DENVER (AP) — Carlos Gonzalez made a run at the Triple Crown last year in his first full season in the majors, winning a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove to go with his NL batting title at the tender age of 25.
What he did Tuesday might be his most amazing feat yet.
The blossoming slugger’s new $80 million, seven-year contract with the Colorado Rockies runs through 2017 and covers what would have been his first three years of free agency.
Giving up such a potential windfall is almost unheard of for a Scott Boras client.
Why not hold out for even greater riches down the line, maybe in a city like New York or Boston?
“Well, because I love this city. I love to play for the Rockies,” Gonzalez said. “I think this was fair enough for me for security, and we discussed this as a family, as a group, and we made the decision.”
Gonzalez said he won’t even ponder why kind of riches he might have commanded had he waited.
“When I signed with Arizona (as a 17-year-old), I got $150,000 and everybody said I could have waited a little longer and gotten $1 million,” Gonzalez noted. “But I took the opportunity and that’s why I’m here today because you never know what’s going to happen in the future.”
Gonzalez insisted getting the contract completed will only make him a better player.
“Now, the only concern I have is to play the game that I love,” Gonzalez said. “And when I think about baseball, I do well.”
Boras is well-known for taking his star clients right up to free agency and garnering the big payouts.
“Well, I would like to think our reputation is that we represent each individual player,” Boras said before adding: “My job is to give him information, let him evaluate it, let his family evaluate it and then really let him decide what’s the best (move) for him.”
Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd took exception to this notion the Rockies got Gonzalez on the cheap.
“Scott negotiated the largest contract ever given to a second-year player in the history of the game at $80 million,” O’Dowd said. “So, it’s made to seem like there’s a bargain bin going on here, and I’d like to argue with that a little bit.”
Gonzalez receives a $3 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 million this year, $5 million in 2012, $7.5 million in 2013, $10.5 million in 2014, $16 million in 2015, $17 million in 2016 and $20 million in 2017. If traded, he would receive a $1 million payment.
Boras said the Rockies have everything Gonzalez needed: the comfort of an organization that believes in him, a nice ballpark in a great city, and a young, strong nucleus of rising stars that provide a promising future.
“I don’t think these deals get done by players unless the players really feel they’re going to win,” Boras said.
Like All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who agreed to a big new contract in November that guarantees him $157.75 million over the next decade, Gonzalez said he firmly believes the Rockies are on the road to hoisting a World Series trophy.
“We both have the same mentality. We want to be champions,” Gonzalez said. “We can be anything that we want.”
The megadeal also comes with risks for the Rockies, which O’Dowd said is mitigated by their faith in Gonzalez.
“We believe that he’s going to continue to get better,” O’Dowd said. “We believe in his passion and I felt pretty strongly that the longer we waited, the more problematic that would become.
“If it didn’t happen this year, I wouldn’t have been real encouraged we could ever have gotten it done in the future.”
Gonzalez, who grew up in Maracaibo, Venezuela, has been involved in two major trades during his burgeoning career. In December 2007, he was part of the deal that sent pitcher Dan Haren to Arizona and Gonzalez to Oakland. A year later, just as he was settling in with the Athletics, Gonzalez was shipped to Colorado in the trade for Matt Holliday, another Boras client who had rejected the Rockies’ overtures for a new deal and eventually cashed in with St. Louis in free agency.
Gonzalez said he felt right at home in Denver. After a slow start, things clicked for him after the break and he finished 2009 with a .284 average, 13 homers and 29 RBIs in 89 games. Then, he went wild in the playoffs, collecting 10 hits in 17 at-bats against the Philadelphia Phillies in the division series. Remarkably, nine of those hits came off lefties.
Last season, he shrunk his strike zone and emerged as one of the game’s superstars, winning the NL batting title with a .336 average and also hitting 34 homers and driving in 117 runs despite batting leadoff in 44 games.
Gonzalez said he’s going to move his family to Florida and bring them to Colorado to watch him play as much as he can. After all, he had some of his best moments last year when his relatives were watching.
“They were here for a month and I hit 11 home runs and I hit for the cycle,” he said.
O’Dowd said Gonzalez has the makeup it takes to prevent the contract from becoming a burden.
“I think the one thing with Carlos that stands out for any of us that watches him is the effortlessness and the joy that he plays the game with,” O’Dowd said. “He’s very, very passionate about competing. I hope today takes away the distractions that I think money can become … and he continues to play for the reasons that he played growing up in Maracaibo, which is just the passion and the joy of competing.
“If he does that with the skills set that he has, doesn’t try to do too much, understanding that he’s one player of 25, who knows what he’ll be able to accomplish?”
Related Photo Gallery: Carlos Gonzales: Young Rockies Star
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)