With recent struggles from Twins pitchers, for example, an early season discussion has been brought up this week. Did the Twins address well enough the team’s need during the offseason? Some people sure feel like they didn’t. But one offseason move (out of several others) that we can absolutely tell was right on the money was the Marwin Gonzalez signing.
Having played this season in six different positions throughout the field, while also batting DH and pinch hitting, “Margo” is officially one of the most useful pieces a team could have in the sport. Baseball Essential considered Gonzalez the best super-utility player in the game. He was an invaluable help overall during the first couple of months of the season, filling in for injured Miguel Sanó, starting 52 of the team’s 60 games.
But it took a while for most Twins fans to see Gonzalez as indispensable. He had a horrible first month offensively, batting .167, with a .501 OPS and 34 wRC+ in 23 games. Even though bad starts offensively have always been a part of his career, people started doubting him, on some level. Overall, he holds a .228 AVG, with a .675 OPS in his eight years in the league. Still, even specialists believed he was bound to lose at bats and become the third option to start at third base, once Willians Astudillo was having himself a hot start of the season. The Turtle was batting .327 with an .870 OPS by the end of April, so it was the natural choice then.
But then, things shifted. Since May 1st, he’s batting .304/.376/.500. In that span, only two other players drew more walks than him, who got 11. Also, Gonzalez has been left-handed pitchers’ nightmare, as he’s slashing .378/.425/.541 against them. He completely turned his season around. With 125 PA since the start of May, he’s been the fifth most used player in the offense, with more PA’s than everyday starters Jonathan Schoop and Byron Buxton, for example. He’s become a vital and dependable part of this MLB-best offense.
But that’s not even his biggest contribution. Not only is he doing some damage at the plate lately, but he’s also been playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Being a bench player, he will never win such award, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s an above average defender. And what’s more impressive about this? He does so in more than one position. Here are some defensive stats.
As a 3B (257.2 innings)
1 Error (TE)
Gonzalez' three defensive runs saved would be tied for sixth best in MLB, if he qualified. He has as many as 2018 Gold Glove Award winner Nolan Arenado, who's already played over twice as many innings as him this year. He has saved more runs than players such as old friend Eduardo Escobar, Rafael Devers, Yoan Moncada, Matt Carpenter and José Ramírez, all of which have been on the field for at least 446 1/3 innings. Regarding his UZR, he would also be tied for sixth best in the game, beating names like Evan Longoria and Alex Bregman, the AL runner-up for the Gold Glove award last year.
When looking at his assists amount, he doesn’t rank very high in the league, but, of course, his sample time on the field is much smaller than the average everyday third baseman. If he had had the opportunity to play, say, 400 innings on the field, he would have an equivalent of 107 assists, which would rank him 5th in the league. Had he been there for 500 innings, we would be talking about a league second best 133 assists. But, of course, this is purely hypothetical mathematics.
As an OF (81 innings)
1 error (FE)
In the outfield, Gonzalez also has a very small sample, which prevent him from competing with the everyday outfielder in the stats department. But, still, you can tell he’s not at all a bad defender there either. He has as many defensive runs saved as Mike Trout does and one more than NL MVP Christian Yelich. So, the Twins signed a player that, if starting regularly in his primary position, would compete for the league’s highest honours in defense. Not too shabby.
Far beyond the numbers, by watching Twins game on a daily basis, you can tell what a great defender he is. There hasn’t been a moment in which I’ve felt insecure about Twins defense in the hot corner or wherever “Margo” is on the field.
A lot of things could and should be fixed in the Twins roster. But having Gonzalez in the team guarantees that the bench isn’t one of them. It’s impossible to say for sure if Minnesota would be having the same success that they are having right now if he wasn’t a part of the team, but I imagine things would be much harder. Afterall, he might be the best and most prolific utility player in the game right now.