Gerardo Parra's signing with the Rockies has created a logjam in the Colorado outfield. With Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez all deserving regular roles, there has been plenty of rumors swirling about the Rockies trading an outfielder. One such rumor has connected the White Sox with interest in Gonzalez:
Gonzalez is an exciting name because he's had some star-caliber years in Colorado and belted out 40 home runs last year. He'd certainly help out the middle of the White Sox lineup and successfully displace Avisail Garcia from a regular role. While he's likely a cut below Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes as a player, he has some upside potential and should provide above-average production at the plate. Plus, he obviously doesn't come at the cost of a draft pick, as Upton or Dexter Fowler would.
On the flip side, there's certainly some concerns to consider with Gonzalez as a solution to the outfield problem. Let's take a look at a few:
No. 1: He has a concerning recent track record against left-handed pitching
Remember those 40 home runs Gonzalez hit last year? A staggering 35 of them came against right-handers. August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs put up a piece
yesterday detailing that Gonzalez has had one of the widest platoon splits in baseball over the past two years. He's hitting .211/.234/.333 against same-handed pitching since 2014. Granted, that's only 258 plate appearances. It's not enough to conclude he's that
bad against lefties, but it's not a complete fluke either.
The situation is mitigated somewhat because there aren't a great deal of opposing lefty starters in the AL Central. However, he'd be vulnerable to specialist relievers, and if the Sox were to acquire Gonzalez, they'd want to pair him with a quality right-handed bat. Avisail Garcia's an in-house option and he's average-ish against left-handed pitching, but an average-ish hitter with Garcia's glove in right is pretty much a replacement-level player. Given this limitation, Gonzalez can't be considered a complete solution.
No. 2: His salary is more or less representative of his abilities
Gonzalez is owed $17 million in 2016 and $20 million in 2017, plus he gets a $1 million assignment bonus upon being traded. If we think he's worth between two and three wins per year, that average annual salary of $19 million is about market rate.
The reason Gonzalez' contract is still considered an asset is because there's only two years left on it. If you wanted to sign a player of this age and quality on the open market, it'd probably be at least a four-year commitment at a similar annual salary. For that reason, Colorado should expect a non-trivial return for him. From a buyer's perspective, Cespedes and Upton would probably only take up slightly more of the 2016-17 payroll with no prospect cost. That might be more attractive if we're going to add a big salary anyway.
No. 3: Gonzalez doesn't have a great health record
Over the past five years, Gonzalez has averaged 119 games played and 489 plate appearances. While he's coming off a pretty healthy 2015 campaign from a participation perspective, it'd be unwise to bank on him following that up with two more 150-game seasons. Furthermore, there's concern that one of the reasons for his declining performance is his body's response to knee, hamstring, hand, and wrist problems over the years. With Gonzalez, there'd be a risk of further decline and seeing bench players more than we'd like.
On the other hand, some of these factors should theoretically diminish what the Rockies could ask for in return for Gonzalez. There's a lot of interested teams, sure, but assuming no one goes bonkers, it should be a manageable price in terms of prospects. Given that a Frankie Montas package yielded Todd Frazier, who's a better, healthier, and significantly cheaper player that doesn't need to be platooned and had few market alternatives, you'd have to believe Carson Fulmer or Tim Anderson wouldn't be involved in a Gonzalez deal.
Rather, a potential package would probably surround one of the other White Sox pitching prospects, with the quality of said prospect varying based on how much of Gonzalez' salary Colorado is willing to eat. While the farm has been depleted a bit by recent trades, it might make sense for the Sox to sweeten the package in exchange for cash relief if it allows the Sox to fit a platoon partner (or an upgrade elsewhere) into their budget.
That might not sound enticing, but it's a reality that needs to be considered when acquiring an incomplete player on a tight budget and a weak in-house bench. If it turns out the Sox have financial flexibility beyond Gonzalez' price tag, we'd of course rather pay the full salary and send lesser players. Then again, if they have that sort of wiggle room, the White Sox should strongly consider the superior free agents that are available or perhaps try to fit in two of the better second-tier guys instead. Gonzalez is a good player that would dramatically improve the right field situation, but should the Sox acquire him, the quality of fit would depend quite a bit on what the White Sox choose to do next.