While the New York Mets have glaring needs at second or third base, they pulled the trigger on veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, agreeing to a deal late Wednesday night, as first reported by USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
At first glance, it's a puzzling move for Mets. Gonzalez will turn 36 in May and is coming off a 2017 season in which he was Wally Pipp-ed. After trudging through a herniated disk and forearm tendinitis, the struggling Gonzalez was placed on the DL in May, allowing the red-hot rookie Cody Bellinger to come in and steal his job.
In just 71 games during his injury-shortened campaign, Gonzalez hit just .242 with 3 home runs and 30 RBI. He hadn't experienced a stretch that poor since his first two MLB seasons when he came up as a member of the Texas Rangers.
There was a time where Gonzalez was one of the most imposing left-handed hitters in the game. Over an 11-year stretch from 2006-2016 as a member of the San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox and Dodgers, he mashed 301 home runs with a .292 batting average and .364 on-base percentage.
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Those numbers warranted some sizeable contracts as the Red Sox signed Gonzalez to a seven-year, $154 million deal prior to the 2011 season.
The Dodgers, who acquired Gonzalez during the 2012 season, traded Gonzalez to the Atlanta Braves for Matt Kemp in a salary dump deal. The Braves, who were expected to and did in fact release Gonzalez, would take on the almost $17 million owed to him in 2018. So basically, Gonzalez could be had on the free-agent market for an extremely low price.
This is where the Mets came in.
The general consensus is that the team is not happy with the development of first baseman Dominic Smith, who only spent about six weeks in the majors after being called up alongside the organization's top prospect Amed Rosario. In 49 games, the 22-year-old Smith batted just .198 with nine home runs and 26 RBI.
He could still very well be the future of the team at first, but could need more time in triple-A to hone his game, leaving the Mets to search for a short-term option at the position.
Gonzalez, whose better days are certainly behind him is the epitome of a low risk, high reward signing. Nabbing him at the league minimum ($545,000) on a one-year deal, the Mets are getting a savvy veteran hitter who still knows his way around the batter's box.
At the end of the day, this is a five-time All-Star who finished in the top 20 of MVP voting eight times.
Should he return to full health and is put in a lower spot in the lineup where he is supported by Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto (upon his return from a dislocated shoulder), Gonzalez could still be more than serviceable for the Mets.
And possibly one of the best bargains of the year in baseball.
If he struggles, then his salary is easily releasable and the Mets would have to deal with a platoon of Smith, Wilmer Flores and even Bruce at first base for the rest of the season.