SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Gonzalez turned down a multiyear contract offer from the Rockies last spring for "the experience of going through free agency." All it did was remind him what was important."If you make $100 million, if you make $1, it's the same," Gonzalez said Tuesday morning. "I came
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Carlos Gonzalez turned down a multiyear contract offer from the Rockies last spring for "the experience of going through free agency." All it did was remind him what was important.
"If you make $100 million, if you make $1, it's the same," Gonzalez said Tuesday morning. "I came here with a bat and a glove when I was 16 years old. Everything from now on is a plus."
Gonzalez's free-agent experience was not what he expected. Big offers didn't come, and he missed a month of Spring Training before signing a one-year, $8 million contract with Colorado on Monday. Gonzalez, who had been working out in Florida, hit against college players and former Minor Leaguers while awaiting a deal. He plans on taking at-bats at the Rockies' Minor League camp with the aim of entering Cactus League play soon.
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"To be honest, I wanted to play today, because you're never going to feel ready, anyway," Gonzalez said. "That's what Spring Training is about. They're a little concerned about other stuff -- make sure I'm not going to pull something running the bases."
Gonzalez fits right back into Colorado's lineup, as the club was clearly missing a proven run producer. It means young outfielders the team is excited about, such as David Dahl and Raimel Tapia, will have to wait for their opportunity as Major League starters. But the Rockies, coming off an appearance in the National League Wild Card Game but wanting more, feel Gonzalez's bat gives them a better shot.
Gonzalez was one of several accomplished free agents who at some point turned down contract offers (CarGo's offer was reportedly three years and $45 million) then found themselves still waiting while camps began. But Gonzalez's teammates were thinking of him.
"You get to hear a lot of players calling me, 'Hey, man, we miss you. Hope you get back.' That's what makes you feel happy and makes everything so easy when it comes to making a decision," Gonzalez said. "That plays a big role, having Nolan [Arenado], [Charlie] Blackmon, [Gerardo] Parra, [DJ] LeMahieu, everybody involved, calling, saying, 'Hey, man, this place is a little different without you.'"
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Last season was the end of a seven-year, $80 million contract Gonzalez signed with the club long before he was close to being eligible for free agency. This offseason, Gonzalez's heart was with the Rockies, but he admitted the usual free-agent dreams and aspirations.
"I was picturing myself wearing a different uniform -- that's what everybody else does," he said. "But it didn't happen. I'm glad I'm back. I'm wearing the same uniform that I've been wearing for the past nine seasons, so this will be No. 10. So this is special.
"I signed my seven-year deal when I was in my second year in the big leagues. I'd never gone through arbitration or free agency. So I wanted to see what it was like. That was the main thing."
Gonzalez fought all kinds of issues last season while hitting .262 with 14 home runs and seeing his free-agency stock drop. His sleep disorder was finally corrected in the second half. Gonzalez's old habit of turning his wrists inward while holding the bat cropped up, and it wasn't until he was watching the Tigers' Jose Cabrera during a game that he noticed he had slipped into his teenage muscle memory.
Gonzalez finished with a strong August and an even stronger September to help the Rockies to their first postseason berth since 2009. He insisted the pending free agency was not what led to his up-and-down season.
"Obviously, you think about it a little bit," Gonzalez said. "But when we go out there, we don't think about anything. We put everything on the side. We try to enjoy the game, play hard, play for each other.
"You're not going, 'I've gotta hit because it's my last year of the contract,' or, 'I'd better dive after a fly ball if I want to make money.' It's nothing close to that."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.