Longtime big-league first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who played for the Rangers, Padres, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets across 15 seasons in the majors, officially announced his retirement Saturday on his personal Instagram. The consistently productive first baseman last played in the majors in 2018, appearing in 54 games with the Mets. He played 43 games with the Mexican League’s Mariachis de Guadalajara in 2021, posting a muscular .340/.412/.531 batting line in 187 trips to the plate. He had previously been out of baseball since failing to latch on with a team ahead of the 2019 season.
Selected by the Marlins with the first overall pick in the 2000 amateur draft, Gonzalez was dealt (with two other players) to the Rangers at the 2003 trade deadline in exchange for Ugueth Urbina, a key piece in the Marlins’ memorable — if unlikely — 2003 title run. He debuted in Arlington the following year but never established himself as a regular in the Rangers lineup and was dealt (with Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge) to the Padres for pitchers Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. A San Diego native (he attended Eastlake High School in nearby Chula Vista), Gonzalez blossomed with the Friars, beginning a run of four consecutive All-Star selections in 2008 and five consecutive seasons garnering MVP votes in 2007.
With only a year of control remaining, the Padres traded Gonzalez to the Red Sox ahead of the 2011 season, and he agreed to a seven-year, $154M extension in April. Despite strong production in Boston — including winning a Silver Slugger and leading the majors with 213 hits in 2011 — the swooning Red Sox shipped Gonzalez (along with Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto) to the Dodgers at the 2012 trade deadline in what amounted to a salary dump. Alongside a rotation helmed by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun Jin Ryu, Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett solidified the Dodgers’ roster and inaugurated the club’s present run as perennial contenders in the National League. (Guggenheim Baseball Management, the present Dodgers ownership group, executed a strategy of building a winner as rapidly as possibly by taking on salary from other teams after buying the club from Jamie McCourt, who’d gained control of the team as part of divorce proceedings with ex-husband and longtime owner Frank McCourt, in early 2012.)
After four-plus productive years in Chavez Ravine, Gonzalez battled injuries in 2017, appearing in only 71 games (his first season with fewer than 156 since 2005) as he dealt with elbow and back issues that saw him land on the injured list for the first time in his career. With a young Cody Bellinger entrenched as the Dodgers first baseman and only a year remaining on his contract, Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate one of the more creative big-money swaps in recent memory, heading to Atlanta along with Charlie Culberson, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir in exchange for Matt Kemp. (The deal enabled the Braves, nearing the end of a rebuild, to shift their payroll burden forward to 2018, while allowing the Dodgers to slip below the luxury tax threshold.)
Per a pre-trade agreement, the Braves immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment and released him two days later to allow him to explore other opportunities. He eventually latched on with a Mets team that rocketed to an 11-1 start but faded quickly in May and June. In what would turn out to be his final major league season, Gonzalez compiled a .237/.299/.373 batting line in 187 plate appearances across 54 games before the Mets released him in June, bringing his big-league career to a close.
Although he may never have quite reached the superstar caliber frequently expected of top overall picks, it will be interesting to see how much love Gonzalez receives from Hall of Fame voters. Never a dominant force, Gonzalez instead produced consistently very good seasons, but he did remain largely healthy enough to accrue some solid counting stats, including 317 home runs, 2,050 hits and 1,202 RBI. He also won two Silver Sluggers and four Gold Gloves and was selected to appear in five All-Star games. In a testament to his consistency, despite posting .300 batting average or higher only three times, an on-base percentage of .400 or higher only twice, and a slugging percentage of .500 or higher only five times, Gonzalez ended his career with a robust .287/.358/.485 batting line across 15 seasons — one hell of a career to hang a hat on.
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