The Carlos Gonzalez (Trade) Conundrum

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So Carlos Gonzalez, he’s pretty good. One of the most beloved players in Colorado Rockies history who signed a contract that would set him up to join Todd Helton and Tulo as Rockies lifers.*

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Yeah about that…

The Rockies have a ton of money tied up to Tulo and CarGo and have to get rid of it. While there is no salary cap in baseball, there are financial limitations. Oh and I know many of you just said, ‘Screw the Monforts! Make them spend the money.’ News flash, they won’t and they shouldn’t. Why not? Because ridiculous spending to no end should be saved for teams like the Yankees and Boston who spend and spend and have seen very little recently from it.

So let’s focus on the task at hand, Tulo and CarGo. Tulo is a separate problem that I am sure will be address to a nonstop end until the trade deadline on July 31st passes. For now, let’s focus on CarGo.

Journalism has changed over the last five to ten years. It used to be, being a fan of the teams you covered was a bad thing, a reason for release from your position, but now, it’s commonly accepted to berate or applaud what you’re team is doing.

We see it all the time from the main stream media, all the way down to us, ‘lowly bloggers.’ I hate the term blogger but that’s for another day. Thank goodness it’s okay to be a fan and a writer.

I’m a fan. A fan of baseball, of the Rockies, of the Royals and even a little of the Diamondbacks (Because I met so many amazing people in their fan base, the short time I lived in Arizona.) Watching my teams struggle sucks. Really bad. I can tell you exactly where I was, what I screamed and who I was around when Matt Holliday scored the winning run, sending the Rockies to the playoffs. I remember where I was when Alex Gordon hit that ball so hard but then got left 90 feet short of tying game seven last year. It’s much more fun with the good memories. I remember because baseball matters.

If you are reading this, you know exactly what I am saying. So why have I written several paragraphs and told you nothing of “The Carlos Gonzalez (Trade) Conundrum?” Because advocating trading CarGo is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a fan but as a journalist, it is the right move for my team, for our team.

Trading Carlos Gonzalez stinks. It really does and it’s going to be ugly. Why? Because we all remember how good he was from 2010-2013. We also will want to deny how mediocre he was the last two years. We will blame 2014 on injuries, which is correct and try to ignore 2015 isn’t any better. We, the fans, are convinced he is the 2013 CarGo. He’s not.

Gonzalez, pre-2014, had a batting average, on base percentage, slugging slash line of approximately .296/.355/.530 and an OPS (On-base plus slugging) of .884. Those are solid numbers for a solid player. Then 2014 happened. Gonzalez only played in seventy games in 2014 and what he played wasn’t good. He only managed a .238/.292/.431 with .723 OPS. Big misses from his career numbers up until last year.

Now he’s healthy so he must be mashing the ball again right?!? Wrong. In eighty games this season, ten more than CarGo played all last season, he has produced numbers very similar to 2014.

This year, Gonzalez has produced a .254/.309/.443 with a .751 OPS, well below his career numbers but better than last year, if just slightly. That would be very concerning to me if I was committing a remaining $6-$8M this year and $37 million over the next two seasons. That’s the bad news but there is an upside.

If Gonzalez can stay healthy for the rest of the season, which has been a challenge for him, his numbers would project out to close to his 2011 numbers. In 2011, Gonzalez was worth just over four wins above replacement (WAR). WAR is a way to look at a player’s value independent of position and other factors and takes into account offense and defense and assigns a value to what the player is worth over calling up an average player from AAA. The value per win is between $5-$8M per win. If Gonzalez could get close to his 2011 numbers and just produce a three WAR this year, it would value him around $15M.

What does that all mean? If Gonzalez can continue as he is now, he will earn his contract but it may be too little, too late since the Rockies need to trade him in the next two weeks. GM Jeff Bridich has a big mess of contracts to clean up from Dan O’Dowd but if he could use a more precise explanation of what I wrote above to other GMs, he may be able to get good value for Gonzalez. Most likely he’s not going to bring back what many fans are hoping or expecting. He isn’t going to be a trade piece that fixes this team all at once.

I do not like to speculate on trades but I did see one idea from Will Carroll of FanDuel that caught my interest for multiple reasons. Carroll spoke with an anonymous American League General Manager who said he could see the Royals making a move for Gonzalez to fill the hole created when All Star, Alex Gordon injured his groin.

He could see the Rockies taking a deal that would send oft-injured prospect pitcher Kyle Zimmer and 18 year old, high upside catcher Chase Vallot to the Rockies for Gonzalez. In my opinion, this is about the most the Rockies are going to get with for a player with the injury history and money owed that Gonzalez has.

Zimmer, if he can stay healthy, could develop into a middle of the rotation guy that would be a great help to the Rockies. Meanwhile Vallot is a plus-power catcher that could become a special kind of hitter at altitude.

Part of the issue for Bridich is the 20 plus point drop in all stats that happens when Gonzalez is away from Coors Field. Gonzalez is already having a down year that could pop up to a good year but does taking Coors Field out of the equation make his performance worse than it is now.

The Royals have been most closely linked to Ben Zobrist even before Gordon’s injury, if Zobrist were to become available, and there has been some speculation that the Royals, like every other contender, have inquired about Carlos Gomez in Milwaukee. Milwaukee’s CarGo has a much lighter salary but would take far more in prospects.

No matter what the Royals decide to do, it’s likely Gonzalez will be traded by the end of the month to someone but as fans we need to temper expectations to one or two prospects that will likely have issues of their own. As a fan of both teams, I instantly thought of Gonzalez when Gordon went down. I would love to see CarGo resurrect in Kauffman Stadium and have a playoff outfield of Gonzalez, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon.

Meanwhile the Rockies could add another bat to their system and another starting pitcher, both of whom have tremendous upside. It also would allow them to make moves within Bridich’s vision this offseason with an extra $16M to do it.

As I said, this stinks. It really does. Being a fan of a bad team is hard. Anyone can jump a bandwagon and cheer their team into the playoffs but to live and die with a bad team is awful but it’s what we do as fans. It makes the good times so much better but having to lose two of the trademark faces in the history of your organization, both in the same year, is extremely painful.

In the same breath, if you can trust Bridich, which I know some don’t, but if you can, you can see how these moves are best for the Rockies. It also helps that Cristhian Adames, Kyle Parker, Trevor Story and others are knocking on the door in AAA and have a chance to make it a little easier to move on from Tulo and CarGo.

Here’s to hoping someone pays well for Gonzalez and the Rockies finally start a true rebuild that makes this team competitive within three to four years.

*I know CarGo broke in with the A’s. I’m ignoring that. Go with it.
**I’ve missed you guys, the readers. I’ll try not to stay away as long this time.

Troy Olsen can be heard, talking Topes, every Friday around 5:35 p.m, on 610 KNML. Listen on tunein, IHeartRadio, or the 610 Website along with many other places. Listen in and let me know what you think! 

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