BOSTON – When Jason McLeod left the Boston Red Sox as their scouting director, he knew he was leaving behind friends and associates — and trips to Maine.
“I miss coming to Portland after the draft and decompressing for four days,” McLeod said early last week at Fenway Park, where the San Diego Padres were playing the Red Sox.
McLeod would check on Sea Dogs players he had drafted in previous years, catch the games and then enjoy Portland’s restaurants (the Pepperclub was a favorite).
McLeod is now an assistant general manager with the Padres, following Jed Hoyer to San Diego after the 2009 season.
More has changed for McLeod than switching coasts and canceling his visits to Maine.
There is a matter of budget.
The Red Sox payroll this year is roughly $162 million, third highest among major league teams.
San Diego is 27th at $46 million, about $5 million more than Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford combined will make next year.
“Let’s face it, we’re in a middle to lower market,” McLeod said. “We’re not going to be able to compete for big free agents, go for the quick fix.
“We’re going to have to be right in the draft. We’ve got to make the right decisions and develop correctly if we’re going to have any type of long-term success.”
And when the Padres can no longer afford a player, they need to make the right kind of deal — like sending Gonzalez to Red Sox for three of Boston’s top prospects: first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitcher Casey Kelly and outfielder Reymond Fuentes.
All three players were drafted by McLeod. Not surprisingly, Hoyer and McLeod knew which players they wanted from Boston.
Fuentes, 20, is batting .296 with 31 stolen bases in advanced Class A.
Kelly, after going 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA in Portland last year, is 6-4 and 3.94 with the Double-A San Antonio Missions.
Rizzo is the big success story right now, reaching the big leagues on June 9. He is going through some growing pains (.158 average through 13 games) but demonstrates the power that will make him an All-Star (did you catch those two blasts to the Fenway center-field triangle this week?).
The Padres may consider locking up Rizzo to a long-term contract like the one Evan Longoria signed with Tampa Bay in 2008: a six-year deal, plus three club options through 2016.
If San Diego does not lock up Rizzo and he continues to fulfill his potential, he would be a prime free agent in 2017 at the age of 27.
In 2017, Gonzalez will be 35 and may be ready to be Boston’s designated hitter.
ASKED FOR A favorite memory with the Red Sox, McLeod mentioned a photo taken of him with Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury in Denver after the Sox won the 2007 World Series.
Pedroia was McLeod’s first pick as the Red Sox scouting director, in the second round of the 2004 draft. Ellsbury was a first-round pick the next year.
WHILE THE big-name draft picks make McLeod proud, another player had McLeod smiling.
Tommy Hottovy, a fourth-round pick in that 2004 draft, finally made it to the majors after injuries and seven years in the minors.
“It’s great because he’s one of the best kids,” McLeod said. “He has worked so hard. He’s had a lot of setbacks.
“To see him remake himself and get the opportunity, I couldn’t be happier for him.”
LARS ANDERSON may not have a lot in common with Adrian Gonzalez, but Rizzo remembers Anderson often, especially when Rizzo is asked about replacing Gonzalez at first base in San Diego.
“I don’t really think about it at all,” Rizzo said. “I got asked the same question last year in Portland, replacing Lars.
“It’s baseball. I go in to every game trying to do my best.”
Anderson hit .355 with the Sea Dogs in April of last season, then was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and replaced by Rizzo.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: