The Braves have formally released Adrian Gonzalez, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Gonzalez was acquired over the weekend in a stunning five-player salary dump and immediately designated for assignment. As David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, being designated and immediately released into the free-agent pool was actually a prerequisite for Gonzalez to waive his no-trade protection in the first place, as doing so gives him more say over where he’ll spend the 2018 campaign.
Gonzalez, 36 in May, was limited to just 71 games this season because of a significant back issue that has also clearly sapped his productivity at the plate. In the 252 plate appearances for which the five-time All-Star and former MVP candidate was healthy, he batted just .242/.287/.355 with three homers and 17 doubles. That, of course, is a far cry from the production Dodgers fans had come to expect after he hit .282/.344/.465 with 95 homers in 2577 plate appearances from 2013-16. Gonzalez ended his Dodgers tenure with a bang, though, belting a home run in his final plate appearance of the season (and, presumably, of his Dodgers career).
The release of Gonzalez underscores that Saturday’s blockbuster was a financial move for the Dodgers and Braves more so than a move that was motivated by interest in the players that changed hands. Gonzalez is still owed a total of $21.5MM for the 2018 season in the final year of a seven-year, $154MM contract and will be available to any team that has interest in him for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum (for any time spent in the Majors). That sum will be subtracted from the $21.5MM for which Atlanta is on the hook, but the remainder of the deal, nearly $20MM, will come out of Atlanta’s pockets regardless.
Of course, the Braves are fine with that outcome. The trade allowed Atlanta to dump Matt Kemp’s contract onto the Dodgers, freeing Atlanta of a multi-year albatross and paving a path for ballyhooed prospect Ronald Acuna to join the big league club once he’s deemed ready. Meanwhile, the Dodgers were able to dump a significant amount of 2018 payroll in exchange for spreading out that salary over the life of two seasons — and in doing so dramatically reducing their luxury tax payroll (which is calculated by average annual value).