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Red Sox stand by their big contracts

BOSTON -- Risky business? This isn't exactly like investing in mortgage-backed securities.

"If you're going to bet on one player," Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Friday afternoon, "we're very comfortable betting on Adrian Gonzalez."

The Red Sox on Friday announced they'd come to terms on a seven-year deal for Gonzalez, one that essentially has been in place since December's trade with San Diego. Oh, some contract language had to be tweaked and decisions made on how to pay out the signing bonus, but the basics of the $154 million agreement were there: $6 million signing bonus, $21 million from 2012 to 2016, $21.5 million in 2017 and '18. (Details were furnished Friday morning by ESPN's Buster Olney.)

No deferred money, and Gonzalez was given the right to name two teams to which the Sox cannot trade him, while the Sox stipulated that in the event of a trade, the team that acquires Gonzalez cannot turn around and move him to the Yankees. Carl Crawford has similar language in his deal. And no, agent John Boggs said Friday night, Gonzalez has not yet designated his no-trade teams.

And as Boggs also noted, a deal of this magnitude essentially acts as a no-trade clause because 90 percent of teams couldn't afford to carry such a contract.

Besides, talk of a future Gonzalez trade is purely an academic exercise. The Sox did not trade away three of their best prospects -- pitcher Casey Kelly, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Reymond Fuentes -- with any other idea but Gonzalez growing old in a Sox uniform.

"I know there are some huge decisions management and ownership have to make," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "For me, that's pretty low risk. You're talking about a lot of years and a lot of money, and I can't think of a guy that -- he gets it. He's a solid, solid teammate. He's a really good hitter. If he loses a little bit of speed over the next five, six years, nobody's going to know.

"I think it's a pretty good move."

Gonzalez -- with his wife, Betsy, and agents Boggs and Tony Cabral looking on -- said all the things you'd expect to hear from a guy whose family's future is assured well into the next century. Grateful, excited and planning to win a few championships while he's here.

But the most telling exchange of his news conference was when a reporter asked both Epstein and Gonzalez for a reaction to the team's 2-9 start (before the Sox lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays on Friday night). Gonzalez, especially given his newness, might have been expected to defer to the GM. Instead, he didn't hesitate.

"I'll answer that first," Gonzalez said. "Yes, we are disappointed. You never want to start this way. But we have faith in ourselves. We know we're a better team than a 2-9 start. And we're going to turn this around.

"The one good thing about starting 2-9, it means that we're going to win a lot more games than we're going to lose, going forward. So I know, and I'm fully confident, that come September, we're going to be in the middle of a pennant race and in a position that we're going to make the playoffs.

"I'm very confident about that," Gonzalez continued. "How do we do it? By playing better baseball."

The Yankees-like expenditure of almost $300 million on two players, Crawford and Gonzalez, would seem to suggest a sea change in how the Red Sox do business, especially since it represented a significant departure from how Epstein has spent John W. Henry's money in the past.

But Epstein insisted that was not the case and laid out a coherent argument supporting his position.

"The reason you have discipline," Epstein said, "the reason you have payroll flexibility, the reason you develop young players who are on affordable deals or on team-friendly long-term deals, the reason you do all those things is so when the right player comes along at the right time, you can make a commitment.

"In our minds, Adrian was the right player at the right time. So we made an aggressive move to trade for him and to sign him. The primary reason that we have the ability to do that is the commitment ownership has shown. The financial resources they have given us is also a reflection of the dedication of our fan base.

"Secondarily, we put ourselves in a position to do that by not overextending [before]," Epstein added. "We went seven years, eight years without doing a nine-figure contract. Not that we didn't try at times [Mark Teixeira, for example], but we always have our limits and we're always willing to walk away. Hopefully, that discipline puts us in a position to bet on the right player or right players.

"But this contract doesn't represent a departure from our normal modus operandi. Find value, maintain discipline, and build a diversified roster with young players and the right veterans."

On the other hand, the Sox now have almost $95 million guaranteed to just six players in 2012, which is higher than the 25-man payrolls for 18 clubs this season. Like a gallon of gas, the price keeps going up, no end in sight.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.