We have our first shocker of the MLB off-season, and it's a game-changer.
Somehow managing to come completely out of the blue, and yet not unexpected, the Boston Red Sox have finally completed their pursuit of Adrian Gonzalez that has been rumored about for over a year. First-basemen Gonzalez is a fantastic hitter and strong defender at first-base. He's a perennial 30 home run hitter at Petco Park, which is one of the worst hitter's parks in all of baseball, and gets on-base as well as almost anyone in the game.
The Red Sox missed out on signing Mark Teixeira to a mega deal after 2008, but have no acquired a player who profiles almost identically, and is two years younger. Gonzalez has apparently flown to Boston to begin working out a contract extension, and it is sure to approach to heights of Teixeira's deal.
It appears that the Red Sox will also manage to pull off the trade without sending over anyone from their Major League roster, and while there are some very good prospects heading to San Diego, it appears that none of them will be players the Red Sox wind up missing much. Pitcher Casey Kelly is the big prize in the deal, but with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Josh Beckett locked into Boston's rotation for the next four years at least, pitching isn't exactly a team need. First basemen Anthony Rizzo, who is seen as having considerable upside, is made expendable by Gonzalez, and Raymond Fuentes profiles as a speedy outfielder, but hasn't yet shown the hitting skills to become a star in the AL East.
The move will cause the Red Sox to shift Kevin Youkilis to shift to third-base, where his strong bat will leave him as one of the game's elite players if his defense holds up. It will take the Red Sox out of the chase for Adrian Beltre, but betting on Gonzalez long-term seems like a far stronger option than Beltre.
While many had begin to wonder if the powers that be in the AL East were beginning to change, with the Yankees and Red Sox starting to age, this moves immediately stops that conversation. Gonzalez and Youkilis will together form a dependable and dangerous force in the middle of the Red Sox order, and one that can be expected to stay strong for years to come.
The off-season is still young, but the Red Sox have already pulled off what could very well be the biggest deal of the offseason. On top of that, word is that the Red Sox remain in the hunt for an outfielder such as Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, which would create a ridiculously strong lineup.
With the Winter Meetings starting Monday, the rest of the AL East has been put on notice. The Red Sox have jumped out and made a bold move to position themselves for at least the near future. While the Yankees will still boast a similarly strong offense, and remain in in the hunt for Clfif Lee and Carl Crawford, it's time for the rest of the GM's in the AL East to find a way to even stay in the conversation.