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Appreciating The Adrian Gonzalez Deal

The Red Sox have been the victims of their fair share of bad deals of late. John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Bobby Jenks, quite possibly Carl Crawford--it's not a list anyone enjoys hearing or really needs to hear again, so let's leave it at that.

About 16 months ago, the Sox sent Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes to the San Diego Padres for one Adrian Gonzalez. It was a high price to pay in prospects, but the Red Sox knew who they wanted (as did all of us), and they went out and got him. It was a decisive move for one of the few players who are unquestionably amongst the best at their position--a truly premium talent.

Of course, the fact of the matter with any such deal these days is that it usually buys you all of a year, and the rest will have to be purchased with cold, hard cash. Such was the case with Adrian Gonzalez, whose contract was up in 2012, requiring the Red Sox to drop a seven year, $154 million contract extension in order to keep him on board, locking him up all the way through the end of his age 36 season.

At the time, the extension was an almost unanimously popular move. In light of recent events, however, we can appreciate even more how excellent the Adrian Gonzalez contract is for the Red Sox.

Let's look at Adrian and his deal compared to some of the other first basemen signed to long-term deals:

Name Age Contract AAV (millions) Signed Through 2011 wOBA 2011 fWAR
Miguel Cabrera 28 $19.04 32 0.436 7.3
Prince Fielder 27 $23.78 36 0.408 5.5
Adrian Gonzalez 29 $22.00 36 0.406 6.6
Ryan Howard 32 $25.00 37 0.354 1.6
Albert Pujols 32 $24.00 41 0.385 5.1
Mark Teixeira 31 $22.50 36 0.361 4.2
Joey Votto 28 $22.50* 40 0.403 6.9

*Not including previous 3-year, $38 million extension.

First, let's just get out of the way how awful Ryan Howard's contract is. Wow.

Now, moving on.

What you'll notice here is that Gonzo is among the top of the group in every single category. Aside from Cabrera, who was signed with two years of arbitration left, Gonzalez has the lowest average annual value to his contract. The Sox are paying for relatively few years after Gonzalez' prime compared to the monster deals just signed by Albert Pujols and Joey Votto, and said prime can be expected to last longer than Prince Fielder's.

Of course, this chart isn't entirely fair to everyone. Pujols, after all, could maybe be expected to beat out his 2011 WAR with some regularity (at least for a while) given his career average fWAR of around 8. And, yes, Gonzalez will have to prove in 2012 that he really every bit as good as he seemed in 2011 with another strong season.

That being said, however, so long as Gonzalez doesn't fall off in the same unexpected way Mark Teixeira did, his contract absolutely shines in comparison to the three signed in these past few months. With ridiculous numbers of years tacked on, teams are likely to be shelling out upwards of $50-100 million over the value of said players come the end of their contracts while the Sox would be unlikely to ever approach even the lower limit of that figure.

This is not to say that those contracts are bad. Votto and Pujols are more than just players in many ways--Votto is the identity of the Reds right now, while Pujols is just about the biggest exception the market can produce in terms of contract valuations.Still, when you put them up against Adrian's, it's hard not to see Boston's contract as a bargain in terms of both years and dollars.

And that's saying a lot at $154 million.