Alex Gonzalez is a Tiger, leaving us befuddled. The first step in becoming acquainted with him is to know that this is the middle child. We can be thankful that ours is not the 40 year old Alex Gonzalez who played shortstop for 13 seasons across six teams, but ended his career eight years ago. This is not Alex Gonzalez the 22 year old from Venezuela who played shortstop in the Gulf Coast League for Houston last year. Our Alex Gonzalez is the best Alex Gonzalez shortstop there is.
Our Alexander Luis Gonzalez is from Venezuela, also known as "South Detroit". He only turned 37 just last month, which is practically Victor Martinez's age. He has been desired by eight different major league baseball teams in his career. He bats right handed, which is critical because it seems Andrew Romine is confused about his switch hitting but the Tigers want him to bat left handed. Gonzalez is entering his 16th major league season. Do you know what percentage of major leaguers make it to 16 seaons? Neither do I, but it is a small number. That must indicate something. He was an All Star. He hit a walk-off home run in a World Series game. He has 157 career home runs, which is 153 more than Julio Iglesias. And they say he played well in Venezuela only a few months ago.
There, don't you feel better? Now that I am done blowing smoke, here is the flip side. Gonzalez has a career batting average of .246, on-base percentage of .290, and slugging percentage of .396. That All Star appearance was fifteen years ago. The World Series home run occurred after Ugueth Urbina blew a save. Urbina has served nearly six years in jail since then. One of his eight employers was the Red Sox who signed him to replace Edgar Renteria. Gonzalez had replaced Renteria with the Marlins, so this is the third time that he has followed him to a team.
Gonzalez acquired the nickname "Sea Bass" while in Florida. I can't see how this is a compliment, but it fits.
The Tigers traded the Italian Don Kelly for Sea Bass because Iglesias has cracks in his leg bones. Sea Bass cracked his left knee and missed all of 2008. He tore the ACL in his right knee in 2012. Injuries kept him out of most of the last two years. Omar Vizquel believes that both legs are healed. I hope Omar can scout as well as he could field, because here are Alex's last five seasons.
If you are the glass-if-half-full type, focus on 2010. But that is more like a few sips. As you can see from the stolen base totals, Sea Bass will not be joining in the small ball renaissance.
Alex Gonzalez was released in June last year by Milwaukee. He was a free agent until January when Baltimore signed him to a minor league contract. Since the advent of Moneyball pundits are always looking for the next market inefficiency. What type of player is undervalued and thus can help a team to the playoffs with a below average payroll? The Athletics have gravitated toward older players in recent years, which has led some to think that veterans were the new opportunity for cheap wins. Sea Bass is inexpensive. We will see about the inefficient part.
Keys to Success
Alex simply needs to find the fountain of youth. He needs to be now what he once was, a decent fielding shortstop who does not reach base much but has some power. He was that for Atlanta three years ago. His spring batting average of .419 with three walks and two home runs would not be possible without a degree of health. Two hits and a walk in Thursday's game were encouraging. The error, not so much.
-1.0: His bWAR last year. This suggests that he was worth less than freely available talent. He was nearly freely available, but Danny Worth should be the missing image in the Wikipedia entry for replacement player. The Tigers are counting on Gonzalez returning to earlier form, losing only a little ability due to aging.
Gonzalez knows this is his last chance. Remember Kenny Rogers throwing heat in the 2006 postseason and wondering when his arm would fall off? The upside on Gonzalez is that he gives every last bit of himself and hits .250 / .290 / .390 while imitating Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. The downside is .170 / .200 / .290 while imitating Edgar Renteria. I expect the former, but an injury will put a nail in his coffin and lead to a parade of replacements.