BOSTON -- Even in April, the Dodgers and their new ownership had an eye on Adrian Gonzalez, a Southern California native who tore up the National League West for five years.
The mammoth trade the Dodgers and Red Sox pulled off Saturday wasn't nearly on a whim, and it involved conversations between the team's highest officers: ownership.
"I will say Adrian was always a target for me for a lot of reasons for me," Dodgers president Stan Kasten said. "I can't say that about Hanley [Ramirez]. I love Hanley, but that [July trade with Miami] materialized on its own over a weekend and we made a snap decision, like, 'Yes!' That wasn't true with Adrian."
Gonzalez was the centerpiece, at least in terms of current production, in the deal that also brought Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to Los Angeles for James Loney and prospects. Prior to Saturday, there were three or four other times the Dodgers thought they were going to land their man.
Dodgers chairman and controlling partner Mark Walter waited 30 minutes to open an e-mail from general manager Ned Colletti as recently as Friday because he didn't want his hopes dashed.
"There were a couple times in the last few months where your hopes do rise and then get dashed," Walter said. "The third or fourth time I was cautious right up until 10 a.m. on Friday. Ned sent us an e-mail, and I didn't want to open it because I still had hope.
"There was another time during this season that I thought it was going to happen and it didn't." The Dodgers and Red Sox didn't only talk about Gonzalez and the haul they landed. Kevin Youkilis, the veteran third baseman the Red Sox traded to the White Sox in June, was also a target.
"We've been talking to the Dodgers all year. Back to earlier in the year, I had talked to Ned about Youkilis," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "We've had a consistent dialogue all year. At different points, that dialogue picked up. We talked quite a bit before the deadline, didn't agree on anything at that time. When you talk that much, you share ideas, you get to know a little bit more of what their motivation is, what they're trying to do.
"There wasn't one moment. It's a process that started earlier in the year and involved a lot of conversations, a lot of ideas going back and forth, and ultimately led to this."
Red Sox ownership, from principal owner John Henry, to chairman Tom Werner and president Larry Lucchino, all had involvement.
Lucchino watched some of Cherington's press conference Saturday from the interview room at Fenway Park, along with senior advisor to the CEO Charles Steinberg and two more of the team's top executives, Sam Kennedy and Jonathan Gilula.
"In any deal, as I think you all know, ownership is involved and it's a collaborative process," Cherington said. "Certainly on a deal this big, it required a real team effort. John, Tom and Larry were all heavily involved. They all had a specific role in this over the last several days. There were conversations at the ownership level between the two teams, certainly between myself and Ned. And then a lot of conversations in between, between myself, John, Tom, and Larry."
The Red Sox had to weigh the possibility that by trading players they signed to be cornerstones, like Gonzalez and Crawford, they'd scare away free agents in the future. They concluded that they were not hampering their future ambitions.
"It's something we considered," Cherington said. "I feel like if we are who we want to be, on the field, off the field, we will be a great place for players to be. I think this ownership group knows more than most how quickly things can change. At the end of 2001, it wasn't a great time in the Red Sox organization. And it was just a few months later where everyone wanted to be in Boston. We get back to being the team we want to be and players are going to want to be here. This is still a great place to play. The highs are really high when things are going well, and when they're not, it can be tough."
That the Dodgers were keen on Gonzalez so early in the season takes some outside-the-box thinking. The team's new owners wanted a winner and wanted a splash, but Gonzalez was in just his second year with the Red Sox this season. He's on a seven-year deal.
Typically, those types of players are not thought to be the best trade candidates.
"I talked to Ben Cherington in April about Adrian," Colletti said. "When the [Dodgers were] sold, I started to talk to Stan and the direction was, 'Let's go. Let's be bold and think about people we wouldn't have thought about earlier.' Talks were sporadic. We talked at the [July 31] deadline about Adrian, and they weren't prepared to move him. We talked about more players. As [the season] goes on, you get a feel for who they're watching. You get a little picture. We can start to judge where our interests lie. We were looking to add as much starting pitching as we could."
Strangely enough, it took until after the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31 to make a deal for one of the game's best first baseman happen. The Dodgers didn't expect Gonzalez to get through waivers, when other teams could claim him simply to block a deal.
"I did not think that would happen," Kasten said. "It was a surprise to me and Mark when that happened. I got right on the phone with Ned and we talked about the various contingencies and it was able to come together quickly after that happened."
Both sides were committed: There were multiple options if parts of the trade fell through to still get it done.
"Most of the time you can't tinker with somebody [this late in the season]," Colletti said. "It's difficult to make a trade of this size this time of year. So many things have to fall your way. When they cleared waivers last week, I was frankly surprised. We were fortunate to have the backing we've got here to support it."