- Sept 21, 2021: The feel-good story of Marwin Gonzalez’s return to the Astros, the team he helped lead to the 2017 World Series championship, continued when the veteran infielder drove in five runs, four of them on a grand slam in the eighth inning of a 10-0 win over the Angels.
Gonzalez, signed by the Astros on a Minor League deal in August after he was designated for assignment by the Red Sox, is vying for a spot on Houston’s playoff roster -- a spot which could be between Gonzalez and outfielder Jose Siri.
“The main goal I’m focused on right now is trying to continue to help the team the most that I can, trying to find my swing,” Gonzalez said. “I just want to get better and see what happens in the next few weeks.”
What could Gonzalez bring to the Astros in October? Versatility and experience. He can play four infield spots, as well as left field, and is a switch-hitter to boot, though he has struggled as left-handed hitter this year. His grand slam was a Statcast-projected 418-foot shot from the left side of the plate, which is a positive development for him.
“I was a little desperate chasing the first few at-bats, a little late,” he said. “I was just swinging out of the zone, and you expand the zone when you are late. That’s one of the main things I’m working on, to be on time and try to see the ball better.”
Gonzalez was hitting .176 as a lefty and .267 as a righty. Since joining the Astros, he’s 4-for-21 with three homers and eight RBIs. (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Sept 21, 2021)
|Birth City:||Puerto Ordaz, Venez.|
|Draft:||2005 - Cubs - Free agent|
In 2005, Gonzalez signed with Cubs (see Transactions below).
In 2012, Baseball America rated Marwin as the 20th-best prospect in the Astros organization.
In April 2012, Marwin spent three days away from the Astros on paternity leave for the birth of his first child, a daughter named Aliana.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch views Marwin as a starter, even though he might be the most valuable bench player in baseball. That's because Gonzalez usually found his way into the lineup in 2015, whether it was bringing consistency to first base, adding a righthanded presence to the outfield or filling in elsewhere following an injury. Gonzalez wound up starting 86 games in 2015, seeing time at first base, shortstop, third base, second base and left field and had a career year at the plate in the process.
Gonzalez's worth goes beyond his versatility and ability to switch-hit. Because he can do so much, the Astros can carry an extra pitcher, giving Hinch 13 arms at his disposal. They did that for much of the 2015 season.
"I think he's a valuable player because he can answer a lot of questions," Hinch said. "He plays so many positions that I consider him very much in the everyday player mentality. He just doesn't know where he's going to play or how many days in a row he's going to play. Having that type of weapon for me, it creates a lot of options, and I'm very glad he's able to play all those positions, but he's exceptional at that." (McTaggart - MLB.com - 2/29/2016)
The drive from Marwin's home to Minute Maid Park Gonzalez a great sense of familiarity. The route to the visitors' clubhouse, however, came with a few strange turns. What finally made Gonzalez feel at home was the reception he received once inside.
Gonzalez, the Twins' third baseman whose two-out, game-tying home run off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series ranks as perhaps the greatest home run in Astros franchise history, made his first trip back to Houston when the Twins opened a three-game series against the Astros on April 22, 2019.
Wherever Marwin went on the field prior to the game, fans were yelling his name as a handful of former teammates—Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jake Marisnick, Gerrit Cole and, of course, Jose Altuve—came over to exchange handshakes, hugs and memories.
"It feels good," said Gonzalez, who drove Altuve's car to the ballpark. "This place was the place that gave me the road to the big leagues, and I spent the last seven years of my life, of my career, over here. And I get to sleep in my own bed, too."
Gonzalez was the first player Jeff Luhnow acquired only hours after taking over as general manager late in 2011 and was a centerpiece of the Astros' rebuilding efforts. Gonzalez and Altuve were part of an Astros team that lost 111 games in 2013 and won the World Series four years later, thanks in part to Gonzalez's stunning homer at Dodger Stadium that tied the series, 1-1. He also broke up a Yu Darvish perfect-game attempt with two outs in the ninth inning with a single on the second day of the 2013 season.
"It feels great when people talk good about you," said Gonzalez. "I did my best. I did all I could every day I was out there. I appreciate everything they said about me."
"He was invaluable for me as a manager," AJ Hinch said. "I could move him around the field and he became the answer to a lot of issues that came up. ... It's hard to put in context all the different things that he did, and maybe some things that we don't remember until he's gone and you notice how many guys it takes to fill in the role he played. He's beloved in our clubhouse. While we wanted him back, he'll be missed. Part of that banner that hangs up there is because of his contribution."
Altuve and Gonzalez were extremely tight in Houston. Both native Venezuelans, they remain close friends, though the competitor in Altuve wasn't about to show Gonzalez too much love as they prepared to meet. "We have a great relationship off the field," Altuve said. "I wish him the best. He's a great guy, he's going to be probably my friend forever, but not on the field."
