Adrian Gonzalez can now be called a “former San Diego Padre.”

Late last night, rumors were on fire that the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox were close to a deal that would send Gonzalez to the Northeast. I wanted to see if this was more than talk, seeing as we went through this same kind of thing this time last year.

As I awoke this morning, I found the rumors to not only be more than talk, but they turned into fact a few hours ago: The Padres had dealt their All-Star first baseman to the Boston Red Sox.

What was unclear, at least to me at the time, was which players were going to be involved in the deal. For a guy like Gonzalez, I figured the Padres would be getting some big-time talent in return, guys who would make an immediate impact on the team in 2011. Right?


What I quickly realized was this was no talent-for-talent package. This was a fire sale, a move to bring in “prospects” to reload the Padres’ minor league system. They let Adrian go to Boston for no more than chump change.

Padres fans are furious, and they have every right to be. They are being laughed at by fans of the Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks and probably the Red Sox as well, knowing they didn’t have to give up anything from their big-league club.

No Jacoby Ellsbury, no Clay Buchholz, no Jonathan Papelbon. Nothing.

I talked to Dan Hayes of the San Diego North County Times, a guy who’s been on this trade since the news broke late last night.

“Since the start I’ve heard the Padres were only seeking minor leaguers,” he said. “So I’m not surprised they didn’t get any major league players back. These guys fit the bill for what they’re looking for: young, controllable, talented. The top of the farm system is lacking these types of players, other than Cory Luebke and Simon Castro.”

The players Hayes is referring to are minor league pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes. None of whom were higher than Double-A this past season.

“The Padres interest is in getting young, controllable and talented players,” Hayes told me. “If this deal does go through, then in Kelly, Rizzo and Fuentes, they got three players that the current front office is very familiar with, having drafted the trio while they were still in Boston. Now they get all of these guys and not one has a day of service time to their names, meaning the Padres can control them all for up to six years.”

When this offseason began, most Padres fans knew that the team would have to trade their first baseman either before the 2011 season started or at the trade deadline in July. They knew he was going to test free agency and the front office knew they didn’t have the money to re-sign him.

A trade was the only thing left to do.

Gonzalez isn’t the only big name to leave San Diego. In just the last four years, these names have been in Padres uniforms and have left for other teams: Mike Cameron, Trevor Hoffman, Jake Peavy and, now, Gonzalez.

A name you can add to that list in the coming weeks or months is closer Heath Bell. According to a report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Padres will “absolutely” trade their closer. But he says a second source calls that trade “unlikely.”

The funniest part about Rosenthal’s second tweet and the reasoning behind the Padres not wanting to trade Bell is “not wanting to further upset fans.” I think it’s a little late for that.

As you might imagine, Twitter is buzzing with reaction from Padres and Red Sox fans over this trade. The Sox fans are elated, while the Padres fans are as upset as ever, as another “star” is leaving their town.

It’s not as if it’s something they haven’t experienced before; this isn’t the only fire sale they’ve been through. You might remember the team being disassembled after their World Series run in 1998.

While Hayes can understand why fans feel the way they do, he says this was just the front office’s reality. “The Padres obviously know they can’t afford Adrian Gonzalez after this season. They have virtually no chance of retaining him and every day he’s with them he loses value. So they did the next best thing, which was get two teams to bid and take the best package. I think they played their cards pretty well.”

But before Padres fans jump off the bandwagon, there may still be hope that this team can compete in the next few years. These prospects are being talked about as some of the talented young players in the minor leagues right now.

If that holds true, than the Padres front office will look like geniuses. Right now, they’re looking like court jesters.

Fans in San Diego have been waiting a long time to see their team finally break through, to finally get to the World Series. They’ve had a taste of it, but that was 12 years ago. A taste just isn’t good enough for these fans.

While we can sit here and talk about the reaction from San Diego, what about Gonzalez himself?

There are those who believe he’s been waiting for this kind of trade for some time. He’s a player who was bigger than the team itself, not in ego, but in talent.

“I know Adrian liked San Diego,” a source told me. “But he has wanted this for a long time, being with a prime-market team.”

Some believed that he never won an MVP Award or the number of Gold Gloves he could have won for no reason other than being in a “mid-major town.”

Whatever you want to believe about sports, one thing has always held true: Bigger sports towns will find some reason to hold the smaller sports town at arm’s length, no matter what kind of year they’re having. Gonzalez has been feeling that since he burst onto the scene as a power-hitting, Gold Glove-winning first baseman.

We’ve heard all the reactions from San Diego’s point of view, but I wanted to get the reaction out of Boston. I talked to Marc Normandin of Baseball Prospectus, who told me that this is a win in the eyes of the Red Sox fans.

“Boston fans have learned, over the years, to appreciate prospects coming up through the system,” Normandin said. “The close proximity of their upper-level minor league teams has made this fan/prospect connection easier, but the thing they still care about the most is winning. Acquiring Gonzalez for three players who haven’t reached the majors yet is a win in their eyes, especially on the heels of losing Victor Martinez’s bat to Detroit.”

But Gonzalez might not be the last player the Red Sox try to acquire during the offseason. Normandin told me Boston is committed to winning in 2011, and they may not be done going after big-time players.

“With all the payroll the Red Sox managed to clear heading into 2011, Carl Crawford is still someone they can afford, even after acquiring Gonzalez and factoring in a potential extension for him into the budget,” said Normandin.

“The problem is that Crawford is also being sought after by other teams, but Boston is clearly looking to win in 2011 if they acquired someone like Gonzalez who has one season left on his deal, so they will be involved in negotiations down to the wire. Werth would be an excellent consolation prize, but it’s my feeling that they would prefer to acquire Crawford.”

I also talked to Marc about why the Padres didn’t get a single player off Boston’s Major League roster. While he says he’s not surprised, he told me that this is actually “quite a haul” for San Diego.

“The Padres are not necessarily giving up on 2011,” he told me, “but have definitely indicated they are looking more towards 2012 and beyond by dealing Gonzalez now.”

“It makes more sense for them to acquire young prospects who have not started their service time clocks in the majors yet, because they are both inexpensive and under team control for a longer time when the team needs them. For that reason, it’s not a surprise that the Padres didn’t acquire any major league-caliber talent for him—a pair of impact prospects and a third who could be very productive is quite the haul, regardless.”

While what Marc says is true, the line that “these players are under team control for several more years” has been fed to Padres fans more than just today. I can’t help but wonder if that explanation is enough anymore.

This is a trade that is going to be debated throughout San Diego all the way through spring training, when pitchers and catchers report in February.

The media are going to continue to ask general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of the front office why the fans should believe they did the right thing. They will continue to be questioned until just one of these prospects shows why San Diego acquired them.

This was an All-Star who was the face of the franchise, especially after Trevor Hoffman walked in free agency and Jake Peavy was traded before the trade deadline back in 2009.

This is a tough pill for San Diego fans to swallow. They are wondering why they continue to purchase tickets to watch players who are never with the team for that long. They are tired of “waiting for next year.”

Boston got the better end of this deal. They don’t have to wait for two to three years to see a return on their investment. They get an immediate impact player and they get someone who will make a difference on that team from Day 1 of the 2010 season.

The black cloud of sports disappointments continues to hang over the city of San Diego. While Padres fans want to believe it’s just a matter of time before that cloud finally breaks apart and disappears, it only takes a trade like this to make that cloud that much bigger.

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