29-year-old Marwin Gonzalez – he’ll be 30 by Opening Day – entered the offseason primed to a secure healthy payday from one of perhaps two dozen interested suitors around the league. Armed with gloves to play six positions, an incredibly goofy nickname christened by superagent Scott Boras, and the whiff of 2017’s 4.0 fWAR breakout still detectable to the sharpest of senses, Gonzalez’s camp has touted the longtime Astro as the right-sized plug to fill almost any hole.
But the market surrounding the Venezuelan-born infielder/outfielder, to this point in the offseason, has been exceedingly quiet – muzzled, even. The Braves, Padres, and Astros have all been connected to Gonzalez at various hot-stove junctures, though none seem particularly aggressive. Other teams, like the oft-linked Brewers and Cubs, or the MLBTR-projected Twins, seem to have no interest at all. Is the tepidity a product of an exorbitant Boras ask, or are teams just not nearly as enamored with “Swiss G” as originally surmised?
Gonzalez, who scuffled through seven minor league seasons before his 2012 debut with the Astros, has turned in a number of solid-to-good offensive seasons in the majors, posting above-league-average marks in four of the last five. His overhauled approach – more walks, fewer balls on the ground – has paid dividends as well, with the aforementioned 2017 breakout (.303/.377/.530) his career high-water mark. While not a multi-positional defensive wizard like Ben Zobrist, Gonzalez has acquitted himself well all across the diamond, and could conceivably be a full-time fit at second base, third, or in the corner outfield.
Still, one can’t exactly use a pen when projecting Gonzalez’s forthcoming production. The best utility men are at least competent at shortstop, and Gonzalez, who’s nearing the age at which range, in both the infield and outfield, declines precipitously, has been dreadful there. The track record, too, is a little light, and Steamer, arguably the standard in baseball’s forecasting industry, projects the utility man to post just 1.3 WAR this season (the number is closer to two when assuming full-time play).
In the free agent freeze of the last two offseasons, it’s the mid-tier player who’s been hurt the worst. Always reluctant to dish out the long term deal, teams now balk at even short-term ones for players whose production can safely be approximated by much cheaper, in-system options. Houston’s Tony Kemp, while probably not an option at shortstop, would seem to fit this bill, as would a number of others on suspected Gonzalez suitors around the league.