Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dodgers may have a tough decision with A-Gon

Adrian Gonzalez is currently the starting first baseman for the National League in the All-Star Game.  The latest voting results have him ahead of Paul Goldschmidt.

Yet, after another 0-for-4 day dropped his average to .246, he is heading towards one of his worst seasons ever. 

And with that, despite all of the talk about the outfield and a possible extension of Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers might just have to move on from A-Gon sooner than they think.

Right now, Gonzalez is signed through the 2018 season, earning around $21 million each year until then.  He's already been to the All-Star Game four times, with this year possibly being a fifth if he holds on (though I fully expect Goldschmidt to overtake him).  He's also won three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger in 2011.

The year couldn't have started off any better, as I even wrote about how he was looking like a Padre again after a red hot April in which he hit .337 with 8 doubles, 8 homers, and 23 RBIs.  He was flat out raking and a constant in the heart of the order.

Boy oh boy have things changed since then.  In May hit .231 with 3 doubles, 4 homers, and 13 RBIs.  Currently in June, he's at a pathetic .114 with 3 doubles, no homers, and 2 RBIs.  Add it all up, and his good vibes from early in the season have disappeared to a .246 average.  He's even gotten some at-bats in the #5 spot, a surprising sight considering how often he's been the cleanup hitter.

His biggest issue has been strikeouts.  He had 20 in April, but made up for it with all of the big hits.  He then had 14 in May, and in less than half the month of June gone, has 14 already.  Believe it or not, he's actually not the worst on the team at this, as he can thank Matt Kemp and his 60 K's for making his 53 look pretty small.

So those are his hitting issues.  The other issue is his defense.  I mentioned before how he's won three Gold Gloves in his career, which were all more than deserved.  If you're a big believer in Defensive WAR, then his -0.3 this season puts him in the red for the first time since 2010.  His Ultimate Zone Rating was a whopping 18.3 in 2012, then dropped to 5.7 last year, and is now a 1.0. 

Even though he only has two errors this season, that's a pretty steep decline.  And while nobody should call him a "bad" defensive player by any means, he's not what he once was.

And that's where the Dodgers will have a decision to make in the near future.  He's a slugger who is more likely to do a slow walk back to the dugout than trot around the bases anymore.  He's not consistent enough to be the cleanup hitter at this point.  And now, even his defense has taken a step back.  At 32 with a history of shoulder problems, it's easy to be concerned.

I'm starting to seriously wonder if the Dodgers will have any confidence in him in the future.  At what point do they not simply think he's in a slump, and is instead a guy on the downside of his career?  Do they think he will cut down on his strikeouts and at least be respectable against lefties (.162 AVG)?  Do they think his defense will get a little worse and worse, making him somewhat of a liability at first?  Or, do they feel like they have to stick with him because he's still owed over $100 million?

All of those questions are fair and realistic to ask at this point.  Gonzalez has had a great career, and a subpar season doesn't take away from that.  But, the numbers across the board are alarming enough to at least warrant the conversation about his future with the Dodgers.  Stick with him because of the money, and hope he can turn it around?  Or, eat a bunch of that cash, and move on?

If the last month-and-a-half is any indication, it's starting to look more and more like the latter.

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