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Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox continue to pretend that they don’t have a deal

Feb 18, 2011, 6:12 AM EDT

Newly acquired Boston Red Sox player Adrian Gonzalez smiles during a news conference at Fenway Park in Boston

The Adrian Gonzalez trade was prefaced by a negotiating window between Gonzaelz and the Red Sox. No contract was signed during that time, but it has been widely speculated that the sides agreed to a framework of a deal. Gonazalez spoke with the Providence Journal yesterday about that:

“We don’t have any set deadline. Hopefully, we can get it done sooner rather than later. But, from my end, I want to show them I’m healthy and I’m playing 100 percent out there.”

The Projo likewise spoke with Theo Epstein:

“It was well-documented that we had a lot of conversations during the window that led up to the trade. As we said at the time, we developed a lot of mutual trust and understanding, mutual faith that when the time is right, both sides will be able to sit down and be fair with each other and, hopefully, work something out.”

This is so cute. It will be even cuter when, almost immediately after Opening Day, they announce the deal they have likely reached but have not yet formally completed.  With Opening Day being relevant, of course, because announcing a new contract then and not now kicks the Red Sox’ luxury tax hit down the road a year.  They did the same thing with the Josh Beckett deal last season.

There’s no way to really prove this, of course.  It’s not like Major League Baseball is going to put people under oath in an effort to find out if the Sox and Gonzalez actually do have a deal in place. They’re not even going to investigate it. And, technically speaking, there’s no ink on a contract.

But it does feel like the system is being gamed a bit. Does that bug you?  It doesn’t keep me up at night or anything, but it kinda bugs me.

  1. sknut - Feb 18, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    I think its smart business, unless the team pressures the player to wait, because that is where the risk is with injury and all.

  2. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Feb 18, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    Gee and I thought you only really had a deal when the contract is signed, but Craig you are the lawyer. BTW, what the heck is wrong with kicking the luxury tax hit down the road? The Sox will still have to pay luxury tax next year if they are over the limit, so it doesn’t bug me at all. It is kind of like shifting income from this year to next so I can defer the taxes.

    I really don’t see that is even gaming the system. The system has fixed dates in place. To think when it was set up that teams would use that to their advantage is a bit naive. I don’t even think the Sox are breaking the “spirit” of the agreement.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM

      Baseball’s rules for when you technically have a contract for their purposes require an executed a deal, but at common law a contract is reached when the sides have a meeting of the minds and an agreement to exchange promises of value. Only certain types of contracts have to be in writing to be legally enforceable.

      Which isn’t to say that I think any rules were broken here. And yes, if baseball makes a rule that is just so, it’s their fault — not the team or the players’ — if it is easily circumvented. I am merely noting that, were it not for this rule, AG and the Sox would almost certainly have an executed contract right now. The rule — and not some extended negotiating process — is what is delaying it.

      • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Feb 18, 2011 at 8:50 AM

        While I don’t know the CBA, but I am pretty sure it requires all contracts to be in writting, so either AG or the Sox could walk away before Opening Day.

        I’ m not giving you a hard time, but I guess I am saying, not only does it not keep me up at night, but I think bright date lines give a simplicity and clarity to the process that complex and soft timeframe don’t. In other words, making a rule that would make sure this kind of situation wouldn’t happen would be messier.

        Of course, if you are calling for Bud to simply tell the Sox to cut this kind of crap out, then I would be all for.

      • bigharold - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:29 AM

        Craig, I’m a Yankee fan and have zero compassion for all thing RS. While I realize what is being done and why I couldn’t care less. Are they gaming to process, yeah probably but they are getting by on a technicality, i.e. they do not have a signed formal agreement. But, as a lawyer, you’d have to admit that the law is in large part about the details and technicalities.

        Clearly MLB isn’t tat concerned or they wouldn’t allow it nor would they allow teams to have that window to negotiate so that the parties can build the “frame work” for the extension. MLB doesn’t really think it’s a problem, neither the players nor the owners object. So, as long as they adhere to the technicalities it’s all part of the gamesmanship of baseball.

        The one point that doesn’t seem to get addressed is what happens if Gonzalez, during a SP game, destroys his knee or hip or shoulder? What happens if it’s off field? If there is in fact no signed contract the RS would appear to have zero exposure. Would Gonzalez be successful if he sued based on his agreed upon “frame work”. I’m not a lawyer, I didn’t even sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night but I think the answer is a big fat NO! Do the RS have a legal, moral or ethical responsibility to give him the contract that was agreed upon within the “frame work? I can think of about $150 million reason why the RS wouldn’t do it short of being forced to by a court of law. They could jettison Gonzalez and move on and go after Fielder or Pujols next off season. It appears that ALL the risk is with Gonzalez. Now if something like that occurred and he lost out on a $150 million, then you would see it become a great big issue. The players union would get in a tizzy and you would NEVER see a player do that for a team again.

      • iranuke - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        I’d like to point out that there are benefits to both Boston and AG. What if after he gets to hit at Fenway, he find that the park is just not suited for him? From Boston’s perspective, now who would you rather have, AG or Sir Albert?

      • monsieurbear - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:55 PM

        A multiyear contract would have to be in writing under common law.

        AG would regret not formalizing a contract before opening day if he gets seriously injured in spring training. Sox would then balk and pursue Pujols next season.

