DENVER -- The Rockies have an already versatile roster that points toward pursuing one of the Majors' best all-purpose players -- free agent Marwin Gonzalez, a catalyst for winning Astros teams.Three key Rockies position players became free agents after the 2018 season -- Gold Glove-winning second baseman DJ LeMahieu, right
DENVER -- The Rockies have an already versatile roster that points toward pursuing one of the Majors' best all-purpose players -- free agent Marwin Gonzalez, a catalyst for winning Astros teams.
Three key Rockies position players became free agents after the 2018 season -- Gold Glove-winning second baseman DJ LeMahieu, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez and key defensive outfielder and part-time starter Gerardo Parra. This means roughly 2 1/2 everyday positions. Marwin Gonzalez, who turns 30 in March, could fill any of those and more -- and would fit even if the Rockies re-sign one or two of the aforementioned free agents.
Marwin Gonzalez has operated as a starter the past two seasons, with at least 15 starts at five positions -- left field, shortstop (his natural spot), second, first and third base.
On the first day of the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., the Rockies' Jeff Bridich played it close when asked about versatile everyday players such as Gonzalez.
"We've got some guys we can move around, so it's nice to have that on the team already," Bridich said. "With the way that we're built in the National League, 13 pitchers, it's always part of our thought process. I'm not sure how much necessarily we will have that lead the day for us with free agency or trades, but it's always part of our thought process."
Gonzalez's switch-hitting bat (104 career weighted runs created-plus, four points above MLB average) can help the Rockies, who set a club record with 44 road wins, won the National League Wild Card Game and appeared in the NL Division Series -- despite franchise-low batting averages of .256 overall and .225 on the road.
Here is a breakdown of how Gonzalez matches up with Colorado:
Gonzalez had a .303/.377/.530 slash line, plus 23 home runs, 34 doubles and 90 RBIs in a breakout 2017 as the Astros won the World Series. His 2018 dipped overall -- .247/.324/.409 -- but Gonzalez scorched balls during the second half.
He hit .230 in the first half of 2018, although according to Statcast™ his 33.9 percent hard-hit rate (at least 95 mph exit velocity) was not off much from his 36.6 percent in 2017 -- essentially MLB average.
But during the '18 second half, when he kept his bat in the zone longer and limited his chasing of breaking pitches, Statcast™ had the hard-hit rate at 52.7 percent -- fourth-highest among 246 MLB players with at least 100 batted balls over that period. Gonzalez was similar left-handed (53.1) and right-handed (52).
Inside Edge numbers suggest he is a tough out if he keeps crushing the inside fastball (MLB-leading .415), and doesn't chase breaking pitches (39.8 swing-and-miss rate on curves and sliders since the start of 2017). Gonzalez saw 10 or more pitches in a plate appearance 11 times to tie for the MLB high, and since the start of 2017, his 4.17 pitches seen per plate appearance is tied for 13th among 121 qualified hitters.
Gonzalez's addition would make it four everyday players the Rockies could start at multiple positions -- five if they decide to approach center fielder Charlie Blackmon about playing the corners occasionally or full time. Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, shortstop Trevor Story (trained at multiple spots) and the catchers are not expected to start at other positions.
Playing all three outfield spots gave David Dahl opportunities to establish himself in 2018, and it could do the same for Raimel Tapia and Noel Cuevas. Ian Desmond, who signed his five-year, $70 million deal before 2017, has played extensively at first base and left field and is a middle infielder by trade. Ryan McMahon can play three of the four infield spots, Garrett Hampson can handle the middle infield and showed solid center-field work in the Minors in 2018.
Gonzalez can move to accommodate any of those players either as the game starts or midgame. If an injury sidelines Story, Gonzalez is a proven, high-level shortstop.
While the multi-position gold standard is the four-year, $56 million deal the Cubs reached with Benjamin Zobrist before the 2016 season, former MLB general manager Jim Bowden, now with The Athletic, predicted a three-year, $39 million contract for Gonzalez.
Reports suggest the Yankees and Cardinals have also approached his agent, Scott Boras.
Bridich said last week the Rockies expect "responsible growth" of a payroll that Spotrac placed at nearly $144 million at the end of 2018. Can the Rockies fit Gonzalez in while dealing with NL MVP finalist Arenado's salary arbitration (likely north of $21 million) and bidding to re-sign coveted righty setup man Adam Ottavino?
There is infielder-outfielder Josh Harrison (Pirates), or the Rockies could go with strictly an outfielder -- A.J. Pollock (D-backs) or Michael Brantley (Indians).
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page. AJ Cassavell contributed to this report.