Petco Park and appreciating Adrian Gonzalez

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Adrian Gonzalez’s raw numbers are plenty good on their own: .274/.405/.559 with 37 homers and 85 RBIs in 139 games.
He ranks among the NL’s top five in homers, OPS, and times on base and is in the top 10 for on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases, and extra-base hits. And he’s done all that damage despite being intentionally walked 20 times while surrounded by the worst lineup in baseball.
On raw numbers alone he’s been one of the best handful of hitters in the league this season and the same was true in 2006, 2007, and 2008 as well. However, even those strong raw totals dramatically underrate Gonzalez’s bat because he calls the majors’ most pitcher-friendly ballpark home. Petco Park turns home runs into fly outs more than any venue in recent memory and the impact can easily be seen in Gonzalez’s splits.
At home this season he’s hit .230 with a .434 slugging percentage and .832 OPS while averaging one homer every 20.5 at-bats. On the road he’s hit .314 with a .671 slugging percentage and 1.082 OPS while averaging one homer every 9.8 at-bats. Add it all up and Gonzalez has been about 30 percent more productive with over twice as many homers away from Petco Park. And this season’s extreme splits are nothing out of the ordinary for Gonzalez, who has the following numbers in four years with the Padres:

                      G      AVG      SLG      AB/HR
Petco Park          307     .261     .440       24.3
Everywhere Else     311     .306     .583       14.9



Those numbers are pretty remarkable. When at Petco Park he’s hit .261 with a .440 slugging percentage and one homer every 24.3 at-bats. When not at Petco Park he’s hit .306 with a .583 slugging percentage and one homer every 14.9 at-bats. Stick him in just about any other ballpark, for any other team, and Gonzalez is a household name who gets tons of MVP votes every year, but Petco Park has cost him about 50 points of batting average and 10 homers per season.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.