After the San Diego Padres played surprisingly well half-way into 2010, the team’s plans to sell off every viable piece was scrapped. That meant the Padres were hanging onto bargain-priced superstar, Adrian Gonzalez. The first baseman, one of the most consistent hitters over the past few years, the team felt, was too valuable to their playoff push to be moved.

Ultimately, the Padres missed the playoffs, but the success may have changed the team’s thinking going into 2011. Perhaps they shouldn’t be sellers, trying to rebuild around their young pitching. Perhaps they should go balls to the wall, keep Gonzalez, try to resign after the season, and get draft pick compensation if he walks.

Perhaps not.

More likely, Gonzalez will be traded, either this offseason or before next summer’s trading dealine.

The Padres, who had baseball’s second lowest payroll this year, have said they can’t afford to pay their best player the salary he’ll command.

“While we’d still love to have Adrian here long-term, it doesn’t appear to be practical from a financial standpoint,” club CEO Jeff Moorad told the Union-Tribune’s Tim Sullivan. “So I’m certainly not counting on that. But we’ll engage and see if there’s a deal that can be made.”

Gonzalez has never complained about the below-market, five-year, $15-million contract he signed in 2007. The first baseman, though, will be 29 when that contract’s scheduled to expire. Rest assured, Gonzalez wants to hit his next contract out of the park.

Asked if Teixeira’s eight-year, $180 million Yankees deal and Howard’s five-year, $125 Phillies contract are benchmarks for what it’ll take to sign Gonzalez, Boggs, while not talking specific dollars, was crystal clear.

“What I’m going to be looking for,” the agent said Thursday, “is what I call franchise player compensation. You can put whatever number you want on it. I think Adrian as an individual compares very favorably with those players.” SignOnSanDiego.com.

The Cubs are considered one of five teams likely to land Gonzalez if he’s dealt, citing Gonzalez’s previous comments that he’d like to play in Chicago, and the Cubs’ “willingness to spend money” (um, maybe next year?). I’m tingly.

The most interesting part here, perhaps, is the notion that Gonzalez is likely to be traded before the 2011 season ends. While a trade will not increase the number of competing suitors when he’s a free agent, it will certainly give whatever team trades for him a leg up in signing him long-term.

For whatever it’s worth, Gonzalez is said to be looking for Teixeira (8/$180 million) or Ryan Howard (5/$125 million) money.



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