Carlos González’s struggles this year have been well documented. As far back as May, Purple Row was warning that his extended slump may be a sign of decline. The evidence of that decline has only mounted. As of July 26, he’s hitting .227 with a measly 6 HRs and 26 RBI. Bad. Really bad.
Here is just how bad it’s been. As of Saturday morning, CarGo’s OPS of .642 ranks 153 out of 165 qualified players in the majors, 38 points lower than José Reyes. He has an fWAR of -1.8, worst among all qualified position players. Rockies fans don’t really need the numbers to understand the situation. We’ve all suffered with CarGo one whiff at a time.
It’s impossible to discuss the Rockies’ offensive inconsistencies this year without beginning and ending the conversation with CarGo. He’s not solely to blame, of course, but his All-Star talent and $20 million salary make him the poster child. Besides, no one has had more unproductive ABs in the middle of the order, and no one else on the team has a -1.3 WAR. Quite simply, the Rockies have succeeded in spite of CarGo.
So does the former batting champ and ball masher just need to pull himself up off the mat to be the player he was? That has been the pressing question since May. The answer is cold but obvious at this point: CarGo is done, and it’s time to cut him loose.
Ugh. It hurts me to write that. It hurts me to believe that. But I do.
CarGo has gone through rough patches before—it’s true. The contrarian in me keeps harping back to 2014, for instance. In 70 games, he hit .238 with a .431 slugging percentage and -0.7 WAR. But, in 83 games this year, CarGo has about half as many homeruns (6) as he did then (11) and 12 fewer RBI. His OPS+ is a full 30 points lower than that disastrous 2014 season. It’s also important to remember that CarGo was never really healthy at any point in 2014, which is why he played less than half of the season. As far as anyone knows, 2017 CarGo is completely healthy.
His impending free agency makes things a little bit easier. At this point, he isn’t part of the long-term plan. Tapia and Dahl have a high ceiling and have shown that they can make substantial contributions. While the two rookies are unproven, Blackmon, Desmond, and Parra are not, and they are all returning to the team next year. CarGo will be left without a chair in 2018.
The hard truth is that Parra’s resurgence, Reynolds’ unexpected rejuvenation, and Tapia’s play have made CarGo expendable even for the remainder of this season. At this point, CarGo is simply a charismatic road block to the Rockies playoff hopes and future success. Every time CarGo hopelessly reaches for a slider, he takes an AB away from Tapia, who was hitting .314 with an OPS of .850 in 102 ABs before being sent down. Every game that CarGo goes hitless is one more game that Dahl has to twiddle his thumbs in Triple-A.
But CarGo has always been streaky, I tell myself. True. As Purple Row pointed out in the May article, though, he has never had a slump like this, and his slow starts have been exaggerated. The decline of players past the age of 30 has been well established, so CarGo may be a victim of time, not just a temporary dip in production. Even if this is just some sort of extended slump, streakiness is the last thing this team needs. The Rockies need consistency.
Without question, CarGo is one of the greatest Rockies of all time. He’s the longest tenured player on the team and the last remaining player from the 2009 Wild Card team. He’s top five in games played, home runs, and doubles; he’s top ten in just about every other major offensive category. After Helton, Walker, and Castilla, CarGo may be the final head on the Rockies’ Mt. Rushmore. Unfortunately for him, he’s fallen off during a promising season and is surrounded by talented outfielders eager and ready to contribute. The Rockies have given him more than enough time to turn it around, probably because of sentiment more than anything else. But sentiment won’t win in October.
Now it’s time for the Rockies to leave sentiment to the fans. We will never forget the Rockies’ first walk-off homerun for the cycle in 2010, the frozen ropes to right, the prettiest swing since Griffey. Every fan will remember the diving catches in the sprawling Coors outfield and the canon arm cutting down disrespectful runners at the plate. We will always remember the smile he brought to the park, even during this brutal final season with the Rockies. We’ll remember all of those things more than how it ended.
Even though I know this needs to be the end, my heart isn’t in it. I hope CarGo finds his swing and swagger starting tonight. I hope CarGo’s resurrection becomes the best story of the second half and propels the Rockies into the playoffs. I hope all this “cut CarGo” talk is dead wrong.
But the Rockies can’t keep hoping. Cutting CarGo will be be cold. It will be hard. It will be sad. It will also be the right thing to do.