SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carlos Gonzalez says he has no regrets about his first voyage into free agency.
“I’m glad I’m back. I’m wearing the same uniform I’ve been wearing for the last nine seasons, which is special,” the outfielder said Tuesday, a day after his $5 million, one-year deal to stay with the Colorado Rockies was finalized. “Not a lot of guys can say (they) played 10 years with one organization, with one uniform. That’s something that makes me feel very proud.”
The three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner made $20 million in 2017 in the final season of an $80 million, seven-year contract. But as was the case with several prominent free agents, the big contracts didn’t materialize and Gonzalez settled for the familiar surroundings of right field at Coors Field.
“I never had that opportunity before,” Gonzalez said of free agency.” I signed my seven-year deal when I was in my second year in the big leagues, so I never went through arbitration or free agency. I wanted to see what it was like.”
The 32-year-old’s deal allows him to earn an additional $3 million in bonuses based on days of service time: $1 million each for 125, 150 and 175.
With phone calls from Rockies Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu and others, Gonzalez said it was an easy decision to return.
“I’m happy it’s over,” he said, “happy a lot of good players are finding their jobs, getting the opportunity to play the game, that’s what matters most.”
Gonzalez slumped for much of last season and hit .262 with 14 homers.
While waiting for a deal, Gonzalez worked out at a gym.
“I did face some pitchers, last Wednesday and Thursday right before I came here,” he said. “It was college kids, minor league players that were just throwing out there. I was just tracking pitches and hitting some.”
The Rockies open the season March 29 at Arizona. Gonzalez has a relatively short time to get ready.
“It’s probably beneficial that he sees some live pitching and gets multiple times in the batter’s box,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I think that’s more practical today, and maybe tomorrow.”
Gonzalez was batting .214 in mid-July of last season but was able to hit like his old self in September as the Rockies made their playoff push. He hit .377 with six homers in the season’s final month as Colorado qualified for the final wild-card spot and its first postseason appearance since 2009, Gonzalez’s first year with the team.
“I thought that was going to be the case every year,” Gonzalez said. “I was like, ‘Man, this is fun.’ But that shows you how hard it is. You got to be able to concentrate and keep your mind right. I think last year was a great example for me, I didn’t have the year that I was used to having every year. But I always kept my mind in the same spot, we were having fun and winning.”
That impressed Black, who was in his first year as Rockies manager.
“I saw first-hand last year what a big role he played throughout the course of our year, even at a time when he was struggling, which is a great trait to have and is really admirable. He kept his positivity.”
By JACK THOMPSON, Associated Press
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