Newsflash: the Colorado Rockies are not very good. They have been varying levels of Not Good since their last playoff appearance in 2009. The bylaws of writing about baseball stipulate that if a team is bad for a certain amount of time -- usually a season or more -- then their star players are all likely to be traded.
We have reached this point with the Rockies multiple times in the last few years. Ken Rosenthal said as much yesterday, and we have looked at this exact trade scenario before. For those that don't click the Rosenthal link, the Rockies are reportedly "willing to listen to offers" for both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Since Tulowitzki is as "ain't happenin'" as it gets, we will focus on Gonzalez.
Who is he?
Gonzalez is a 29 year old Venezuelan outfielder who was originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent in 2002. He spent five years putting up big numbers in the D'Backs' farm system before being traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of the Dan Haren deal. Gonzalez made his MLB debut for the A's in 2008, hitting .242/.273/.361 in 316 plate appearances. Shortly after the season, Gonzalez was on the move again, as the A's had traded him to the Rockies for Matt Holliday.
The thin atmopshere of Coors Field has made plenty of hitters look even better over the years, and Gonzalez was no exception. He hit .284/.353/.525 with 13 home runs in 2009, then followed that with a .974 OPS in 2010. Gonzalez finished third in the NL MVP voting that year after leading the league with 351 total bases. He won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove that year, and has added a pair of Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances to his resume since then. He is currently under contract through the 2017 season, and is due $53 million over the next three years.
Why should we care?
He has his issues, but when healthy, Gonzalez is one of the very best players in baseball. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight rated Gonzalez as one of just four true five-tool players in baseball, and the second "toolsiest" player in the game behind Mike Trout. Gonzalez is a career .294/.351/.520 hitter with four 20-homer seasons to his credit. A left-handed hitter, Gonzalez handles lefty pitchers just fine, at .278/.319/.462 with 40 home runs in his career. His numbers against right-handers are absolutely gargantuan.
Gonzalez's defense may be one of the more underrated components of his game. He has the ability to play center field at a league average level, but the Rockies kept him in a corner for most of his time in Denver with Dexter Fowler in center. Gonzalez's range has generally been seen as a slight negative -- though it's tough to track fly balls down in Denver -- but he has an above average arm. With a smaller outfield to cover in Detroit, Gonzalez could be a big upgrade to the Tigers' defense.
Why should we stay away?
If you thought Brett Anderson's injury history was bad, you might want to skip to the next section. Gonzalez is perennially banged up, and has never played in 150 games in a given season. He did post four seasons of 110 or more from 2010 to 2013, but only topped the 600 plate appearance plateau one time. In particular, last year was a difficult season for Gonzalez. He missed a month of the season after having a tumor removed from his left index finger, then had season-ending knee surgery on August 19th. In total, Gonzalez played just 70 games, the lowest total of his career.
The injuries that Gonzalez suffered this year can shoulder most of the blame for his poor performance, but there are a couple of concerning signs. First, he struck out in 24.9 percent of plate appearances this year, by far the highest of his career. He also walked slightly less, though a 6.8 percent rate would be a large improvement over some of the players on the current roster. His .192 ISO was his lowest since his rookie season, but this does not necessarily mean that his power is evaporating as we speak.
If there is a concern surrounding pre-2014 Gonzalez -- well, other than the injuries -- it is his performance on the road. Gonzalez has hit a blazing .329/.387/.601 at home in his career compared to .258/.314/.437 on the road. Is this Coors-fueled? Absolutely, but there is no telling what will happen if Gonzalez is moved. This piece from Purple Row earlier this year cites where the discrepancy in performance lies for the Rockies' offense, and All-Star hitters like Matt Holliday show that just because you can hit at Coors doesn't mean you can't hit anywhere else.
Will he end up in Detroit?
If Gonzalez is ever going to be traded, this offseason might be the time. While his value seems down because of the multiple surgeries he had in 2014, a player of his caliber will still receive plenty of interest from other clubs. Gonzalez is due for a $6 million pay raise in 2015, and the Rockies may be enticed to move him if the right package comes along. Unfortunately, that package is probably not something that can be created within the Tigers' farm system.