Friday, February 22, 2019

On Marwin Gonzalez

There's been some chatter in recent days connecting the Twins to free-agent multi-position guy Marwin Gonzalez. I don't know what to make of that.

Gonzalez is a good, if complicated, player. Versatile is understating it. He is:

  • a switch-hitter who led the Astros in RBIs two years ago, when they won the World Series. Leading a good lineup in RBIs suggests that he can thrive in the middle of the lineup.
  • a shortstop in the minors who has seldom played the position in the majors because that's Carlos Correa's job
  • going to turn the dreaded 30 in mid-March

The Twins don't have a specific position they would give Gonzalez. And that's quite OK, because playing Gonzalez at one place all season is a waste of a significant part of his value. The Astros found him more than 500 at-bats in each of the past three seasons without making him a regular at any one spot. Last season he started games in left field and all four infield spots, plus he picked up a few random innings in center and right

His 2017 season -- .303 batting average, 90 RBIs, 24 homers -- overstates his true hitting level. He's not that good a hitter. But he's good enough to deepen a lineup, good enough to look for reasons to play his bat. He's not going to win a Gold Glove anywhere, but he's not an embarrassment afield anywhere either.

He's Ben Zobrist with less acclaim, which is kind of funny to say because Zobrist has been underrated and overlooked pretty much his entire career, and for the same reason. These superutility guys are camouflaged. Camouflage works by breaking up the image. You make three dozen starts at one position, two dozen at a couple more, a dozen at a couple more, your image as a player is broken up.

I don't know how seriously the Twins and Scott Boras (Gonzalez' agent) are talking. The spring training games are about to get started, Gonzalez is unemployed, and Boras is a master at generating rumors to try to drum up a market. There may be a lot more smoke than fire here.

I do like the player. I like him a lot -- certainly more than C.J. Cron, who figures to be Minnesota's first baseman right now, probably more than Jonathan Schoop, who figures to be the second baseman. And Rocco Baldelli, coming as he does out of the Tampa Bay organization, has certainly seen how to juggle a superutility guy. I'd like to see this happen.

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