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A-Gone Is A-Coming?

According to just about everyone, Adrian Gonzalez is headed to the Sox after a physical and a contract extension. The Sox have lacked a true star slugger since Manny left and Gonzalez is as much a sure thing in that category as there is in the game.

While I am 100% behind this trade, it does raise a few new questions. I'll chat about those now not to throw cold water on this game-changing trade, but because I can't think of anything more to say about the trade itself than: yes, yes, yes or maybe yes.

Presumably Gonzalez will now man 1B and Youk will move to 3B. I have always been skeptical of Youkilis as an everyday 3B. He has an average arm and his mobility is only going to decline. He has started 180 games at 3B compared to 529 at 1B. That said, the idea of Youk playing left field consistently is not an option. He's started 19 games there in his career and as we discussed ad nauseum last year when Ellsbury moved over to left, we should not underestimate the need for speed in left, even in front of the Monster. Youk would be a liability out there and will only play significant time there if the Sox get an alarming discount with Adrian Beltre. Youk will man third in a consistent albeit unspectacular fashion in 2011. In 2012, when Youk will be 33 and in the last year of his contract, he will likely take over DH from Papi whose contract ends after next year.

The other major issue raised by this trade is the lefty factor. The Sox will now likely have a leadoff man (Ellsbury), 3rd (AGon), 5th (Papi) and 7th (Drew) hitting left and a new starting catcher (Saltalammacciacalatamacciaca) who switch hits but is much better from the right side. And Peddy has a 50 point better OPS over the last 3 years against righties than lefties; Lowrie, a switchhitter who might see a lot of time at short or even 3B, is massively better against righties. Scutaro is pretty much neutral. So, that means against lefties at this point we're relying on Youkilis and then... Mike Cameron and Tek? take on lefties. Meanwhile, the Yankees might end up with the two best lefty starters in the game. The good news is that AGon was fantastic against lefties last year; the bad news is over the last 3 season his OPS is 200 points worse against lefties. Ideally, he'll be the very rare lefty who can take advantage of the short rightfield porch in the Bronx against Sabathia (and maybe Cliff Lee), but that's so rare I'm not totally counting on it.

The Sox will need to invest in some anti-lefty options in order to truly succeed. You can see a list here of the best in the league against lefties with a minimum of 100 plate appearances. As I tweeted this week, the recently-released former-Brave LFer Matt Diaz would be a great mid-level addition. The Sox need help against lefties and I'm starting to see the value of Jayson Werth in that regard.

As for what we are expected to give up for Gonzalez - pitching prospect Casey Kelley, 1B youngster Anthony Rizzo and maybe OF Ray Fuentes (left) or Ryan Kalish - this is a fair trade - in fact it's exactly the troika I guessed would make this work. Kelley and Rizzo are very young and talented and perfect for the Padres. If included in the trade, Kalish will be missed but this is also a case of selling high. Kalish is a fan and management favorite and he will probably be a good major league player, but he is not quite as good as we think and is very unlikely to put up mid-lineup numbers or top-lineup speed. Fuentes is a major speed talent but he's a ways away.

This trade just made my off-season.


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