I think I’m talking myself into Marwin González.
Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks (!), and there are still a slew of free agents to be had, including González. While signing Bryce Harper would obviously be the most impactful move the Rockies could make, it’s also not very realistic. González, however, is just the type of player the Rockies may be in to. And I’m starting to think it could be a really good move.
Purple Row’s Renee Dechert published a couple articles recently about the shape the Rockies offense may be taking in 2019. The first looked at Steamer projections and came to the qualified conclusion that the Rockies offense should see some improvement in 2019 over 2018, thanks to the addition of Daniel Murphy and assuming steps forward from the young guys. The second assessed how the Mark Reynolds signing could eliminate some of the qualifications from the first analysis. González would probably be even better at erasing lingering concerns about the roster.
First, the switch-hitting González would elevate the floor of the Rockies offense. His career slash line is .264/.318/.419, for an OPS+ of 103. He’s about an average hitter during his seven-year career. He is, however, capable of much more. González was one of the 15 best hitters in baseball in 2017, when he posted a 146 OPS+. That was almost certainly an exception though, and fans of González’s 2019 team shouldn’t expect that any more than Yankees fans should expect DJ LeMahieu to replicate his 2016 season. It’s possible, but unlikely.
But González wouldn’t need to be one of the best hitters in baseball to prove valuable for the 2019 Rockies. That’s because his presence on the roster would likely keep Pat Valaika off of it. Reynolds would be unlikely to make the cut as well, but I’m talking myself into this because I’m seeing González as an improved version of Reynolds.
If the Rockies added González, he’d join these non-catcher position players:
González wouldn’t exactly take the Rockies to the next level, and a lot would still be riding on the development of McMahon, Hampson, and Tapia, but his addition could limit offensive liabilities. In fact, it would probably be most beneficial for the Rockies to add González and give him more playing than Desmond, but again we’re still to realistic decision-making.
Another thing that makes González attractive is that he is really and truly versatile. Over the past two seasons, González has played every position other than catcher and pitcher, though not in equal proportion. One thing that’s been consistent, however, is that he’s been good everywhere he’s played. According to DRS, González is a plus outfielder and roughly even throughout the infield, with the exception of shortstop.
González has spent the vast majority of his time in the outfield in left. While that may be a limiting factor for him, Dahl and Blackmon are flexible enough to play other positions, so Bud Black could play with lineups for days off, platoon splits, or injury.
That’s not the case for the infield, where González has played all four infield spots quite a bit. He probably wouldn’t get a lot of playing time on the left side of the Rockies’ infield, but he could complement Murphy at first base. González is a little bit better hitting right-handed against lefties, though his career splits are about even from the left and right side of the plate. He could also take second base reps if need be and end up as a true outfield/infield utility player.
★ ★ ★
Prior to the offseason, MLB Trade Rumors ranked González as the 16th best free agent on the market. They predicted he’d sign with the Twins for four years and $36 million. Two days after that prediction went up, Patrick Saunders reported speculation that the Rockies could be interested in González. That was way back on November 5.
Given the current free agent situation, it’s not hard to see González settling for a two to three year contract. Regardless, he may end up being expensive for a utility player whose greatest value may be raising the offensive floor. He’d be much better at doing that than the other González who remains a free agent, even if MarGo doesn’t quite have the sentimental ring of CarGo. But if we’re going to deal with realistic outcomes (Bryce Harper signs elsewhere and Ian Desmond gets 600 plate appearances), that sort of value could be what keeps the Rockies competitive in the NL West.
That’s what I’m telling myself at least.