Posted on January 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Los Angeles Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez

Image via latimes.com

Veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is going to get at least one more chance to extend his big league career. Late Saturday night, multiple sources confirmed that the New York Mets reached a deal to sign Gonzalez. The Mets will only have to pay Gonzalez the major league minimum. The move comes on the heels of the Mets signing Jay Bruce to a three-year deal.

It’s been a crazy offseason for Gonzalez. First, he was traded from the Dodgers to the Braves in a deal that was mostly about Los Angeles freeing themselves of Gonzalez’s contract and cutting payroll. Just a few days after the trade, the Braves released Gonzalez, making him a free agent. With one year left on the seven-year extension he originally signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2011, Gonzalez was no doubt hoping to play at least one more season. Now the Mets are giving him that chance.

Of course, it’s fair to wonder what Gonzalez has left in the tank. After a career free of injury problems, Gonzalez was hampered by a back issue for much of 2017. He was limited to just 71 games and saw his productivity diminish considerably. Gonzalez hit just .242 with an OPS of .642 last year. It was a stark drop off considering Gonzalez was an all-star as recently as 2015. Nevertheless, the Mets are curious to see what Gonzalez has to offer.

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During spring training, Gonzalez is likely to be in direct competition with Dominic Smith. The 22-year old Smith is viewed by many as New York’s first baseman of the future. However, he hit just .198 with an OPS of .658 after getting called up in mid-August last season. Mets GM Sandy Alderson has made it clear that Smith’s performance in September didn’t earn him the opening day job in 2018.

The Mets are no doubt interested in having some in competition with Smith during spring training. In the past, there have been concerns about Smith’s work ethic and fitness. With that in mind, the last thing they want to do is hand him the first base job without making him work for it.

“Dominic’s going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years, if not throughout his career,” Alderson said earlier this offseason. “He was in excellent shape coming into Spring Training. … As happens with any long season, fitness dissipates and he’s put on some weight.”

Bringing in Gonzalez may be the perfect solution for the Mets. Obviously, the team isn’t sure if Gonzalez can still be the player he once was. However, his mere presence in camp will send Smith a message that he has to out-perform Gonzalez in order to win the job. If Gonzalez still has something left in the tank, the Mets should have no problem sending Smith back to triple-A to start the season.

For the Mets, this is the definition of a low-risk move with considerable upside. There are no guarantees with Gonzalez. But it also wouldn’t be a shock to see him come back healthy and have a productive season. Since they are only paying him the league minimum, if he falters they are right back where they started with Smith penciled in at first base. For Gonzalez, it’s a chance to continue his career and put a disappointing 2017 behind him.

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