MLB hot stove: Marwin Gonzalez is a very popular free agent so far this offseason
Nearly every team has interest in the utility man
Three offseasons ago, Ben Zobrist was the free agent who fit every team. He's versatile, he's a high on-base switch-hitter with a low strikeout rate and he's a plus in the clubhouse. The Cubs won the Zobrist sweepstakes and, a few months later, he was named World Series MVP.
This offseason's Ben Zobrist, that free agent who fits every team, is utility man Marwin Gonzalez, most recently of the Astros. Twenty-nine teams have already checked in on him this offseason. Jon Heyman of Fancred.com has the latest:
Marwin Gonzalez has a monster market, and someone connected to Gonzalez says his name comes up with practically every team.
In a tweet, Heyman says he was told "everyone but one team" has checked in on Gonzalez this offseason. My guess is that one team is the Marlins. It would be surprising to see Miami spend even modestly on free agents this winter.
Anyway, the 29-year-old Gonzalez fits the Zobrist mold quite well. He's very versatile, having played all four infield positions as well as left field over the years, and played them well. He's also a quality switch-hitter, authoring a .247/.324/.409 (103 OPS+) batting line with 16 home runs this year and a .270/.328/.444 (112 OPS+) line in nearly 2,000 plate appearances during the last fours season.
"He's developed into an excellent left fielder ... (We) don't miss a beat with him in the infield. And he's filled in everywhere," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said about Gonzalez during the ALCS. "I'm often asked about Marwin and I say, 'He's the answer for everything.'"
Going forward, I don't think you could expect Gonzalez to repeat the .303/.377/.530 (146 OPS+) season he had in 2017 -- that looks like one of those perfectly timed career years teams need to win the World Series. But he's been a solidly above-average hitter the last few seasons, and the fact he switch-hits and can play almost anywhere is a huge plus. It's no surprise 29 teams called.
Zobrist inked a four-year deal worth $56 million three years ago and it stands to reason Gonzalez's representatives will start with that as their asking price. His track record is not nearly as long or as good as Zobrist's, but Gonzalez is five years younger right now than Zobrist was when he became a free agent. That's big. Teams are buying peak years here, not his mid-30s.
We're still waiting to see how the offseason plays out following last year's frigid free agent market, but it seems to me Gonzalez is one of the few free agents who won't have to worry about the market drying out. He's good, he's versatile, and he's been an important part of a winning team. Lots of teams are showing interest and a bidding war will get Gonzalez paid handsomely.
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