Report From The Fort: Marwin Gonzalez Fixes A Problem. (We Just Don't Know Which One Yet.)
Image courtesy of © Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsSo he’s a really interesting player - a plus bat with extreme versatility - and going into the offseason, everyone kind of assumed that a team would sign him as a starting player in one of the many positions at which he has played. That’s the traditional way to sign a player. If you think of this signing through that lens, the signing doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The Twins already have a lineup full of mid .700 OPS players. Gonzalez bumping one of them is just redundant. And if you take a second look at Gonzalez’ skill set, it doesn’t match any of this team’s perceived needs. The team could use more on-base percentage, and Gonzalez helps with that a little, but he’s not Joe Mauer or even Robbie Grossman.
One could argue that he could be penciled in as a leadoff or top-of-the-order hitter, but he doesn’t complement Jorge Polanco’s skills as much as he matches them. And the Twins just signed Polanco to a five-year guaranteed contract last week. Why spend almost as much on a two-year deal with Gonzalez?
In short, he doesn’t fill an obvious need. So the traditional reason for signing Gonzalez doesn’t make a lot of sense.
But on second thought, it also doesn’t make sense for him to sign as a regular position player. Why would he want to strip away that trait which makes him truly valuable, his versatility? His value is that he can be a competent fill-in at any position. That is unique.
Most backups with that versatility can’t really hit. If they can hit, they can only back up one or two positions, which is great up until a different position is the one that gets hurt or struggles. Gonzalez provides an insurance policy for seven of the Twins regulars, including players who are trying to bounce back from tough seasons (Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Jonathan Schoop), trying to break through (Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler) or repeat career years (Eddie Rosario, CJ Cron).
His unique ability is to fill in for whichever spot becomes a problem as the season progresses. The Twins are not going to have seven success stories for those players. We’re Minnesota sports fans - we know there is going to be a problem. Gonzalez is the team’s “Get Out Of Trouble Free” card.
So don’t worry where he’s going to play. That problem will solve itself - as soon as there is another problem. He’ll play where he’s needed, when he’s needed, providing passable (or even good) defense and solid (sometimes spectacular) offense.
The Gonzalez signing isn’t a good signing just because the Twins spent some leftover money, or because they added some depth, or because it seems like a reasonable contract. It’s a great signing because it leverages what Gonzalez does best, while giving the Twins a head start on reacting to a long baseball season’s challenges.
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