Sunday night, the New York Mets snapped their eight-game losing streak and avoided a Subway Series sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees (NYM 2, NYY 0). Seth Lugo was dominant in a spot start in place of the injured Noah Syndergaard.
Gonzalez, now 36, appeared in 54 games for the Mets this season, hitting .237/.299/.373 (87 OPS+) with six home runs. Given the way teams are steering clear of aging veterans these days, it is very possible Sunday's game was the final big league game of Gonzalez's career. First basemen who can't provide much offensive thump aren't exactly a hot commodity.
If Gonzalez is unable to hook on with another team -- the Braves are paying his $22.357 million salary this year with any team that signs him only responsible for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum -- Sunday's game marks the end of a very good and underrated career. Gonzalez's career transactions log is something else:
- June 2000: Selected No. 1 overall in MLB draft by the Marlins.
- July 2003: Traded to the Rangers for Ugueth Urbina, who closed for the 2003 World Series champion Marlins.
- January 2006: Traded to the Padres for Adam Eaton (the pitcher) and Akinori Otsuka.
- December 2010: Traded to the Red Sox for a prospect package that included Anthony Rizzo.
- August 2012: Traded to the Dodgers with Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in the mother of all salary dumps.
- December 2017: Traded to the Braves in a salary shuffling deal that included Matt Kemp, Brandon McCarthy, and Scott Kazmir.
In order to get Gonzalez to waive his no-trade clause, the Braves agreed to release him following the trade this past offseason. That allowed him to pick his next team, which led him to the Mets. Things didn't work out in New York though, and now he's a free agent again.
Gonzalez suited up for five clubs in parts of 15 big league seasons -- he never did play for the Marlins after they made him the No. 1 pick -- and is a career .287/.358/.485 (129 OPS+) hitter with 437 doubles, 317 home runs, and 1,202 RBI. During his peak from 2008-11, he authored a .299/.393/.530 (152 OPS+) batting line and averaged 34 doubles, 34 homers, 109 RBI, and 160 games played per season. Productive and durable.
Two disappointing years in Boston -- "disappointing" is a relative term here because he hit .321/.382/.513 (139 OPS+) with 82 doubles, 42 homers, and 203 RBI in 282 games during those two years with the Red Sox -- have taken a bite out of Gonzalez's reputation, fairly or unfairly. He is a five-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner who received MVP votes in eight different seasons, including a fourth place finish in 2010.
By WAR, Gonzalez has been one of the most successful No. 1 overall picks since the draft was implemented in 1965. Here's the leaderboard:
- Alex Rodriguez (1993): +117.8 WAR
- Chipper Jones (1990): +85.2 WAR
- Ken Griffey Jr. (1987): +83.8 WAR
- Joe Mauer (2001): +54.9 WAR
- Adrian Gonzalez (2000): +42.2 WAR
- Darryl Strawberry (1980): +42.2 WAR
Perhaps Sunday night's release is not the end of the line for Gonzalez. Jose Bautista was able to hook on with another team after being released by the Braves a few weeks ago, after all. (Coincidentally, that team was the Mets.) A team could suffer an injury, which could create an opening for Gonzalez. It's always possible.
But, if this is indeed the end of the line for Gonzalez, it closes the book on a very good and very underrated career. He never did win a World Series, but he was one of the most productive first basemen of his generation, and while he's unlikely to receive much Hall of Fame support, spending a decade and a half in the big leagues as a comfortably above-average player makes for quite a career.