing short in the Arizona Fall League, Kelly and the Red Sox decided his focus would come on the mound. That's where he spent all of 2010. While he went just 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA in 95 innings, he was doing so with the challenge of having been pushed all the way up to Double-A Portland at age 20.
He made four appearances in the AFL this past fall, and while again the results weren't great (6.75 ERA, 19 hits over 16 innings), scouts still had good things to say about his pure stuff. MLB.com's No. 28 prospect heading into the 2010 season, Kelly is still believed to have a very bright future. He throws a fastball up to 92 mph, though he's struggled with fastball command, one of the reasons for his poor results. He's got a plus curveball, thrown 77-81 mph, again with below-average present command. He's already got an average changeup, thrown 81-84 mph. He may never be the ace of a rotation, but with his three-pitch mix, pitching know-how and age, he could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter for years to come. Considering he's been a pitcher for only one full season, he could have a ceiling as high as a No. 2 in the not-too-distant future.
-- Jonathan Mayo
Initial efforts to reach John Boggs, who represents Gonzalez, were unsuccessful.
Gonzalez, a first baseman, flew to Boston on Saturday and passed his physical, according to a Major League source. The Red Sox have received permission from Major League Baseball and the sides are still working out a contract extension for Gonzalez, who is entering the last year of his current deal, according to the source. Multiple reports cite the deadline to get a deal done is 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.
In the past, Gonzalez has stated that he is looking for deals similar to ones Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees (eight years, $180 million) and what Ryan Howard received from the Phillies (five-year, $125 million contract extension).
Padres general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters in October that if Gonzalez wanted Teixeira or Howard money, "That's not something we're going to be able to do."
Starting pitcher Casey Kelly, the 2008 first-round pick that Boston had long been reluctant to deal, headlines the package that would go to San Diego. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who overcame cancer a couple of years ago, is the second prospect. And Reymond Fuentes, the outfielder who was taken with the 28th overall pick in the 2009 Draft, is also in the trade.
FOXsports.com's Ken Rosenthal added that a player to be named will also be provided by Boston, making it a four-for-one deal. MLB.com columnist and MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons reported on Twitter that the player to be named will not be a prime prospect.
The Cubs were another team that was said to be interested in the 28-year-old player very much in his prime.
Given Gonzalez's age, the contract could be anywhere from six to eight years. His 2011 salary is just $6.2 million.
The addition of Gonzalez would give Epstein the middle-of-the-order stud he lost out on two winters ago when Mark Teixeira chose the Yankees over the Red Sox. Since Teixeira went to New York, the Yankees won the World Series and got to the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox lost in the Division Series in 2009 and didn't make the postseason this year.
If the Red Sox are successful in acquiring Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis -- Boston's starting first baseman the last five seasons -- will move across the diamond to third. Youkilis came through the Minors as a third baseman and has started 168 games at that position in his time with the Red Sox. He stated multiple times this offseason that he was prepared to move back to the hot corner -- in fact, he said he would be eager to do so if the club needed him to.
Free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre was hoping to return to Boston, but if Gonzalez comes on board, the Red Sox are all but certain to bow out of those negotiations. The A's have already offered Beltre a lucrative deal, perhaps as long as five years.
Getting to know Anthony Rizzo
The Red Sox drafted Anthony Rizzo in the sixth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, giving the Florida high school product an above-slot $325,000 to sign. He was off to a wonderful start in his first full season, in 2008, but his season ended after just 21 games when he was diagnosed with Limited Stage Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He came back with a strong showing in '09, hitting .297/.368/.461 with a dozen homers and 66 RBIs in 119 games across both levels of A ball. He took another step forward in '10 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs, while hitting .260 and making it up to Double-A for the first time.
