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Braves Hall of Fame Profile: Adrian Gonzalez

The five-time All-Star first baseman saw action with five clubs at the big-league level and had a brief off-season pitstop with the Atlanta Braves organization late in his career.

Atlanta Braves vs Boston Red Sox, 2011 NCAA Spring Training
Adrian Gonzalez played 15 seasons in MLB.

Adrian Gonzalez was the first overall pick of the 2000 draft by the Florida Marlins out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, CA. He never played for the Marlins as he was traded by Florida during their 2003 World Series-winning season in a deal that brought closer Ugueth Urbina from the Texas Rangers.

Gonzalez debuted for the Rangers as a 22-year-old in 2004 but struggled in 16 games with the team. The following season saw Gonzalez appear in 43 games, but post nearly similar subpar offensive results with a .678 OPS and a 73 OPS+.

In early January 2006, Texas would send Gonzalez to San Diego in a trade that included Terrmel Sledge and Chris Young going to the Padres with Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and a minor leaguer going to the Rangers.

Born in San Diego - and living just across the Mexican border in Tijuana for eight years until returning to the San Diego suburbs in 1990 - Gonzalez’s career sprung to life with his hometown Padres has he slashed .304/.362/.500 with a 127 OPS+ in 156 games as San Diego’s starting first baseman. That was the first of 11 seasons in which Gonzalez providing his team with a 111 or better OPS+ while adding plus defense with his work at first base.

The 2007 season would see Gonzalez hit the 30-home run mark for the first time in his career and receive his first National League MVP votes. In 2008, he would be an All-Star for the first time while leading the NL in games played while hitting 36 home runs and driving in a career best 119 runs. He would also win the first of his four career Gold Gloves.

Cincinnati Reds v San Diego Padres
Adrian Gonzalez was a three-time All-Star for his hometown San Diego Padres from 2008 to 2010.
Set Number: X84773 TK1 R3 F81

Gonzalez would take another step forward the next season when he led the National League in walks and slugged a career-high 40 home runs. His .958 OPS, 162 OPS+ and 156 wRC+ were also career highs.

His last season with the Padres was in 2010, and it was another excellent season with an OPS of .904 in 160 games. He was recognized for his effort with his highest MVP finish of his career, ending up fourth in the National League vote.

The Padres traded Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox in December 2010 for four players that included first base prospect Anthony Rizzo. The 2011 season would be Gonzalez’s only full season with Boston despite signing a contract extension with the team in April 2011 that would run through the 2018 season.

He had another stellar season in his return to the American League, leading the AL in hits in 159 games while earning the start at first base in the All-Star game. He’d also win his first Silver Slugger Award while finishing seventh in the AL MVP vote on the strength of a 155 OPS+ that including career highs of a .338 batting average, a .548 on base percentage, 345 total bases and 213 hits. He also set a career high with 108 runs scored.

The following year, with Boston struggling heading into September 2012, the Red Sox off-loaded Gonzalez and his contract with several other highly paid players to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the waiver trade deadline in a massive nine-player trade that saw Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto also head to LA with five players going to Boston.

In the 120 games prior to the trade, Gonzalez was putting-up above average numbers - hitting .300/.343./463 - but his 117 OPS+ with the Red Sox was a step down from his six previous seasons. With the Dodgers, he put up almost identical numbers as he did in Boston and ended the 2012 campaign hitting .299/.344/.463. He also hit a career-high 47 doubles but saw his home run total fall to the lowest of his career as a full-time player, managing only 18 longballs between the two teams.

At age 31, Gonzalez would provide the Dodgers with four consecutive seasons of above-average production at first base in 2013. He would pick-up MVP votes for three-straight seasons, starting in 2013, and would win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2014 when he led the National League with 116 RBI. He would make the All-Star team for the final time in 2015 providing production almost identical to the prior year with a 130 OPS+ following a 131 OPS+ in 2014.

Although his offensive numbers slid backward slightly in 2016, he would hit his 300th career home run against his former club when he homered against the Red Sox on August 7.

In 2017, Gonzalez would play in only 71 games for the Dodgers as injuries forced him to miss significant time. It marked the first time since 2005 that he failed to play in 156 games during a season.

With top prospect Cody Bellinger winning the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Award - in part due to his 83 starts at first base - and the team looking to get creative with their future salary commitments, the Dodgers sent Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Matt Kemp. Despite having one season left on the contract he had signed with Boston that included a no-trade clause, Gonzalez agreed to the trade with the understanding that the Braves would designate him for assignment so that he could test the free agent market for the first time in his career.

Upon completion of the trade, Atlanta did DFA Gonzalez and released him two days later. He would sign with the New York Mets before the start of the 2018 season, but his time with the Mets would last only 54 games, as they would release the struggling first baseman bringing the end to his big-league career.

That wasn’t the end as for Gonzalez as a player, however. Gonzalez had been member of the Mexican team in the World Baseball Classic - playing for the team in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017. Gonzalez would play for Mexico in the 2020 Olympics and in 2021 he signed with Mariachis de Guadalajara in the Merican League where would play in 43 games for the team in his last season of professional baseball.

For his career, Gonzalez played in 1,929 games collecting 2,050 hits that included 437 doubles and 317 home runs good for a career 129 OPS+ and 127 wRC+. He also drove in 1, 202 runs while falling just shy of 1,000 runs scored with 997.

Defensively, Gonzalez led first basemen in a number of categories throughout his career including four seasons as the assist leader at first, a category in which he ranks 14th all-time. Although Baseball-Reference’s Total Zone Runs at First Base only goes back to 1953, it does credit him with being the fourth best in the span. FanGraphs gives him credit for 74 Defensive Runs saved above average during his time at first base.

Gonzalez was a five-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and also won two Silver Slugger Awards. He received votes for MVP in eight different seasons, finishing in the top-7 three times including his fourth-place finish in 2010.

This is the first year Gonzalez has been eligible for election, and he will not be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, as elbow and back injuries brought an end to his time as a full-time starter at age 35. Prior to those injuries, he spent more than a decade as a durable and above-average two-way player as shown by his career 43.5 bWAR and 36.3 fWAR.

During his career, Gonzalez had the opportunity to play with his brother, Edgar, with the Padres; he also played under his father, David, and brother David, Jr., who were among his coaches in Mexico.

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