"Without Marwin, we don't have rings on our finger and that championship here in Houston," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We can all be grateful and thankful for what Marwin did for this organization." (McTaggart - mlb.com - 4/22/2019)
2020 Season: The nature of the Swiss Army Knife is that it is an imperfect tool. The knife blade is relatively small and flimsy. The scissors are tiny, and don’t cut well. Trying to turn a screw is a chore, and the whole package is unwieldy. Yet that old knife will get anything done you ask it to do. Returning for the 2020 Twins as a baseball Swiss Army Knife was Marwin Gonzalez. It wasn’t always pretty, but he was a huge part of the success the team enjoyed.
Josh Donaldson was signed to be the Twins third baseman, and Miguel Sano was moved to first base. Luis Arraez was handed the reins at second base, and both C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop walked away and signed with Detroit. None of these moves panned out entirely as planned, and Marwin Gonzalez was the biggest reason why nothing went completely sideways.
Donaldson only played 26 games at third for the Twins this year—Gonzalez played 23. He added another 21 games at second while Arraez was injured, and 14 at first in lieu of Sano. Eight games in right field rounded out Gonzalez’s season, as he participated in 53 of 60 contests.
Offensively, it was a down year for Gonzalez, as it was for many players in the league, and he fell short of the banging highs of his 2017 career season again. He hit .211/.286/.320 with 17 walks and five dingers. Again, not fantastic, but good enough, given the defensive versatility he offered, and the league-wide sixty-game slump that took place. He isn’t Nelson Cruz and wasn’t signed to hit balls a mile—his role is to fill in where- and as-needed, and he did that job well.
Defensive metrics are not my strongest suite, but they generally tell us that Gonzalez wasn’t any great shakes at any position. His range factor was below league average at every position he played. His fielding passed an eye test though, and was generally adequate. The flip side to that is he may have made plays look spectacular that other fielders would have made look routine.
Marwin Gonzalez has a specific job, a specific role on the team, and at that role he continued to excel. Another twenty-to-thirty points on his batting numbers would move him into “A” territory. As it stands, he still passes with flying colors. (TJ Gorsegner@badcoffeetwins - Oct 13, 2020)
Sign-stealing scandal affecting Marwin Gonzalez’s employment ?
Prior to the 2020 season, the details emerged of the Astros stealing signs using technology and communicating with a player at the plate by banging on a trash can. Data shows Gonzalez benefited the most from this as far as most pitches correctly decoded.
Whether or not this had any affect on his great season is unclear. All we know is the system set up by the players was used very frequently when Gonzalez was at the plate.
Gonzalez was remorseful for his part in the sign-stealing scandal and went on to hit just .211 with five home runs in 53 games during the 2020 season.
Now, he sits and waits. Waits for a call and an opportunity. One wonders if the radio silence he is receiving is because his one great year was attached to a cheating scandal. (James Simmons - Jan. 24, 2021)
Marwin made history on April 5, 2021 at Fenway Park, becoming the first Major Leaguer since 1900 to start the first four games of the season at four different positions. After starting Opening Day, April 2, in left field, Gonzalez got the nod at second base on April 3, third base on April 4 and then first base April 5. (mlb.com - 4/5/2021)
November 2005: At age 16, Gonzalez signed with Cubs' scout Hector Ortega as a free agent, out of Venezuela.
December 8, 2011: The Red Sox chose Gonzalez out of the Cubs organization in the Rule 5 Draft.
Boston then dealt Marwin to the Astros, in a trade for Marco Duarte.
January 15, 2016: The Astros and Gonzalez avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2 million.
November 3, 2017: The Astros picked up Marwin's club option for 2018, which was $5.125 million.
October 29, 2018: Marwin chose free agency.
February 22, 2019: Gonzalez agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with the Twins.
Oct 28, 2020: Marwin elected free agency.
Feb. 11, 2021: Marwin signed for one year with the Red Sox for $3-million with incentives.
Aug 16, 2021: The Red Sox released Marwin.
- Aug 27, 2021: The Astros signed free agent Marwin.
Gonzalez has power to the gaps. He is an impressive switch-hitter.
Marwin chokes up on the bat and has good bat control, consistently making contact from both sides of the plate.
2015 season: Gonzalez set career highs in games (120), plate appearances (370), batting average (.279), slugging percentage (.442) and home runs (12).
April 24, 2016: Another homer, another solo shot for Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez extended his Major League record by hitting his 25th career homer—all of which have been without anybody on base.
No other hitter in the history of baseball has tallied more than 11 Major League home runs without bringing someone else in with him. Todd Dunwoody, the second-place finisher in this statistic, spent more than 400 of his 986 career plate appearances as a leadoff man, but Gonzalez has started just three games atop the lineup in his career (as of April 25, 2016).
