The Seattle Mariners are more than likely going to need to go outside of the organization to replace DH Nelson Cruz. Today we look at a long-time National League outfielder to fill the void.
Obviously, most Mariners fans, myself included, would love to see Nelson Cruz back with the team. However, there has been no real indication that the Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto view that decision as a high priority.
In fact, in their end of season press conference, the Mariners sounded ready to use the DH to provide the lineup with more flexibility. Said Dipoto:
"“We’re looking at all of the different possibilities and potentials, and we don’t know… Right now it appears there is a very clear need at DH and we all know and love Nelson. We have to consider what comes next and the different creative ways a roster might come together. We will never close the door on considering anything up to and including bringing him back. I think Nellie would like to be back but I am sure he is considering his options as well.”"
So no, they aren’t pushing Cruz out the door, but are most certainly looking at all the options. One option they could consider is former Colorado Rockies OF, Carlos Gonzalez.
Carlos Gonzalez is a 33-year-old LHH who has spent the last 10 years in the outfield for the Colorado Rockies. No longer the star he once was, Gonzalez got a taste of free agency last off-season but couldn’t find work elsewhere before being forced to sign back in Denver for a measly $5 million.
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For his career, Gonzalez has been a stud at the plate, posting a career triple slash of .287/.345/.506. However, injuries and age have caught up to Gonzalez. In 2018, he slashed .276/.329/.467 with 16 home runs in 132 games.
Gonzalez is no longer the base-runner or defender he once was, although he greatly improved in both areas from 2017 to 2018. In fact, by most metrics, Gonzalez was an above-average right fielder in 2018. This flexibility of being able to play a corner OF spot without killing his team is a major plus for Gonzalez.
However, there are several concerns with his bat. His 4.4% barrel rate ranked 174th in all of baseball. His average exit velocity was just 89.4 mph, just ahead of Ryon Healy. These factors may or may not help explain a drastic home/away split in 2018.
At the friendly confines of Coors field, Gonzalez slashed .315/.360/.581. On the road, he slashed just .241/.302/.361. In addition to these drastic splits, Gonzalez has a drastic platoon split as well. Against RHP, the lefty slashed .284/.344/.485. However, against LHP, Gonzalez slashed just .259/.295/.424.
Obviously, with Mitch Haniger anchoring RF, Gonzalez would get a majority of his AB’s out of the DH spot or LF. The Mariners could use some lefty power, a weakness that was exploited after Robinson Cano missed half the year due to suspension.
However, with the low barrel percentage and huge splits away from Coors Field, the possibility remains that Gonzalez could be nothing more than a strong side platoon player. If he can play defense and hit against RHP, he could still be a valuable player for the Mariners in 2019.
The Mariners need to find a value for 2019. It’s possible that Gonzalez can provide that value. However, it is also possible that his home/road splits come to fruition in the spacious ballpark that was once Safeco Field.
If that is the case, Gonzalez could be nothing more than a sunk cost bench bat. Last off-season, he got a 1-year deal worth $5 million. While he was better in 2018 than 2019; the age, injury history, massive splits, and declining power make it unlikely he will fetch significantly more this off-season.
A contract in the neighboorhood of 1-year worth $6.5 million could be a win-win. Gonzalez gets a nice sum of cash, and the Mariners get a potential contributor who will not break the bank.