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Trade Retrospective: Red Sox swap Rizzo and more for Padres' Gonzalez

Five off-seasons ago, the Red Sox moved a significant package (including first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo) for the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez. Treating today as a snapshot in time, who's winning this trade?

Adrian Gonzalez (far left) and Anthony Rizzo (far right) were both 2015 NL All-Stars at first base.
Adrian Gonzalez (far left) and Anthony Rizzo (far right) were both 2015 NL All-Stars at first base.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Five off-seasons ago, the Red Sox and Padres completed a blockbuster trade featuring two first basemen who would both go on to represent the National League at that position it the 2015 All-Star Game. The Red Sox sent a prospect-led haul featuring Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes, and Eric Patterson to the Padres for then three-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Five years later, who is currently winning the trade?

As with all of these trade retrospectives, only the initial decision is being evaluated - not later moves that affect the perception of the trade. In this case, that both Rizzo and Gonzalez were traded shortly afterwards does not affect each team's original decision to trade for the players.

An interesting wrinkle here is that while the Red Sox technically traded for Gonzalez with only one season of team control remaining, the acquisition was predicated on signing an extension. That deal was finalized shortly after the trade, and as a result, those seven additional seasons are counted towards the Red Sox totals.

Also, as was introduced in my last post of this nature, I'm doing some unscientific depreciation of future wins, just in an attempt to simulate the thought process of front offices who value immediate wins more highly.

Year 2011 Value 1.0 WAR in 2011 is worth…
2011 100% 1.00 WAR
2012 75% 1.33 WAR
2013 55% 1.82 WAR
2014 40% 2.50 WAR
2015 30% 3.33 WAR

The Deal

Adrian Gonzalez was the lone player headed to Boston, and they constitute the buyers in this trade. Gonzalez was coming off of his third straight All-Star appearance for the Padres, having produced 19.2 fWAR during his five seasons with the team.

He was originally selected with the first-overall pick by the Marlins in 2000 before being included in a head-scratching package to the Rangers for closer Ugueth Urbina in 2003. He was a four-time Baseball America Top 100 Prospect before being traded again, this time to the Padres with Chris Young (the starting pitcher, not the center fielder) for Akinori Otsuka and Adam Eaton (the starting pitcher, not the center fielder). Gonzalez produced a .226 ISO and was one of the 25 most valuable batters in baseball from 2006-2010.

In return from the Red Sox, the Padres received four young players. Casey Kelly was the headliner at the time, a former two-way player who committed to pitching full time in the 2010 season. He was the 30th overall pick in the 2008 draft, and despite poor results at AA, ranked as Baseball America's 31st best prospect in the Minors on their 2011 preseason list.

To say that Anthony Rizzo was a lottery ticket prospect at the time of the trade isn't fair to him (he was the 75th best prospect on the above list), but few projected him to hit his eventual heights. He was an odd sixth-round pick as a high school first baseman, and overcame serious illness as he traversed the low minors. He hit .284/.362/.469 from 2007-2010, and had just completed a tour of AA.

Reymond Fuentes was a first round pick in the 2009 draft, and had just completed his first full-season in A ball as a 19-year old. He was a project-able center fielder with speed, and immediately ranked among the Padres' top 10 prospects. At the time, Baseball America's Jim Callis compared him favorably to Jacoby Ellsbury, and projected him to be better than him with both the bat and glove. If those sound like lofty expectations, it should be noted that this was before Ellsbury's 2011 season.

Finally, Eric Patterson was a former 8th-round pick by the Cubs who bounced from Chicago to Oakland to Boston before his inclusion in the deal. He hit .295/.359/.457 across seven seasons in AAA, and was a utility player who could play around the infield and all three outfield positions in a pinch. He was the only player in the package who had burned a year of service time, but he still had five remaining.

The Ripples

Red Sox Transaction With To/By/With For
Adrian Gonzalez Traded Josh Beckett Dodgers James Loney
Carl Crawford Allen Webster
Nick Punto Ivan De Jesus
Cash Considerations Jerry Sands
Rubby De La Rosa
James Loney Free Agency

Ivan De Jesus, Jerry Sands Traded Mark Melancon Pirates Joel Hanrahan
Stolmy Pimentel Brock Holt
Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster Traded Raymel Flores Diamondbacks Wade Miley
Joel Hanrahan Free Agency
Wade Miley Traded Jonathan Aro Mariners Carson Smith
Roenis Elias

Although they only received one of the five players in the trade, the Red Sox have the more extensive transactional family tree. A mere year and a half after acquiring and extending Gonzalez, he was packaged with Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford in one of the most famous payroll clearings in MLB history. The Red Sox did receive several interesting players in return, most of whom were later traded again.

