Gonzalez Glad to be Back in Clubhouse and On Field
The free-agent market was sluggish.
But Carlos Gonzalez isn’t complaining.
With a seven-year, $80 million deal – that paid him $20 million in 2017 – expiring at the end of last season he decided to test the open market during the winter. Coming off the least productive season of his career and with teams more hesitant than the past in handing out big-time free agent contracts, Gonzalez found himself at home in Florida when spring training started.
It wasn’t where he wanted to be.
He wanted to be back with the Rockies.
How badly did he want to be back with the Rockies?
Well, he eventually agreed to a one-year deal that has a $5 million guaranteed salary, but does include three $1 million incentives, which kick in if he is on the active roster for 125, 150 and 175 days.
And what was his reaction when he showed up at the Rockies spring training facility in Scottsdale?
“It’s no secret,” Gonzalez said of his feelings with the Rockies. “Even before I hit free agency, I’d say this is the place that I want to be. Obviously, I wanted to see what was out there, but at the end of the day this has been my home for the past nine seasons, so it’s always good to be home.”
And he added:
“I came (to the United States from Venezuela) with a bat and a glove when I was 16 years old, and everything from now on is a plus. I feel blessed. I’m playing the game I love. I’m still out here with a great group and a great organization.”
Well, they say actions speak louder than words, and Gonzalez has put an exclamation point on his commitment to the Rockies in the opening days of the seasons. Yes, it’s only four games, but he is hitting .294, and in passing Vinny Castilla into the No. 4 spot on the Rockies all-time hit list at 1,207, he played a key role in the Rockies 7-4 victory against the Padres at Petco Park on Monday night.
He moved into a tie with Castilla at 1,206 hits with the Rockies when he doubled in a run to put the Rockies up 2-1 in the third inning and scored on an ensuing double by Ian Desmond. And he moved ahead of Castilla with a seventh-inning single.
“I’m still wearing a Rockies uniform, playing for my fans, who support me, and my family is extremely happy to be back,” said Gonzalez.
But then that’s Gonzalez’s way of life. It’s why his return created such an upbeat stir in the Rockies clubhouse.
Even in January, when he was sitting home waiting for an offer, Gonzalez was upbeat about his situation. He showed no regrets that after he jumped at the Rockies offer of that seven-year deal in January 2011 that eliminated his three years of arbitration as well as three years of potential free agency.
"I was going to make minimum salary as a third-year player," Gonzalez said. "I was able to work a deal that was going to provide for my family. That was important for me, for my family to be taken care of. I am from Venezuela; it's a different situation than a lot of countries.”
And there was no way to downplay the fact that last season was a struggle.
Gonzalez, however, never pouted and felt sorry for himself, even though free agency was pending. He remained a key figure in the clubhouse, counselling teammates, particularly the young Latins, on dealing with the challenge in the big leagues not only with words but by setting an example with how he dealt with his own struggle.
The Rockies did see a revitalization of Gonzalez in the final weeks of the season. He was, after all, the key offensive cog for the Rockies during a September in which they had to battle to hang on to the second NL wild-card spot. And that wasn’t overlooked when they saw the chance to re-sign Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was one of six Rockies to file for free agency last fall. He and left-handed reliever Jake McGee were the only two who returned. The Rockies did make efforts to re-sign catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Greg Holland, but the talks didn’t go far.
The Rockies made an initial three-year, $21 million offer to Lucroy, and a three-year, $45 million proposal to Holland. In both instances, the agents for the players did not give the proposals serious consideration, and general manager Jeff Bridich moved quickly to fill those spots, signing free agent catcher Chris Iannetta and closer Wade Davis to fill those voids.
Given the off-season market, the Rockies offers appear to have been more realistic than the agents perceived.
It may not been what his agent expected, but Gonzalez isn’t complaining.
He is comfortable where he is.
“I’m glad I’m back and wearing the same uniform I’ve been wearing for the past nine seasons,” he said. “This is No. 10, which is special. Not a lot of guys can say, `Hey, I played 10 years with one organization with one uniform. So that’s something that makes me proud.”