Although Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez is scheduled to become a free agent after next season and could be trade bait during the winter, the three-time All-Star told Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post that he’d like to remain in Colorado. The Rockies have gone just 75-85 this year and will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season, but there’s young talent in place and Gonzalez is convinced the club is on the right track.
“If you would have asked me early in the year, I would have told you I’m going to wait until I hit free agency and see what’s out there,” said Gonzalez. “But this is a good team. It’s a different feeling. Now I see how guys react in tough situations. We understand we can win. That’s huge for any team, when you trust and believe you can win.”
Moreover, Gonzalez – who has been exclusively an outfielder during his nine-year career – would be open to shifting to first base in order to remain with the Rockies.
“I feel like I’m still a good outfielder and can help the team defensively,” he said. “But if first base is what’s best for the team, I will be good with that … In the long run, it’s probably going to extend my — or anybody’s — career if you play first base. And it won’t be a crazy move.”
With a minus-1.4 fWAR, Rockies first basemen rank 27th in the majors. Most of that negative value has came from Ben Paulsen, who endured a nightmarish 97 plate appearances, while offseason signing Mark Reynolds had a replacement-level campaign before his season ended Sept. 18 on account of a broken hand. One of Gonzalez’s fellow outfielders, Gerardo Parra, also spent time at first this year prior to succumbing to an ankle injury earlier this week. Parra’s bat was unusable anywhere this season, as he produced a woeful .253/.271/.399 line with seven home runs and just nine walks in 381 plate appearances.
The 30-year-old Gonzalez has been much better than Parra, though his .297/.349/.507 line with 25 homers in 624 PAs isn’t as impressive as it looks for someone who spends half his season at Coors Field. As has typically been the case, Gonzalez has fared much better at home than on the road this season, but he has enjoyed his second consecutive healthy campaign after injuries weighed him down in previous years.
Whether at first base or in the outfield – where the Rockies have two other strong options in Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl – the chances of Gonzalez staying in Colorado for the long haul don’t look great. For one, Gonzalez said two weeks ago that the Rockies hadn’t approached him about an extension. Secondly, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd wrote Friday, Gonzalez is the most logical trade candidate among the Rockies’ outfielders. Blackmon and Dahl probably aren’t going anywhere, and Parra would amount to a salary dump (if anything). While Gonzalez’s $20MM salary for next season is hefty, it shouldn’t scare off every potential buyer. Plus, the Rockies already have $66MM committed to next year’s team after running up a franchise-record $112MM Opening Day payroll this season, and that’s without factoring in forthcoming arbitration raises for Blackmon, third baseman Nolan Arenado and right-hander Tyler Chatwood, among others.