The Mariners have released veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. As a reminder, Major League transactions are still frozen, although we recently verified that minor league cuts are still permissible. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times had previously reported that the Mariners were releasing more than 30 minor league players. Divish adds that minor leaguers who remain with the Mariners will continue to receive the current $400 weekly stipend through the end of the 2020 season. Teams had previously only agreed to pay minor leaguers through May, and some have already cut their pay entirely or extended the stipend but only through the end of June.
Teams didn’t make many of their usual cuts late in Spring Training, so several of today’s releases might’ve already been cut lose already under normal circumstances anyhow. That’s certainly the case for the veteran Gonzalez, who was unlikely to make the club and had an April 1 opt-out date in his minor league deal. As Divish further points out, large-scale minor league releases are common prior to the amateur draft. This year’s five-round draft is vastly shorter than a standard 40-round draft, but other clubs (Orioles, White Sox) have begun to make similar waves of releases. With minor league contraction potentially on the horizon and uncertainty surrounding a minor league season being played at all in 2020, additional cuts seem likely throughout the league.
Turning to Gonzalez, the lone name known at this point, he was always a bit of a tough fit on a rebuilding Mariners club that was trying to give as many plate appearances as possible to young talent. Back in Spring Training, Divish suggested that the CarGo signing was something of a courtesy to a respected veteran — offering him a chance to pick up some spring at-bats. Surely in the event of multiple injuries, the depth would’ve become more useful for the M’s, but the April 1 opt-out in his deal was present to allow him to seek other opportunities if and when he found himself a ways down the depth chart.
Gonzalez, 34, went 6-for-22 with a double, three walks and five strikeouts in 25 spring plate appearances with Seattle. The three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger is coming off a brutal season split between the Indians and the Cubs — one in which he mustered only a .200/.289/.283 batting line in 166 plate appearances. He posted a respectable .276/.329/.467 slash (99 OPS+, 97 wRC+) with the Rockies a year prior, but CarGo hasn’t been a decidedly above-average hitter since 2016, when he batted .298/.350/.505 with Colorado.
While he’s no longer in the prime of his career, Gonzalez isn’t so far past that point that a resurgence is unforeseeable. And with the likely advent of the universal designated hitter for at least the 2020 season, perhaps some NL clubs with lackluster options will have interest in taking a flier on a player who batted .296/.353/.535 with an average of 26 homers per season during his peak from 2010-16.