Carlos Gonzalez has had a remarkable MLB career, but it may have just been dealt a deathblow.
A new, unfortunate chapter was written into the story of Carlos Gonzalez on Thursday: the 12-year MLB veteran was one of an estimated 30 minor league players that the Seattle Mariners chose to release.
In his prime, Gonzalez was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He did it all during the 10 years he spent with the Colorado Rockies, accumulating three All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and a batting title. He even finished third in NL MVP voting in 2010.
But the player who once managed multiple 30-homer campaigns is long gone. Since his last All-Star appearance in 2016, he has been in outright decline. In a little over a year, he has been shown the door thrice, with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs both bidding him unceremonious goodbyes in 2019 before the Mariners completed the dubious trifecta. Gonzalez’s career was already on its last legs, and his time with Seattle may have been his last shot.
The on-field product just isn’t there anymore. Gonzalez has failed to reach a league-average 100 OPS+ in each of the last three seasons. In 2019, Gonzalez logged 166 plate appearances across 45 games at the major league level, and he did little to inspire confidence that he can return to his old self. He managed just six extra-base hits, and his .572 OPS was well below his career mark of .851 entering the season.
On top of that, Gonzalez will be 35 years old come October. Considering his recent lack of production and the unforgiving will of Father Time, it’s hard to see a resurgence on the horizon. He was already a unlikely to make the roster this year to begin with, and this may have been the final nail in the coffin.
There is, however, some hope for the aging outfielder. Though the rebuilding Mariners might not have found use in him, perhaps teams with playoff aspirations might find his veteran presence to be of value in the clubhouse.
Changes to the rules of the game might also work to his benefit. The imminent addition of the universal designated hitter will raise the demand for bench bats, so perhaps Gonzalez could earn one last chance to prove himself as a hitter.
Whether or not teams see any value in him at all, though, remains to be seen. Those looking for a bench bat or an outfielder will likely cast their eyes towards younger and more reliable options, such as Yasiel Puig. Even with the new rule, there’s little appeal to an aging slugger whose bat seems to have vanished from his grasp.
Ultimately, Gonzalez is a long-shot to make a roster, let alone recapture his All-Star form. Perhaps his best option is retirement. He was a beloved player during his time with the Rockies, and if he tries to stick around for too long, he could end up damaging his legacy.
There’s truly no shame in calling it a career. If he does, he and the fans will have plenty of fond memories to look back on, untarnished by late struggles.