Boston and free agent SS Alex Gonzalez came to terms yesterday on a one year, $3 million deal that should, at the very least, ensure the Red Sox are able to put 9 guys on the field. From the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman and Tony Massaroti.

Gonzalez (above) will replace the disappointing Edgar Renteria, whom the Sox dealt, along with $11 million, to the Braves in early December for third base prospect Andy Marte. Since the Renteria trade, the Red Sox have maintained steady contact with Gonzalez while also keeping options for a shortstop open, both internally ” Alex Cora, Dustin Pedroia ” and via trade ” Julio Lugo.

Gonzalez, who turns 29 on Feb. 15, is a very slick and smooth-handed defensive shortstop without much to show at the plate. A .245 career hitter with a career on-base percentage of just .291, Gonzalez had a relatively strong year last season with the Marlins. He managed 31 walks, two off his career high, shaved his strikeout total from a career-high of 126 in 2004 to 81 and upped his on-base percentage to .319 with a .264 batting average.

The Gonzalez signing certainly fits into the pattern of deals the Red Sox have made in this abnormally busy offseason. Defensively, with Mark Loretta at second base and Crisp in center field and now Gonzalez, the Sox have improved markedly up the middle. Also, with Gold Glovers Mike Lowell manning third base and J.T. Snow at first, the infield defense leapfrogged to one of the best in the league.

The one-year deal is also telling, since the Red Sox have tried hard not to get locked up in multiyear deals with players whenever possible. The team is hopeful that with more seasoning in Triple-A and/or the majors this season, Pedroia (above), their No. 1 pick two years ago, will grow into the shortstop position.