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Luis Lips Sink Ships

Well, that didn't take long - neither for the contacts to happen, nor word of them to reach the media. The Tribune reports that San Francisco and Texas have already shown interest in Gonzo. The former is not really a surprise: the Giants are preparing a backup plan in the (likely) eventuality that they won't be able to sign Bonds. Works for me: while there's no doubting who is the better person, community leader, and all-around good guy, the Giants with Gonzo instead of Bonds in LF would be much less threatening - though anyone short of Babe Ruth in left would be much less threatening, much though it pains me to admit it. And it's not as if Luis would be a major defensive upgrade.

More surprising is the Rangers' interest: according to the piece, Texas "appears to be interested in Gonzalez not only as a left fielder and designated hitter but also as a clubhouse stabilizer." The Rangers are currently managerless, having fired Buck Showalter, and Adam at Lone Star Ball is less then enamored of the scenario:

I'm not sure that I like the idea of Gonzalez coming here...he seems like someone who is more of a backup option, if you can't get someone good instead. I guess if he's going to fill a David Dellucci-type role, get 200-300 ABs as a part-time platoon player and bat off the bench, that's fine. But I don't think it would be wise to count on him be a regular in the outfield or at DH.

Since teams and players can't yet discuss money, I imagine the main subject of these early discussions was exactly this: the amount of playing time he gets. As is well documented, it seems to have been Gonzo's public refusal to accept a part-time role which led to the Diamondbacks organization declining to enter negotiations for a contract extension. It would seem unlikely that Gonzalez would enter any kind of serious conversation - serious enough to attract media attention - without first getting assurances that he would not just be a bench-warmer.

Gonzalez was on the radio this morning discussing the situation, and apparently came off as really wanting to come back and show the Diamondbacks they made a mistake in letting him go. San Diego is his preferred destination - one reason given was the ballpark, though I think his opinion there would change radically when he starts hitting there. Though the usual warnings about small sample size apply, in the three years Petco has been open, Gonzo is only 22-for-94, with a line of .234/.351/.426 for an OPS of .777. That compares to an overall OPS, across all parks during those seasons, of .824 - 47 points higher than he's managed in Petco during the same time.

Projecting this, given Gonzo's OPS for the last three years have been .866, .825 and .796, it seems fair to assume he'll lose about 30 points next year due to age. If he joins San Diego, we should then take off a further 24 points "Petco factor", for having to play half his games there. Gonzo as a Padre in 2007 would seem likely to be round a .740 OPS. Not good. It's a walk in the park, compared to what might happen playing for the Giants, however. Since 2004, Gonzalez is just 20-for-90 by the Bay, with no home runs, and a line of .222/.327/.278 for a dreadful .605 OPS. It all seems to indicate Gonzo may find life tougher elsewhere in the NL West, than at Chase.

[A tip of the hat to the phenomenal Baseball Musings database, without which the above paragraph would not have existed. It's a fascinating tool which allows you to specify start and end dates for any player, and will then give you the game logs for the player, along with the total. You can choose the venue too, and that's how I constructed the above statistics. A permanent link to this service will be added; thanks to Shoewizard for pointing me in its direction.]

I still think that San Diego is probably where he'll end up. Padres' GM Towers holds something of a grudge against AZ, for a perceived snub over the Arizona GM position, and this would be a brilliant chance to rub the Diamondbacks' noses in it. Though I suspect, such a move is about as likely to backfire as a pair of used rocket-propelled roller-skates, bought on Ebay from a member called "Wile-E.Coyote". It's somewhat sad to say, but playing full-time for another team in the NL West is perhaps the best thing Gonzalez could do to help his former club in 2007...

Finally, random weirdness of no significance, but which deserves a paragraph of its own. The last six World Series champions, have not just been six different clubs, they've also come from six different divisions. Should mean that the 2007 champions come from the NL West again. Oh, and remember my comparison of David Eckstein to Craig Counsell? Both have now won a pair of World Series rings, the first one with a wild-card team when 27 years old, the second four years later, with a division champion, at age 31. Has anyone seen them in the same room?