Remember at the outset of free agency – almost FOUR months ago – when it sure seemed like Marwin Gonzalez was a fit for every single team in baseball? The 29-year-old switch-hitter can play serviceably all over the diamond (and well in some positions), while providing a slightly above-average bat with the upside to be even more than that. How could teams decline to have interest?
Well, of course, that presumes all teams are (1) trying to get better, and (2) spending money. That not being the case this offseason, Gonzalez quickly found his market for a big payday rather limited, and today had to settle for a modest two-year deal with the Twins:
Utilityman Marwin Gonzalez is in agreement with the Minnesota Twins on a two-year, $21 million deal, league sources tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 22, 2019
The comparison is not perfect for a variety of reasons in both directions, but it’s quite easy to see, if that’s the market for Gonzalez, why the Cubs were never going to be able to trade someone like Ben Zobrist ($12.5 million in 2019) unless they ate a bunch of salary. Crazy, I know, but that’s the market. That said … anyone complaining that the Cubs just hung onto Zobrist? It’s fine by me.
As for the Twins, they get a jack-of-all-trades bargain in Gonzalez, and have positioned themselves to be the one plausible surprise contender in the AL Central behind the Indians, who did virtually nothing to improve themselves this offseason, gambling instead on the rest of the division stinking.
The Cubs, meanwhile, signed their version of a utility man in Daniel Descalso, 31, who got two years and $5 million (with a team option for 2021). Descalso, 32, had the better offensive season in 2018 (111 wRC+ to 104) thanks to his late-career power breakout, but Gonzalez is the better, more versatile defender, is younger, and has a higher/more consistent baseline of offensive performance. In a world where the Cubs front office has as much money as they care to spend, you can envision them preferring Gonzalez on his deal over Descalso on his.
That said, the Cubs also were explicitly looking for a certain kind of clubhouse leadership they found in Descalso – they legitimately believe in it – and I don’t know where Gonzalez falls on that spectrum.