Over the past year, Adrian Gonzalez has gone from being an every day player on a World Series contender, to a cheap veteran that the New York Mets hope is low risk, high reward.
In June 2017, Gonzalez was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a herniated disc in his back. Cody Bellinger ended up receiving consistent at-bats from manager Dave Roberts, and with Bellinger’s historic production, the Dodgers never looked back. Gonzalez returned a few months later, but it was obvious that he just was not right. Back issues prohibited Gonzalez to give consistent production, something the Dodgers were used to over his six seasons with the club. He only played in 71 games last season, after suiting up for at least 155 games in every season since 2005. Gonzalez did not have one plate appearance during the postseason, but with his salary and now injury troubles, parting ways was easier said than done.
The Dodgers were able to rid themselves of Gonzalez in a creative financial trade with the Atlanta Braves shipping Charlie Culberson, Scott Kazmir, and Brandon McCarthy for a package that included outfielder Matt Kemp. Gonzalez only waived his no-trade clause because of a guarantee that he would be designated for assignment, so he can enter the free agent market.
Since Gonzalez would still get payed from his previous deal, money was not a priority, but simply fit, and where he would receive consistent at bats. The Mets fit the qualifications, but Dominic Smith would also be vying for the starting first base job.
However, Smith’s spring training has been eventful to say the least. A benching from new skipper Mickey Callaway and a strained quad has put Smith on the shelf giving Gonzalez every opportunity to earn the job. Wilmer Flores is able to play first base, but the Mets view him in a utility role off the bench.As part of a new-look @Mets roster, @Adrian_ElTitan has a chance to revive a storied career in 2018.Click To Tweet
Unfortunately for Gonzalez, the spring has not been kind to him batting only .216 with one home run and two RBIs. In his favor though is the fact that no challenger has emerged, giving him what seems like unlimited chances. Also, spring training statistics can be an indicator, but does not tell everything about a player just like wins and losses is not a definitive forecast of how a team will play in the regular season.
Gonzalez has drove in at least 90 RBIs in 10 out of the last 11 seasons. He is also only a few years removed from being an All-Star, Gold Glove, and Silver Slugger Award winner.
This was a smart signing for the Mets who made significant changes to a roster that hopes to be competitive this year. Gonzalez will not need to be the same player he was previously in his career, as the Mets simply hope he can rejuvenate his career in New York.
Based on how the rest of the offseason went for veterans past their prime, the case could be made that Gonzalez is fortunate to be in this position. Players such as Matt Holliday, Jayson Werth, Mark Reynolds, and Jose Bautista to name a few remain unsigned, despite their proven track records. Teams are trying to get younger, but Gonzalez seems to fit in the Mets’ current plans in their retool rather than rebuild signing established players that include Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Jason Vargas.
The saying that a player does not lose his job to an injury is just not the case. Bellinger took the league by storm, and of course it made sense to make him the every day first baseman rather than add him to an already crowded Dodgers’ outfield when Gonzalez would be in the lineup.
The league moves fast, rosters overturn quickly, and Gonzalez is a result of that. Gonzalez was third in the Dodgers’ Opening Day lineup a year ago, and fast forward to him in a Mets’ jersey trying to keep his playing career alive.
Gonzalez will get a chance to contribute daily for the Mets, as long as he can stay healthy. Betting against Gonzalez is not wise, but he has to seize the opportunity that could be his last chance to prolong his career.