A-Gone? Dodgers may be mov­ing on

Gon­za­lez re­mains the odd man out af­ter an awk­ward end­ing to his sub-par sea­son.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Andy McCul­lough

OR­LANDO, Fla. — Adrian Gon­za­lez hit 18 home runs in 2016. He tied for the Dodgers team lead in runs bat­ted in. He fin­ished the sea­son with a .784 on-base­plus-slug­ging per­cent­age. In the not so dis­tant past, he was a pro­duc­tive ma­jor­league hit­ter.

This his­tory ap­pears an­cient af­ter the 2017 sea­son. Gon­za­lez spent time on the dis­abled list for the first time in his ca­reer. His OPS plunged to a ca­reer-worst .642. As Cody Bellinger shined at first base, Gon­za­lez be­came a ghost. He was not with the team dur­ing the first two rounds of the play­offs, and some team­mates com­plained when he re­turned to the club­house dur­ing the World Se­ries.

As the Dodgers pon­der how to re­tool their ros­ter for 2018, de­ter­min­ing a place for Gon­za­lez is not a pri­or­ity. Andrew Friedman, the pres­i­dent of base­ball oper­a­tions, has in­di­cated the team ex­pects Gon­za­lez to be healthy and able to con­trib­ute by next spring. Gon­za­lez will be owed $22.4 mil­lion in the fi­nal year of his con­tract.

“There’s value to let­ting things play out,” gen­eral man­ager Farhan Zaidi said at the gen­eral man­agers meet­ings at the Wal­dorf As­to­ria on Tues­day. “Guys can

bounce back. He’s been a re­ally, re­ally good player for us.”

The flex­i­bil­ity of Bellinger, who can play all three out­field po­si­tion, makes it eas­ier for the Dodgers to keep Gon­za­lez. But the or­ga­ni­za­tion al­ready has a va­ri­ety of out­field­ers, in­clud­ing Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Joc Ped­er­son, En­rique Her­nan­dez and Andrew Toles. And Gon­za­lez may not be in­ter­ested in com­ing off the bench for the en­tire sea­son.

So the Dodgers must con­sider mov­ing Gon­za­lez. Find­ing a suitor will not be sim­ple. Few teams would rush to add a 10-fig­ure salary for a player ap­proach­ing his 36th birth­day com­ing off his least-pro­duc­tive big-league sea­son. Even dump­ing a por­tion of the salary in­vites com­pli­ca­tions.

Gon­za­lez con­trols much of the sit­u­a­tion. His con­tract con­tains a full no-trade clause. That lim­its the flex­i­bil­ity if the Dodgers in­tend to deal him. It could lead to the Dodgers re­leas­ing Gon­za­lez, if they value an open spot on the 40-man ros­ter over his po­ten­tial per­for­mance.

That de­ci­sion may be made be­fore spring train­ing. Or the Dodgers could hold on to Gon­za­lez, as in­surance against an in­jury else­where on the ros­ter, be­fore mak­ing a move.

Bellinger ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions in his rookie of the year sea­son. He was ex­pected to ar­rive in the ma­jors by Septem­ber. He beat that pro­jec­tion by more than four months, buoy­ing the of­fense af­ter his pro­mo­tion in April. Called up to play the out­field, Bellinger never left the ma­jors.

Gon­za­lez played a role in Bellinger’s rise. In May, as the Dodgers pon­dered de­mot­ing Bellinger to make room for Ped­er­son’s re­turn from the dis­abled list, Gon­za­lez vol­un­teered to go on the DL to keep Bellinger with the team. Gon­za­lez hoped the time off could help heal in­juries to his back and elbow.

Gon­za­lez spent two stints on the DL. Nei­ther awak­ened his bat. When the Dodgers in­formed him in late Septem­ber that he would not be on the play­off ros­ter, Gon­za­lez re­sponded by re­quest­ing per­mis­sion to spend the early por­tion of Oc­to­ber help­ing his wife and fam­ily set­tle into ac­com­mo­da­tions in Italy, where his wife was be­gin­ning a study pro­gram. The Dodgers granted Gon­za­lez per­mis­sion to leave.

His ab­sence be­came more no­tice­able upon his re­turn dur­ing the World Se­ries. Gon­za­lez worked out in uni­form with the team be­fore Games 2 and 3 against Hous­ton, which up­set some of his team­mates, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion. Be­fore Game 4, man­ager Dave Roberts asked Gon­za­lez to watch the rest of the se­ries from a sta­dium suite.

Dodgers of­fi­cials in­sisted the awk­ward end­ing would not cloud their think­ing about Gon­za­lez’s place on the ros­ter. Even if the road may lead to a re­lease, the Dodgers do not in­tend to rush down the path.

“It’s im­por­tant to let things play out,” Zaidi said, “and not get col­ored by the re­cent past.”

‘There’s value to let­ting things play out. Guys can bounce back. He’s been a re­ally, re­ally good player for us.’ — Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi, on Adrian Gon­za­lez

Sean M. Haf­fey Getty Images

ADRIAN GON­ZA­LEZ went on the dis­abled list for the first time last sea­son, had maybe his worst year at the plate, lost his job to Cody Bellinger, left the Dodgers dur­ing the play­offs and then was not wel­comed back.

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