  3. uyf1950 - Feb 18, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    This idea that the Gonzalez and the Red Sox don’t have a deal is a joke. I doubt anyone seriously believes that the 2 parties have not already shaken hands on more then the framework of an agreement. But the Red Sox are using a loophole in MLB rules to avoid paying the luxury tax on the contract this year. Short of a meteor falling to earth and hitting Gonzalez on the head and preventing him from ever playing again this “framework of a deal” gets announced and signed very shortly after opening day. Take it to the bank, 7 years $24MM per ($168MM total).

    • bigharold - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      What if he merely tears up his ACL? What if his shoulder problem comes back? What if he gets into a car accident and breaks a leg or an arm? You’re looking at it as if what happens if he can never play baseball again. What happens if his future ability is merely put in doubt?

      I’m kind of surprised that the union doesn’t put a stop to this type of stuff. Their constituency is needlessly being put at risk. I’m amazed that his agent allowed it. I realize that in the end it was Gonzalez decision but there are times when the union and agents should protect players not only from the owners but themselves as well. This would appear to be one of those times.

      Gonzalez is risking, by all accounts, $150 million dollar contract so the RS can avoid paying what would likely be about six or seven million dollars in luxury tax. Of the two parties which is better positioned to with stand that loss? This is just stupid on Gonzalez part.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:02 AM

        My friend, I was being sarcastic in my comment. I was ridiculing the fact that they don’t have an agreement (written or unwritten). But of course you are right all the downside at this point is on Gonzalez. Personally I think he was extremely foolish/stupid to sign with Boston without the extension. I’m sure neither Gonzalez or his agent are foolish or stupid. That’s why I think it’s naive of fans to think that there isn’t some backroom agreement already in place.

    • rsnorth - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:04 AM

      UFY: I believe it’s 7 years $154 million. 22 mil per year.

      • rsnorth - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:05 AM

        My bad. That’s Crawford’s deal. $168 is correct.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:10 AM

        I’ve read 7 years $154MM, 7 years $161MM and 7 years $164MM and 7 years $168MM.

        Here is a link to yardbarker that quotes WEEI that quotes the agreement at 7 years $164MM.

        Regardless the point is the deal is done.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:13 AM

        To RSNorth – Crawfords deal was for 7 years $142MM. It’s already been signed and delivered.

  4. Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Feb 18, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    My question is whether or not the agent is having second thoughts. Why not become a free agent and use Albert Pujos as the barometer? Won’t affect my team, Gonzalez doesn’t want back in SD where he will get the runs from our Chinese cuisine.

  5. phukyouk - Feb 18, 2011 at 9:16 AM

    i would not be the least bit surprised if the Sox dont announce anything yet. seeing as how Pujols will be hitting the market next fall and would not cost them too much more. they did however give up a few prospects for Gonzalez so it may push them to sign him to a long term deal.

    • JBerardi - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      I think there’s zero chance that the Red Sox are in on Pujols; but even if they are, Pujols would replace Ortiz, not Gonzalez.

      • phukyouk - Feb 18, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        no he wouldnt. there is no way that the Sox could sign both of them. so given the choice between the two the would have to choose AP.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:51 AM

      Hey, the prospects are gone either way. They might as well at least try to get the better player.

      If I’m Gonzalez, I would rather be a free agent, when the Sox, Cubs, O’s, Nats, Marlins, Angels, Dodgers, Rockies, and maybe even the Cardinals are all looking for a new 1B. If he really is going to have the monster year everyone predicts, it will only boost his value that much more. Maybe he gets a Albert contract.

    • bigharold - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      The RS stiffing Gonzalez in any manner by not signing him immediately after the season at the agreed upon price as was discussed within the “frame work” would be reckless and counter productive.

      First of all they are looking to sign Gonzalez for what 7 years in addition to 2011? Any hint of maneuvering on the RS part would set their relationship off in the wrong direction. Even if he got exactly what was agreed upon the message would be that the RS are not trustworthy. No point in poisoning the well on day one of an eight year marriage. Counter productive.

      Secondly; sould the RS delay or renege in the hopes of signing Pujols it would stand a very great chance of blowing up in their faces. What if Pujols and the Card’s come to an agreement before he hits FA. Even if he gets that far it would be a colossal risk they could sign him. He’d actually have the leverage because he’d know that Gonzalez is not an option. Very Risky.

      Finally; it would send a message to every player in MLB that the RS are not to be trusted. If you don’t have it in writing the RS FO’s word is worthless. The back lash would be harsh and long lasting.

      The RS are all in on Gonzalez and within the “frame work” agreed upon. Anything else would be more trouble than it’s worth. They could end up without Pujols or Gonzalez. More importantly they could scare away or at least make negotiating more difficult with every decent FA for years to come.

  6. granted42 - Feb 18, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    The delay in announcing the deal doesn’t bother me at all. Life goes on, and it will eventually count against them as far as the luxury tax is concerned. As a Giants’ fan, I’m just glad that Gonzalez is in the other league.

  7. baseballisboring - Feb 18, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Well, I’m a Red Sox fan, so in this situation it doesn’t bother me, sounds like good business to me. But even if I wasn’t I don’t think it would bother me…it’s not like having to pay a few extra million is gonna change the way teams like the Sox or Yanks operate anyway. It’s just money, we’ve got a lot.

  8. mvd513 - Feb 19, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    Doesnt bother me one bit. While I’m not against revenue sharing (I think its good that the teams which are rolling in it have to help the teams that simply cant, or aren’t, making as much), I dont think the high-spending teams should be specifically penalized for spending.

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