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Free-agent slugger CarGo ever the optimist

Veteran outfielder, 32, remains positive through dip in productivity, lack of top-tier signings
MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

Carlos Gonzalez is caught in free-agent limbo. And he's not the least bit concerned.

Gonzalez is a realist. He knows he is coming off the least productive of the seven seasons in which he has played in 100 or more games. Gonzalez understands there is a logjam created by a lack of signings of the top-tier free agents.

Carlos Gonzalez is caught in free-agent limbo. And he's not the least bit concerned.

Gonzalez is a realist. He knows he is coming off the least productive of the seven seasons in which he has played in 100 or more games. Gonzalez understands there is a logjam created by a lack of signings of the top-tier free agents.

Most of all, Gonzalez knows by the time spring camps open next month he will be in uniform, getting ready for Opening Day. It could be a return to the Rockies, where he played the past nine seasons, or it could come from a handful of other teams who reportedly have shown interest -- the Blue Jays, Orioles, Astros, D-backs or Royals.

Video: Castrovince matches free agent CarGo with D-backs

"I have been enjoying it," Gonzalez said. "It's been slow, but I know I am going to have a job. My focus is on being ready when it is time to get back on the field."

Gonzalez has been working out in the Orlando, Fla., area with a group of players, including fellow Venezuelan Jose Altuve.

"My main man, Altuve," Gonzalez said. "I'm looking for pointers."

Gonzalez is one of the more interesting of the unsigned free agents. At 32, he is a three-time National League All-Star, a three-time NL Gold Glove Award winner and a two-time NL Silver Slugger Award honoree. Gonzalez led the NL with a .336 average in 2010 when he finished third in NL MVP Award voting.

And Gonzalez is one of those guys who's always smiling and never looking for excuses, not even during what, from an overall standpoint, was a disappointing 2017, a contributing factor in why the market has been slow for him. He hit .262 for the season, but he had a strong finish and was a key factor in Colorado claiming a Wild Card berth, hitting .377 with a .484 on-base percentage and .766 slugging percentage in September, when he had six home runs and drove in 16.

Video: LAD@COL: Gonzalez belts a solo homer to right field

It was a far cry from that .221 Gonzalez hit with a .299 on-base percentage in the first half of the season. And it was the final year of a seven-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Rockies going into his final year before being arbitration-eligible, forfeiting his three years of arbitration and three years of potential free agency.

"I was going to make minimum salary as a third-year player," Gonzalez said. "I was able to work a deal that was going to provide for my family. That was important for me: for my family to be taken care of. I am from Venezuela, it's a different situation than a lot of countries."

Now Gonzalez is on the open market, waiting for it to truly open up.

"J.D. Martinez is still out there," said Gonzalez, who along with Martinez is represented by agent Scott Boras. "Depending on the decision he makes, it could open up things for me."

It could prompt one of the teams with interest in Gonzalez to make a multiyear offer, but the reality is he might be best served with a one-year deal and look to rebuild his market value after last year. He felt the final weeks of that season helped him. Gonzalez also made some adjustments to his grip and swing that were more along the lines of his past.

Video: LAD@COL: CarGo leaps at the wall to haul in deep fly

What Gonzalez didn't do was pout. A veteran presence on a young Colorado roster, he kept a smile on his face and encouraged teammates at all times, while also dealing well with the constant media inquiries about his on-field struggles.

Gonzalez has enjoyed his time with the Rockies, and he does not rule out the possibility of returning. Both sides have remained in contact. He feels comfortable about his relationship with the people in the clubhouse, from manager Bud Black to general manager Jeff Bridich and owner Dick Monfort.

"I am thankful for every opportunity the Rockies gave me," said Gonzalez, who originally signed with the D-backs and made his big league debut with the A's. "The Rockies will always be special to me. I could still be with the Rockies."

And Colorado wouldn't hesitate. The Rockies would like to add an impact bat to play the outfield.

Gonzalez not only would fit that void, but history shows he would fit very comfortably into the clubhouse as well.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

Carlos Gonzalez