No. 270 Adrian Gonzalez (Number 32 First Base)

Adrian Gonzalez had 11 seasons in a row where he played 156 or more games and had at least 80 RBIs. In the ninth year of that streak, he led the league RBIs with 116, three short of his career high of 119. He came up in 2004 at the age of 22 and played to partial years in Texas. He started his streak in with San Diego at age 24. However, at the age of 35 in 2017 his hitting declined to a below average hitter which don’t last long at first base. He tried to play again in 2018 with the Mets and still couldn’t hit, so retired at age 36. So, Gonzalez played 15 years. He had two of those years adjusting to the majors and two of those years losing his hitting touch but was at least a good if not great player those 11 years in between.

He played for three teams in those 11 years, San Diego, Boston and the Dodgers. From age 26 to 29 he peaked with the bat. After three years of great hitting at the end of 2010 he was traded to Boston for four players. On April 15th still early in the season Gonzalez signed a seven-year contract with the Boston Red Sox for $154 million. He had another great year with Boston. However, the Red Sox collapsed in September going 7-20 and missed the playoffs by 1 game on the last game of the season.

Consequently, they thought Terry Francona was too lax, so they hired Bobby Valentine for the 2012 season.  The team was only .500 the first half of the season but played worse in the second half of the season. Worse Boston was well above the salary cap and had no money to maneuver obtaining other players to help the club. They had enough good hitters, but the pitching staff was hurting, but there wasn’t the money to effectively rebuild the staff. The Red Sox decided to trade some of their high price players to get under the salary cap and free some money to make the team better rounded.

Two factors made Gonzalez part of the trade. First Gonzalez was one of the highest paid players with his new contract.  While still hitting well he was hitting like he did in 2011 and he was now 30 years old. Second, the Dodgers which had just fixed their ownership problem with a new owner were very interested Gonzalez and thought he would be a good fit with the team.

It turned out he was. He was the one player who in the trade who produced for his team, and he did it for the rest of 2012 and the four years 2013 to 2016 after that. The Dodgers still call the trade one of their best, as they went to the playoffs from 2013 to 2015. However, the trade also helped the Red Sox. Saving money under the cap gave them the flexibility they needed to rebuild the team. In 2013, they won the World Series. Now truthfully the team didn’t have the most talent and overachieved that year, but they wouldn’t have gotten that far without making the trade to free up the money to obtain new talent. In a strange way it was a trade that helped both teams.

One of the things it did for the Dodgers, besides getting four good years from Gonzalez, was putting the message out there, hey we new owners are willing to do what it takes money wise to field a very competitive team.  This has worked as they won their division 9 times in the 10 years since and the other year they won 106 games and finished one game back of the Giants and easily in the playoffs. They won just one World Series, but part of that is some bad breaks.

In those four years with the Dodgers, Gonzalez played in six post season series and hit at least one homerun in each series. In the 2013 NL Championship series against St. Louis, he it two. Unfortunately, the Dodgers won only two of the six series. Gonzalez played early in his career in a playoff series with San Diego. He didn’t homer in that series but was on base eight times in four games. Gonzalez hit well in four series he played and not very well in three others. Gonzalez was with the Dodgers in 2017 but doesn’t appear to be a part of the post season roster. He didn’t play in any of the three series.

Gonzalez was a good fielder and deservingly won four gold gloves. It is interesting, Gonzalez won his first gold glove in 2008. Baseball Reference WAR said he was an average fielder that year. However, the next year his rating on defense went way up and showed him as deserving a gold glove. He did win again. I wonder though if the voters saw something that just didn’t turn up in the statistics that year. Maybe they recognized what he was doing, and the statistics had to catch up. The statistics later made that vote look a lot better. The voters might have been ahead of the curve of the stats this time.

One thing I saw in my research was in his prime, Gonzalez was good at taking walks. Starting in 2008 through 2011 he walked over 10 percent of his plate appearances. In 2009, he led the lead in walks with 119. This was the only year in his career he had 100 or more walks. Early in his career he had a fairly good walk rate. However, in 2012 he had only 42 walks the entire year. He slowly built it up again when he hit well but never had a walk rate of 10 percent as he got older. It is interesting because a lot of hitters will increase their walk rate as they get older. Gonzalez was a little unusual in this regard.


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