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Trade talk already heating up around Padres' Gonzalez

PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the one conversation he had with the Padres a few months ago regarding his superstar client, Adrian Gonzalez, agent John Boggs threw out this interesting thought. "We have to take a look at what [Mark] Teixeira got and go from there."

The Padres have yet to counter Boggs's suggetion, seeming to increase the chances Gonzalez willbe traded and not signed. Though, GM Jed Hoyer said, "We're certainly going to explore all the possibilities. We'll keep it internal, whatever we do.''

Even though it hasn't sparked any dialogue yet, it makes for an intriguing debate, since Teixeira and Gonzalez are both Gold Glove-winning power-hitters in their prime. According to an official with another club, the belief is that the cost-conscious Padres would prefer do something closer to half of the eight-year, $180-million deal Teixeira got from the Yankees last offseason -- say $90 million for five years.

If that's anywhere close to the case, that gap will be hard to bridge before this year's trade deadline, when competing executives still expect Gonzalez to be the marquee man on the block.

If Gonzalez isn't amenable to some real compromising, then chances for a contract extension with the Padres are remote, and there's no indication he's about to take a hometown discount now.

"You never say never, but it's something that isn't at the top of our list to do," said Boggs of a possible hometown discout for Gonzalez, a San Diego native who has spent the past four seasons with the Padres. "Adrian will take a look at anything that is fair and reasonable but if it's so vastly reduced, that doesn't make any sense. Adrian is lookng to basically establish his value."

The Teixeira contract isn't an unreasonable request, judging by three baseball executives who were asked Tuesday who was the better player. All three struggled to some degree with their answer. All saw Teixeira as slightly better defensively but they also wondered whether Gonzalez is a slightly more dangerous hitter. Either way, Teixeira surely is Gonzalez's most obvious comparison.

But that doesn't necessarily mean Gonzalez will get a similar contract. As one GM pointed out, Teixeira benefitted from a Red Sox-Yankees bidding war to get his $180 million, which won't happen for Gonzalez with Teixeira now manning first in the Bronx. "There might be the Mets and Red Sox, but that isn't the same as Yankees-Red Sox,'' that GM noted.

Even before any numbers (the $180 million request) or even estimates ($90 million) came to light, three other baseball executives from competing teams said last week that they believe there's little chance for Gonzalez to last in San Diego through the remaining two years of the contract that will pay him about $10.25 million total over that time. The consensus seems to be that the Padres will keep him only until this year's trade deadline, then shop him hard unless they overcome long odds to play their way into the NL West race.

In fact, there is already constant trade buzz chatter in the Cactus League, and Gonzalez is not too happy about it, calling it "unnecessary and unneeded."

Gonzalez, who has a $5.9 million club option for 2011 that will almost certainly be picked up, is still two years from free agency. Assuming no one signs early, he would hit a market with an unprecedented and almost absurdly good group of first-base superstars, including Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. One agent characterized it as "the greatest first-base class of alltime."

Gonzalez, a very bright man, understands the math is going to be difficult for San Diego. Speaking generally and without reiterating the price that Boggs named to the Padres in December, Gonzalez allowed, "You can't have one player making 50 percent of the payroll.''

And what if he was that one player making $20 million on a $40-something-million payroll (the Padres' payroll is currently in the 40s)? "To live up to that deal, I'd have to hit 100 home runs and drive in 400 runs," he said.

Some do view Gonzalez as almost superhuman after he hit 40 home runs last season while playing half his game in pitchers' haven PETCO Park (28 of the dingers came on the road). That's why the phones in the executive offices of the Padres have been that buzzing with calls of inquiry for the 27-year-old star who's one of the greatest bargains in the game.

Most expect Gonzalez to be traded before his current deal is up, quite likely before next season. Here there is another similarity to Teixeira, who was traded from the Rangers to the Braves in 2007, a year and a half before he hit free agency. Padres people have to understand that that trade brought a haul to Texas because of how much time Teixiera had left on his deal, whereas the returns start to diminish once there's only one year or less left.

Gonzalez is keenly aware of the trade possibility. "I've been traded twice before, it's no big deal,'' he said in his characteristically calm manner.

