Originally written on Ted's Army  |  Last updated 1/25/12

7 June 2009: San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) seen here during a game agaisnt the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Photo via Newscom

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It’s become popular sport to ridicule the notion of the so-called mystery team, but suffice it to say that at the start of the offseason, no one anticipated that Prince Fielder would end up signing a nine-year, $214 million deal with the Tigers. Few thought that Albert Pujols would leave St. Louis in order to sign a 10-year, $254 million deal with the Angels.

Would the Red Sox have been able to afford either Fielder or Pujols on the sorts of deals that they signed, or Gonzalez for whatever he might have commanded on the open market? Maybe, maybe not. But what the Sox knew was that they could take the three-prospect needed to trade for Gonzalez and that they could afford his $6.3 million salary in 2011 as well as the seven-year, $154 million extension that will kick in next year and run through the 2018 campaign.

The Sox knew that they had a comfort level adding Gonzalez for his age 29-36 seasons at the value they established in negotiations with him. Whether they would have been similarly confident in the return on investment if they had to sign him through, say, his age 38 season, or if they had to pay Pujols through his age 42 season or Fielder through his age 36 season (given the likelihood that erosion of his somewhat limited defensive skills will turn him into a DH at some point in his deal) is not as clear.

WEEI | Prince Fielder and the challenge of building through free agency

Alex Speier brings up a great point in mentioning the mystery team. And had Adrian Gonzalez been part of this crop, there may have been even more teams willing to go overboard.

Gonzalez surely would have gotten nine years and $200+ million on the market. We got Gonzalez at eight years and $160.3 million (since he made $6.3 million last year). Are Casey Kelly, Raymond Fuentes, and Anthony Rizzo (whose stock has dropped, perhaps somewhat unfairly, after a disappointing time in San Diego) worth $40-50 million?

I say yes. I became infatuated with Gonzalez pretty early on, but I think rightly so. He's the complete package, and somebody you absolutely build around. For the extra cost of prospects to get the certainty of bringing him in -- and saving a bunch of money -- we got a franchise first baseman who for my money is more likely to keep playing at a high level throughout his contract than Prince Fielder (fat) or Albert Pujols (senior citizen). 

Besides, think about how little financial flexibility we've had this offseason. Take away Gonzalez's $21 million salary, and then picture us getting in bidding wars but having the same constraints. We likely would have had to trade off more salary (either by dumping Lackey and eating the majority of his contract rather than hoping he can give us something in the final two years, or by selling off Youkilis Marco Scutaro-style), or just lose out on all three and hope that Anthony Rizzo was really going to be something.

So if you've spent the offseason criticizing Red Sox ownership and management, give them kudos for this move at least. These days, you don't often acquire a franchise player below market value.

ESPNBoston | In Boston, it's what have you done for me lately? | Herald | Sizable barrier cleared | Carlos Pena hoping to create more memories | WEEI | Report: JD Drew 'very likely' to retire

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