February 5th, 2007

How bad ideas get going

We have finally arrived at the dead time. The week or two between the Super Bowl and reporting day for pitchers and catchers is usually the roughest. Football season is over, which lets you know that baseball is right around the corner. But you haven’t rounded that corner quite yet. Usually it’s once the Super Bowl has ended that I start counting down the days left before spring training begins, but if temperatures stay like this all week in the Midwest, I might have to start counting down the hours. In any case, it’s probably the dullest time of the offseason, which is how even the smallest rumors can take off.

So MLB.com’s intrepid reporter at the Caribbean Series, Jesse Sanchez, talked with Juan Gonzalez, who says four teams have expressed interest in signing him. A report in Puerto Rico cites the Tigers as potentially one of those teams along with the Angels and O’s. And so we have chaos, at least on the message boards and (to a lesser extent) in the email inbox.

By the end of the weekend, not only has Dave Dombrowski denied interest in signing Juan Gone in the Free Press, but so have the Orioles in the Sun. Who knows about the Angels, if only because there’s enough other stuff going on to dominate the L.A. sports scene that nothing has been written. And it ends up appearing that Gonzalez is trying to drum up interest.

The evaluations on Gonzalez are mixed. Derek Jacques, reporting for Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), wrote on Friday that Gonzalez "makes the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz look flexible and nimble." More:

Watching him run the bases, I constantly expected to hear a loud
snapping sound followed by a trail of body parts. Igor still has the
long looping swing, but his bat speed isn’t where he can really turn on
[Elmer] Dessens’ heat in the third. He’s trying to cheat, and it just isn’t
working.

Supposedly Gonzalez looks lean and in good shape. But the fact that he has not played outfield all winter says something. Unless a team is desperate for a DH, it’s going to be difficult for him to get back into the big leagues unless he can play the field. Even if he was hitting the cover off the ball every night and looked like a Greek god, though, he probably wouldn’t drum up interest from Detroit. The Tigers have a right-handed slugger on their bench already with Marcus Thames. And there’s just too much history with Gonzalez and this city to not have him be a distraction.

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