It would be a big deal for the teams involved, including the Padres themselves. Shortstop David Eckstein, one of the few veterans on the club, said it's up to his teammates to play well enough to convince team brass to keep him and get attendance back to where it was in 2007, when PETCO Park was drawing fans in hordes. But Eckstein is also aware it may be out of their control and he said he could see the possibility of a "Herschel Walker-type'' deal.

The Red Sox have long been considered a favorite to trade for Gonzalez, partly because of their strong interest at the deadline last year (they built a package around closer prospect Daniel Bard but wouldn't include Clay Buchholz) and also their connection with Hoyer, a longtime Red Sox executive who remains close with Boston GM Theo Epstein. But there are believed to be as many as 10 to 12 teams interested. The Mets called, and the Mariners and Dodgers are thought to have inquired, too.

More teams are just starting to surface. Ex-Padres star Jake Peavy revealed to CBSsports.com that his new team, the White Sox, have interest, which should come as no surprise considering their need for a middle-of-the-lineup presence and GM Ken Williams' love of big talent, and big deals. "I'm flattered,'' Gonzalez said of Peavy's campaign.

The White Sox chatter led to speculation that top young infielder Gordon Beckham might have to be included, but a Sox person suggested to SI.com that Beckham may be untouchable. The Sox might be more amenable to Tyler Flowers, Sergio Santos and Daniel Hudson as part of a package -- though that sort of package wouldn't exactly qualify as a Herschel Walker-like trade.

Whatever the package might be, it would have to be a haul considering Gonzalez is conservatively a $20-million-a-year player, meaning he's worth $40 million over the next two years, or about $30 million more than his current contract calls for. (Gonzalez says he doesn't regret the four-year extension he signed with the Padres in April 2007. It was a security-driven deal that paid him like other early-signing stars but it was a plus in that it only covers his arbitration-eligible years and didn't buy out any of his free agent years.)

There was word all the trade talk affected him last summer, when he hit .198 in July. But you can't tell it from Gonzalez himself, who seems like a rock. "I'm not oblivious to what's going on ... and I know how to handle it,'' Gonzalez said. "It's not going to get in the way.''

Boggs publicly lamented that these talks appear to be nothing like the other high-profile hometown talks going on, the ones between the Twins and their superstar catcher Joe Mauer, of St. Paul, Minn., but Gonzalez seems remarkably unconcerned. There are also some differences in the two cases, minor and otherwise, and Gonzalez seems to accept that. Gonzalez was born in San Diego, and grew up in Tijuana and San Diego, but he was drafted by the Marlins and has been with three organizations already. The Twins, who have long been viewed as a low-paying, small-market team, now have roughly double the Padres payroll -- about $90 million to about $45 million -- and by all outside appearances, are going to do whatever they can to keep Mauer in Minnesota.

While Gonzalez said he likes San Diego -- "I'm from San Diego. I'm a Padre fan. Playing for the team I grew up watching and rooting for, there's nothing to complain about,'' -- he also may see that there are both advantages and disadvantages to playing at home, "It's good, it's fine,'' he said, adding. "There are a lot more off-field things that keep me busy.''

There's also the matter of his home ballpark, which may be inhibiting his chances of being the national star he can be. But he claims to see the bright side. "I don't hit well at PETCO, but it does help correct my swing. Playing in a hitters park you fall into traps. You tend to try to elevate more.''

In contrast, he claimed PETCO helps correct his swings whenever he gets into unwanted habits on the road.

It may not be long before Gonzalez gets to test that theory.

Speculation around the game is that Derek Jeter will get a nice contract extension from the Yankees at season's end for three or four years for between $20 million and $25 million per. However, two executives from competing teams now say they believe Jeter could ask for a six-year deal.

Jeter's negotiations are interesting and perhaps even unique because he is a player who has no interest in leaving but at the same time the Yankees have just as little interest in seeing him leave. The Yankees have tabled the talks until after the season, citing team policy to allow contracts to expire, even the contracts of icons (plus, they didn't want to discuss anything while Jeter was coming off an MVP-caliber season). Yet, everyone around baseball is already buzzing about will happen. (It's odd that there's been practically no buzz regarding Mariano Rivera, who's basically Jeter's equal as an icon, as the New York Posts's Joel Sherman recently pointed out.)

