8:54pm: There’s “a good chance this may happen,” according to a recent tweet by Heyman.
7:51pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that the Mets are in “serious discussions” to sign first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was recently released following a trade from the Dodgers to the Braves. Jon Heyman of FanRag has since confirmed the rumor.
Gonzalez was shipped to Atlanta in December along with infielder Charlie Culberson and pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy in a trade that brought Matt Kemp back to Los Angeles, though a candid explanation of the trade would focus more on the salaries of the contracts exchanged than the plans for the players themselves. The true motivator of the trade was luxury tax implications for the Dodgers; the team is now highly likely to remain under that threshold in 2018 and thus reset their escalating penalties. Gonzalez had a full no-trade clause with LA, but waived it on the condition that Atlanta agree to release him (it should also be noted that the Dodgers informed him he’d receive limited at-bats with the club).
While there hasn’t been much chatter about Gonzalez since his release, he’s certainly a reasonable candidate to bounce back. His 2017 campaign was largely characterized by injuries and an unimpressive .242/.287/.355 batting line. But prior to that, he’d slugged at least .435 for ten consecutive MLB seasons. In fact, he owns an impressive .488 slugging and .361 wOBA across his 14-year major league career. It makes perfect sense that a team could want to take a chance on him for the league minimum of $545K.
There’s at least a chance that the 35-year-old Gonzalez is no longer viable as a full-time player, but even if that’s the case, he could still prove incredibly useful in a part-time role. A quick look at his career platoon splits reveals a 138 lifetime wRC+ against right-handed pitching to go with a .297/.371./.519 slash line. Shielding him against left-handed pitchers could help him stay fresh and limit his injury risk as well.
That would make him a perfect fit for a Mets team who have been reportedly looking for a part-time first baseman as a contingency plan in case Dominic Smith is deemed unready to take over the position on a full-time basis. GM Sandy Alderson has made sure to note that the team is high on Smith, and that he “wouldn’t expect us to do something that totally eliminates Dominic as a possibility.” Signing Gonzalez would fall right in line with the Mets’ plans, as he’s an inexpensive, short-term commitment.