Marwin finally hit a home run with a man on base, ending his Major League record streak at 25 solo shots in the Astros' 6-3 win over the Mariners on May 6, 2016!
Gonzalez cranked a two-run homer just beyond the right-field wall in the second inning, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead. It was far more than his second home run this season or the 26th of his five-year career. No other hitter in Major League history has tallied more than 11 home runs without bringing someone else in with him.
"It feels good to get more than one RBI finally," he said. "But the more important thing was it helped us win today." Todd Dunwoody, the second-place finisher in this strange statistic, spent more than 400 of his 986 career plate appearances as a leadoff man, which partially explains his presence, but Gonzalez has rarely started atop the lineup.
"We didn't know what to do. Do you celebrate, do you not celebrate?" Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We gave him a little bit of the cold shoulder, the silent treatment. Really proud of him; it took a long time. That was a fun moment. I think everybody in the dugout knew what that moment meant, not only for our team but for Marwin to hit a two-run homer." (Abshire - MLB.com - 5/6/2016)
May 3, 2017: Gonzalez became the first player in the modern era (since 1901) to homer in four straight starts, each at a different position. Those starts were at second base, third base, left field and first base.
Aug 9, 2020: Marwin Gonzalez has always been one of those unique switch-hitters with significantly different batting stances from each side. His father had been telling him for years to change his left-handed stance, because he liked the look of the right-handed one -- a deeper crouch, with the bat on the shoulder -- better than the more relaxed stance from the left side.
Eight years into his Major League career, Gonzalez finally agreed it was time for a change.
While much of Minnesota's vaunted lineup has slumped to begin the 2020 season, Gonzalez has been fairly consistent with his production and owned a .350/.435/.500 line with two homers. He's not sure whether changing his left-handed batting stance directly correlates to that success, but he does feel that he's now seeing the ball more effectively against right-handed pitchers.
"I’m still trying to get used to it," Gonzalez said. "It’s been a hard process. Even in BP, sometimes I turn more than I should. But I’m working every day and trying to get 100 percent consistent. You’re never 100 percent consistent in this game, but at least close to 100; that’s what everybody works for. I’m still trying to get 100 percent comfortable and trying to feel good about my bat on my shoulder."
Through his first eight big league seasons, Gonzalez stood more or less upright with a slight bend in his knees from the left side and held his bat nearly vertically with his hands tucked close to his chest. This year, his new look involves a slightly deeper crouch and his hands held much higher, with the bat resting horizontally on his shoulder.
Gonzalez said the motivation behind the move was that he felt unable to catch up to too many fastballs last season, especially as more pitchers around the league relied on four-seamers to the top of the zone to generate fly balls and swinging strikes. He hoped that the change in his bat path and positioning would help adjust to that.
The early results have been promising. Gonzalez hit .249/.322/.393 against right-handed pitching last season, and though small-sample-size caveats obviously apply in 2020, he's hitting .296/.387/.519 with both his homers this season from his new left-handed stance.
"I think I’m in a better position to hit now," Gonzalez said. "I don’t know if it’s the reason, but I’ve been seeing pitches better. I’m able to read the pitch. I don’t know if that’s different, but I’m a little more comfortable from my left side." (DH Park - MLB.com - Aug 9, 2020)
2020 Season: Gonzalez is the rare switch-hitter who doesn’t seem to have a more comfortable side. He is a .261 hitter against both lefties and righties. His OPS is only slightly better against righties (.732) than lefties (.724).
Gonzalez spent the first seven years of his career with the Astros, before spending the past two seasons with the Twins. Like many players around the game, Gonzalez struggled in the shortened 2020 season, slashing .211/.286/.320 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 175 at-bats.
From 2016-19, Gonzalez had at least 425 at-bats each season while moving all over the field. He hit double-digit homers in every year from 2015-19. (I Browne - MLB.com - Feb 11, 2021)
As of the start of the 2022 season, Marwin's career Major League stats were: .256 batting average, with 854 hits and 101 home runs with 397 RBI in 3,342 at-bats.
Gonzalez signed with the Cubs as a shortstop.
Marwin is a very capable defender at multiple positions around the infield. He can be a valuable utility man.
He has played six positions during his career. The only positions he hasn't played are catcher and right field. And, in a pinch, he could probably play there too.
Marwin has only marginal base-stealing ability. He steals a handful of bases every year.
- He is an average runner who is above average once under way.
June 7-July 15, 2012: Gonzalez was on the D.L. with a bruised right heel.
- June 19-29, 2019: Marwin was on the IL with right hamstring strain.
- July 16, 2021: Marwin was on the IL with right hammy strain.