The Yankees generally have treated their own big stars very well. But six years for a shortstop who's 35 now is seen as a stretch, even by the execs who say they expect that to be the asking price. "Casey Close is a good agent. You don't get if you don't ask,'' one executive said. Close declined comment.

Six years may seem extreme. But there is logic to it. Jeter saw his famous frenemy Alex Rodriguez get a 10-year, $275-million deal from the Yankees two winters ago that will take him to age 42. Jeter will be 36 by the end of the year, so six more years would take him to 42, same as A-Rod.

After seeing A-Rod get a contract taking him until he's 42, why wouldn't Jeter want the same? A case could be made that Rodriguez is a more natural fit as the DH, so playing into his 40s might be easier. But both are hard workers, extremely fit and without injury history. And Jeter's the one who's a Yankees legend.

Jeter got his $189-million, 10-year deal in February 2001, only months after Rodriguez signed his historic $252-million deal. Jeter's figure was remarkable for a non-slugger, but it's also turned out to be one of the best long deals in sports history, thanks to his continuing heroics and also his unreal appeal. (A year before Jeter signed that extension, the Yankees had a $118.5 million contract for Jeter practically in place until George Steinbrenner nixed the deal.)

Jeter wisely went to school on A-Rod's deal last time. So why wouldn't he again? A-Rod should have received a small assist for that megadeal. And maybe he will again, if Jeter really can get six years.

Ken Griffey Jr. appears to be making a major effort to befriend Milton Bradley at Mariners camp. If he can get to the combustible Bradley, that would be a big boon for the Mariners.

• Execs still believe Mike Lowell will be elsewhere when the season starts. But it appears he's being a good soldier in Red Sox camp in the meantime.

• It's understandable that Johnny Damon didn't want to take a pay cut. But it's hard to believe Felipe Lopez took a 70 percent cut from the $3.5 million he made last year after batting .310 with a .383 on base percentage. Turns out he's making $1 million with St. Louis, with another $1.2 million in incentives.

• The Rangers don't seem too worried about the shoulder issue that's sidelining poor Josh Hamilton, who seems to have an injury curse. That's why it was an interesting choice for him to turn down a $24-million, four-year offer last year.

• One scout said of Indians third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, "He's going to be a star. He's a bad---.'' (He meant that in a good way.) The scout said he sees him as the next George Brett but didn't wish to put Brett's name between quotes in a comparison because Brett "did get 3,000 hits.''

• The scout also said Indians catching prospect Carlos Santana is "another Victor Martinez.''

• Speaking of Martinez, word is he wants to stay in Boston, said one executive who knows him. (Martinez also said the same to SI.com last week.)

• One exec wonders how the continuing availability of some very viable players -- Jarrod Washburn, Jermaine Dye, Joe Beimel, Hank Blalock, Pedro Martinez to name a few -- could affect the trade market. The logic is thus: Why give up a player in trade if you can sign these players to presumably reasonable contracts?

• The Hendricks Brothers reached a quick and quiet settlement with Edwin Mejia after Mejia filed suit over Aroldis Chapman leaving him for the Hendrickses, league sources say. Mejia was the one who got Chapman out of Cuba, kept him in Holland and drive him to Spain with Chapman said to be fearing for his safety. So it's a bit ridiculous for the Hendrickses to have cashed in at all. Some teams also looked askance at Chapman for switching agents from the man who saved him. According to league sources, Mejia's arbitration case against Chapman is still pending.

• If you're going to give a 22-year-old kid $51.25 million, Justin Upton's the one to bet on. The six-year deal to lock up the future superstar is a smart move by the Diamondbacks. Can't blame him, either, as he had made $805,000 total his first two years according to baseball-reference.com (though he did get a $6 million signing bonus after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft). Wonder what brother B.J. says about this? B.J. lost his arbitration case for $3 million (though most baseball people say they believe he should have won) and is the older brother with more achievements to date.

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