Rizzo has plus raw power that started to show up production-wise big-time this past season. He also gets graded out as a future plus hitter, with a good approach at the plate. He's a below-average baserunner, but is a plus defender at first base. He's got tremendous makeup and a strong work ethic, something that allowed him to come back from his illness so strongly. He's a solid-average-to-plus prospect overall with the chance to be a very good everyday first baseman one day. Give him perhaps a year and he could be a long-term replacement to Adrian Gonzalez at first base in San Diego.
The Red Sox have been active this week, also having face-to-face meetings with free-agent outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.
Hoyer -- an assistant under Epstein with the Red Sox for many years -- acknowledged earlier this winter that the Padres probably wouldn't be able to keep Gonzalez after the 2011 season, when he becomes a free agent.
Gonzalez is coming off shoulder surgery, but is expected to be ready for the start of 2011.
In 2010, Gonzalez hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs. This, to go along with a .904 OPS. In 858 Major League games, Gonzalez is a .284 hitter with 168 homers and 525 RBIs. Gonzalez has a smooth opposite-field stroke, which would make him a perfect fit for Fenway.
The Padres had the second-lowest payroll in the Major Leagues last season at $38 million, and they won't likely have a much higher payroll in 2011. But if this deal gets done, they would have prospects they could build around in the coming years.
Hoyer, from his Boston days, knows the Red Sox's farm system, as does Jason McLeod, who is the Padres' assistant general manager of scouting and player development. McLeod was previously the Red Sox's director of amateur scouting.
Since the Padres' farm system is devoid of Major League-ready talent, the influx of talent from the Red Sox would help the Padres to more quickly achieve what Hoyer wants: a handful of players moving up to the Major League level each year.
"We have to have a farm system that's turning out two to three players from year to year," Hoyer said in October. "We're not going to have that for next year. That's a priority."
The way the Padres want to accomplish that is through the First-Year Player Draft. But that takes time. Making a deal to land prospects for Gonzalez would hasten the process.
In regards to Gonzalez's future, it's essentially been a foregone conclusion since the end of the regular season that Gonzalez would be traded sometime before or during the 2011 season and that he wanted to test his worth on the open market as a free agent.
Hoyer told reporters in October that if Gonzalez wants Teixeira or Ryan Howard money, "that's not something we're going to be able to do."
Hoyer met with Gonzalez's agent, John Boggs, in November.
Getting to know Fuentes
The cousin of Carlos Beltran, Fuentes was the Red Sox's first-round pick out of the Puerto Rico high school ranks in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
The center fielder is a plus-plus runner on both sides of the ball, stealing 42 bases over two years in the Gulf Coast League and the South Atlantic League. Though Fuentes has below-average arm strength, he's very accurate with his throws. He's a plus defender with plus range.
Offensively, Fuentes has the chance to be an average hitter with average power as he matures. He's a premium athlete with the potental to be a toolsy, everyday center fielder at the big league level. With the GCL Red Sox and Class A Greenville Drive, he had a .270 average with five homers and 41 RBIs.
-- Jonathan Mayo
"What we can do and what they're looking for don't match up," Hoyer said. "If things change somewhere at some point in the future, it's a possibility."
Hoyer has been asked about Gonzalez since he was hired as general manager of the Padres in October 2009. The natural assumption by many was Hoyer inherited an automatic trade partner in the Red Sox because of his ties to the team, knowledge of the Minor League system and, of course, his relationship with Epstein.
"The Boston rumors were natural," Hoyer said in August. "Theo and I even joked about it."
Hoyer got plenty of hits on Gonzalez last winter but held onto him, citing how much of a bargain Gonzalez was, perhaps one of the best in baseball. Gonzalez made $4.75 million last season.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to dealing Gonzalez in 2010: The Padres kept winning. The Trade Deadline came and went without so much a sniff of a serious offer for Gonzalez.
"There were a lot of teams interested in him this winter, and some were aggressive. But the truth of the matter is, we never got close," Hoyer said in August, adding that he hadn't received an offer for Gonzalez since March. "There was never a deal we were strongly contemplating."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Corey Brock contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.