LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers had preliminary trade conversations with the Braves about a month ago, but Saturday’s five-player deal couldn’t have happened without approval from Adrian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez had no-trade rights thanks to his over 10 years of major league service time (he has 12 years, 108 days) and five consecutive years with the same club. The conversations began with Gonzalez in November as well.
“Once the offseason started we had numerous conversations,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “Any time you have a lot of communications it just helps everybody understand the important levers to each party. We had a lot of really good open, honest conversations.”
The writing was on the wall for Gonzalez, who battled elbow and back injuries in 2017 and hit just .242/.287/.355 with three home runs in 71 games. He missed 66 games on two different stints on the disabled list, the first times he was placed on the DL trip in his long career.
Gonzalez has one year and $21.5 million remaining on his contract, and turns 36 in May. With the emergence of National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers were set at first base, and Gonzalez would have had a reduced role had he remained a Dodger. Not exactly the best way to head into free agency next offseason.
“One of the factors for him, which we totally understood, was his desire to play not just in 2018 but potentially a few years beyond that,” Friedman said. “In those conversations and us laying out how we saw things in 2018 in terms of the depth chart played some factor in that.
“I think that same logic applies to Matt [Kemp].”
As part of the trade, Gonzalez was designated for assignment by the Braves and will be a free agent once he clears waivers, allowing him to choose where he wants to play in 2018.
“It is a way to test the free agent market and see what opportunities are out there for me so I can make the best decision moving forward for me and my family,” Gonzalez tweeted on Saturday. “Lifting the no-trade clause is the hardest decision I have ever made in my career due to the fact that I have loved every single second being a Dodger.
“I have talked through this whole process with Andrew and the Dodgers organization and they are giving me this opportunity to see if there is a better fit for me somewhere else. As the roster stands right now, there might not be a spot for me on the roster.”
Gonzalez’s Dodgers career is book-ended by two shocking trades. While Saturday’s transaction didn’t involve over $260 million changing hands like in the nine-player Punto Trade with the Red Sox in 2012, there was still over $90 million in salaries exchanged in this deal.
Saturday’s trade makes this Thursday tweet from Gonzalez even more bittersweet:
.#TBT to my first at bat with the @Dodgers #HR #Blessed pic.twitter.com/H6XOZvNKiC— Adrián González (@Adrian_ElTitan) December 14, 2017
In his five years and change with the Dodgers, Gonzalez hit .280/.339/.454, a 119 OPS+ with 101 home runs and 164 doubles in 735 games. He led the majors in RBI in 2014 while also winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, and made an All-Star team in 2015. His 684 starts at first base is the eighth-most in Dodgers franchise history.
“He was extremely proud of his time with the Dodgers,” Friedman said. “Obviously he made a significant impact, not just on the field, but in the clubhouse and in the community.”