FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Hard-nosed negotiations? You be the judge.
Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez took his agent, John Boggs, his associate Tony Cabral, and his brother-in-law to lunch to a Cuban restaurant here Tuesday afternoon, then drove to the ballpark. Gonzalez went to the clubhouse. Boggs and Cabral went upstairs to visit with Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, and an hour or so later Boggs stood above the third-base dugout, cheerily describing their meeting.
Here’s a clue: Boggs said he and Epstein hadn’t talked since the Sox announced they had traded for Gonzalez back in early December. That probably wouldn’t be the case if there was a host of issues separating the sides from striking a deal on a contract extension. Gonzalez's current contract runs out at the end of this season.
“As expected, we had a very positive meeting with Theo,’’ said Boggs, who revealed that he is a third cousin of Wade Boggs, the former Red Sox third baseman and Hall of Famer. “At the end of the day, everything’s been as expected. We sat down and discussed where basically Adrian’s at. I think it’s just going to move very positively.
“The main thing is the health issue. When they’ve seen him play every day, I think they’re going to have a degree of comfort, and that’s probably when they’re going to get something done.’’
Another thing that will increase Boston’s comfort level is getting past Opening Day, when any extension for Gonzalez won't count against the 2011 payroll for the competitive balance tax, a.k.a. the luxury tax. Boggs’ estimated timetable for a deal, then, hardly came as a surprise.
“I would anticipate something in April,’’ Boggs said. “When in April? I don’t know. It could be the beginning, middle, end. That’s really the parameters. If something drags it on past that, then yeah, we’d probably have to revisit a lot of things, but I don’t anticipate that at all.’’
Tuesday’s meeting with Epstein, Boggs said, was primarily spent reviewing where the sides had left off in their talks in December, when they elected to break off futher negotiations until after the Sox had a chance to gauge Gonzalez’s recovery from October shoulder surgery.
“Just keeping the positive momentum going,’’ Boggs said, “and feeling they’re going there, and we’re not coming in and saying, ‘Hey, we rethought this thing,’ which would never happen because we’re dealing with Adrian.’’
Gonzalez has said that the prospective free agency of fellow first baseman Albert Pujols, who might command a deal in the $30 million a year neighborhood, will not impact Gonzalez’s talks with the Red Sox. Boggs said that hasn’t changed.
“He’s a guy who knows what he wants,’’ Boggs said. “It’s predetermined, and when his word is given, his word is given.’’
There has been speculation that the Red Sox and Gonzalez have all but finalized a deal in the seven-year, $154 million range. It’s probably not as far advanced as it has been portrayed in some circles, but certainly both sides have clarity on what it will take to get a deal done.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard signed an extension that will pay him $25 million a year beginning in 2012. Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s eight-year deal with the Yankees averages $22.5 million a year. Outfielder Carl Crawford’s seven-year deal with the Sox calls for an average annual value of $20.285 million. That would suggest a number between Teixeira’s and Howard’s, which could push the total value over $160 million.