On November 12, 2008, the Rockies traded superstar Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics. In return, they received Greg Smith, Huston Street, and none other than Carlos González. Since that date, “CarGo” has established himself as one of the most beloved players in Rockies history, both on and off the field. Since he hit free agency at the end of the 2017 season, many people have been watching to see where he’ll end up. He has so far been linked to the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, as well as back with the Rockies. Unfortunately, he’s still on the market in this unmoving offseason, along with other players expected to get much more lucrative free agent contracts.
In his nine years wearing purple, González not only established himself as a cornerstone to the Rockies team on the field, but also as a pillar in the Denver community. In 2014, he and his wife Indonesia started the Carlos Gonzalez Foundation and have donated over $500,000 worth of lifesaving medical equipment to children in his native Venezuela. He has also raised and donated money to service Denver-area youth service organizations such as Denver Kids, the Denver Advocacy Center, and the Boys and Girls Clubs. All of this service work even earned him the Rockies’ nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2016.
However, and most importantly of all, beyond all of his charity work González has established himself as a leader in the clubhouse, particularly amongst the young players and the Latin players. Sometimes, all it takes is one player to change the whole chemistry of a team. For the Rockies, that player is could be Carlos González.
A couple weeks ago, numerous Rockies’ players were asked about the void felt in the clubhouse without CarGo, including Nolan Arenado and Germán Márquez. They alluded to his emotional leadership and just his ability to light up the room when he was in it. Márquez also talked about how much of a mentor González was, especially to all of the young players. He had a poor 2017—slashing .262/.339/.423 with 14 home runs—and is currently, waiting for a team to sign him. It will probably be a one-year “prove it” deal, and maybe the Rockies should be the ones to give it to him.
Where would he play?
Carlos González can add positive chemistry to the team. That’s great, but he’d still have to get playing time. The question is where.
The most obvious answer is “in the outfield.” The Rockies, however, already have a plethora of outfield depth. Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl probably have spots locked down, but that still leaves Ian Desmond, Gerardo Parra, Raimel Tapia, and Mike Tauchman (we covered the outfield in depth here). Adding Gonzalez into that mix makes the outfield even more crowded.
The next most logical spot might be at first base. but the Rockies also have a number of guys competing for that spot, including top prospect Ryan McMahon. Behind McMahon is Desmond (for the position the Rockies originally signed him for in 2017) and utility man Pat Valaika (we also covered first base in depth). González could be an interesting fit here, but he would have to be converted and learn how to play the position (it’s really not that easy). First base is not out of the question, but it would be more difficult to justify.
Since he most likely wouldn’t be starting at either of those positions, that leaves him on the bench. This might work, but that would knock another guy out of a spot—most likely Tauchman. However, Tauchman has been establishing himself as a reliable fourth outfielder.
So why should the Rockies bring him back?
It comes back to the possible chemistry boost. They have a lot of big name guys on their roster with plenty of bats and gloves to fill the void he has left, but there’s something intangible that might keep the team running.
Chemistry may be hard to capture, but it is most definitely real and there’s good reason to believe it has a presence on successful teams. Carlos González absolutely could bring something to the Rockies. His presence would lift everyone up and keep them on track, but without a designated spot for him he would probably be very limited. He would most likely be delegated to almost a “clubhouse mascot” role where he wouldn’t see much game action. At age 32, he still has time to right his ship and continue to be a force in the league. So the question then becomes: would Carlos González be OK taking a cut in playing time to remain with the team that has done so much for him and his career, or would he rather start over with a new team and see if he can bounce back from 2017 elsewhere?