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Red Sox trade targets: Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez stands to be one of the better outfield bats on the market this July. But should the Red Sox be willing to pay what will likely be a fairly high price for a potential product of Coors?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

As one might expect of the team with the best record in the league, the Red Sox don't have that many needs.This is especially true with Eduardo Rodriguez finally making his return on Tuesday night.

But few needs are needs all the same, and one of those is in left field. Brock Holt surged early, but as per usual, struggled to keep it going, and Blake Swihart's bat is looking, shockingly, more like that of a catcher--where his help might well be needed anyways, seeing as how Red Sox backstops are pulling a sub-.600 OPS on the season. Chris Young has done a very good job of, well, his job, hitting lefties to a 1.081 OPS. But a platoon bat is just that, and not a great starting option.

It's certainly true that the Red Sox can stomach a below-average bat or two at the bottom of their lineup given how good the rest of it is. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be trying to improve on any area where they can find an upgrade. And of all the areas where they could stand to improve, left field will have plenty of options available to them. One such option: Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies.

A brief caveat: while the Rockies are not currently in great position, there's a good deal of time left between now and the trade deadline. Time for them to fall hopelessly out of contention in a division with the even-year Giants, or time for them to rally and get back in the picture. If the latter should come to pass, this would obviously never be on the table.

If, however, their recent downward trend continues? Carlos Gonzalez is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2017 season, and the Rockies have backloaded his contract so he's owed $20 million next year. And while the actual dollar amount on the contract is certainly important to the organization, his low impact on their luxury tax will certainly leave him less expensive than most other $20 million players they could add now or in the coming offseason.

Gonzalez being under contract for just the one additional year is also kind of perfect for the Red Sox. With Andrew Benintendi finally having hit a bump at Double-A, we can now get a pretty good projection of when he might be fully ready for the majors, and that doesn't seem likely to be April, 2016. At least not convincingly. That would make Gonzalez a pretty perfect bridge. High-quality, but short-term.

The question is: how high-quality? Gonzalez is not quite the player he was back when the Rockies signed him to his big extension after a third-place MVP finish in 2010. The stolen bases seem to be gone for good, but the rest of his game seems to have largely rebounded from the serious dip it took in an injury-riddled 2014 season. He still brings a solidly above-average bat to the table, and is probably something like an average glove in a corner outfield position, perhaps better. It's also worth mentioning that he's a lefty with significantly better against right-handed pitchers, making him a good match with Young.

But if he's a good player, he's also not the star he might still carry the reputation of being, depending on who you ask. Yes, he hit 40 homers last season. But as with any player who hails from Colorado, Gonzalez' offensive numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, his 2016 line of .312/.354/.533 grades out to only a 119 wRC+. That would leave him as the seventh best bat in this lineup even though OPS alone would put him above Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and Travis Shaw.

That's not a problem, of course. It doesn't matter where he ranks in the lineup so long as he's a significant jump above the man he's replacing. But it should give you an idea of what his price should be. Carlos Gonzalez is a good piece, but he should not command the premium price that a top star would at the deadline. It's possible that the Rockies will not see things that way given his year of control and Coors-inflated numbers.

In fact, it's actually quite likely. Consider this quote provided by CBS Chicago's Bruce Levine back in March:

"They asked for my top two minor league players, a major league player and to absorb most of the contract," said a general manager who was interested in Gonzalez. "We will wait for something more realistic "

Now, granted, the Red Sox would be willing to take on that entire contract, and their farm system's top-two are better than possibly any other farm system's top-two. But frankly, if the price for Gonzalez rises into the territory where the Red Sox have to give up even one of their top-four guys in the farm system, then they should probably go in a different direction. There's more than one cheaper option out there who offer, if not quite as big a boost as Carlos Gonzalez, still a solid bump, and would come in at a fraction of the price.

Whether you believe Gonzalez would be worth that price tag in a vacuum or not, the Red Sox are not playing in a vacuum. Yes, Gonzalez is in many ways the perfect fit for the Red Sox. A lefty outfielder with a solid all-around game who can carry them through to Andrew Benintendi, and then step aside. But a perfect fit at too high a price is not better than an imperfect one for far less. This is a team looking not to revolutionize, but simply reinforce. This is a franchise that's built to win now, tomorrow, and next week. And sacrificing significant value later for marginal value now would be the wrong way to play the excellent hand they've been dealt.