Ivan De Jesus and Jerry Sands were packaged with Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel for the Pirates, who sent back former closer Joel Hanrahan and super utility player Brock Holt. Holt has become a fan favorite in Boston, and Melancon immediately emerged as an elite reliever for the Pirates. Total production is close enough that neither side can be faulted for that deal.

Later, pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were traded with Raymel Flores to the Diamondbacks for Wade Miley. De La Rosa is somewhere in the mix for the back of the Diamondbacks' starting rotation, while Webster hasn't reached his Top 100 Prospect pedigree.

Miley was one of the Red Sox's most consistent starters (2.6 fWAR) during a tumultuous 2015 season, and was himself flipped with prospect Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for relief ace Carson Smith and swing-man Roenis Elias.

Both Hanrahan and Loney hit free agency following their stints with the Red Sox.

Padres Transaction With To/By/With For
Eric Patterson Released
Reymond Fuentes Traded Royals Kyle Bartsch
Casey Kelly Traded Ricardo Rodriguez Braves Christian Bethancourt
Anthony Rizzo Traded Zach Cates Cubs Andrew Cashner
Kyung-Min Na

On the Padres' side, Patterson was released following the 2011 season, and Reymond Fuentes was traded to the Royals for Minor League reliever Kyle Bartsch in 2014.

Anthony Rizzo was notably traded with prospect Zach Cates to the Cubs for reliever Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na. Following that trade, Cashner successfully converted back to starting and became very productive for the Padres in that role (7.7 fWAR from 2012-2015). While still on the team, he is the frequent subject of new trade rumors.

Casey Kelly battled injury for multiple seasons after the trade, including undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013. To this point, his Major League appearances have been sporadic and ineffective. He was just recently traded to the Braves for another former top prospect in catcher Christian Bethancourt.

The Results

Remaining Control fWAR Salary (M) FA Value (M) Surplus Value (M) Surplus Value - Adj (M)
Adrian Gonzalez * 3 19.1 $90.30 $142.40 $52.10 $45.44
Anthony Rizzo ** 3 14.5 $7.00 $109.00 $102.00 $40.62
Reymond Fuentes 6 -0.1 $- $(0.80) $(0.80) $(0.44)
Casey Kelly 5 $0.99 $0.40 $(0.59) $(0.31)
Eric Patterson 5 -0.2 $0.42 $(1.80) $(2.22) $(2.22)
Red Sox Total 3 19.1 $90.30 $142.40 $52.10 $45.44
Padres Total 19 14.2 $8.41 $106.80 $98.39 $37.65

* Gonzalez's extension was a consideration at the time of the trade, and therefore is included in totals. ** However, Rizzo's extension was signed after he was again traded to the Cubs, and wasn't a factor at the time of this deal.

Even five years later, the evaluation of this trade is still just a snapshot in time. There's a lot of team control left on the board from key pieces that will likely sway the figures in the coming years.

However, it does appear that the judgement on this deal will be decided by one's opinion on future win depreciation. Using FanGraphs' calculations, the unadjusted surplus value figure (a player's free agent value, minus their actual salary) predictably favors the team receiving a pre-arbitration Anthony Rizzo.

Kelly, Fuentes, and Patterson have all broken slightly less than even since the trade, so this can basically be viewed as a one-for-one deal. Even though Gonzalez has a higher total fWAR, his salary is high enough that it's not as astronomical a bargain as Rizzo, who has produced at least 5.5 fWAR each of the last two seasons.

The raw numbers have the Padres currently ahead by over $45 million ($98.4 million versus $52.1 million), and this margin only looks to grow. While both players have three seasons of team control remaining, Rizzo is just hitting his peak while Gonzalez is likely entering his decline phase. Additionally, Rizzo has three seasons of arbitration remaining, while Gonzalez will make $66.57 million over the final three seasons of his deal.

However, using my unscientific future win penalties, the Red Sox are actually ahead. Rizzo didn't emerge as an All-Star until 2014, and Gonzalez immediately had the best season of his career in 2011 (6.1 fWAR). When you bank that much of a disparity early on, it's hard to overcome that margin.

There's a debate to be had over what the proper weighting is for a situation like this, but if anything, I was afraid my numbers were too conservative - that I wasn't giving enough of a bonus for present day wins. The Red Sox made this trade to acquire an immediate middle of the order slugger, he produced even more than expected, and he's been consistent year after year.

As it stands today, in terms of banked value, I'd lean towards the Red Sox as being ahead on the outcome of this trade. However, this seems like a small enough margin that Rizzo's bargain production will close the gap over the next three seasons.

Let's all agree to check back after 2018.

. . .

Spencer Bingol is an Editor and Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpencerBingol.