Gerut to Surging Padres: Why Not Build Around Gonzalez?
SAN DIEGO -- What should the Padres do with Adrian Gonzalez, the Gold Glove slugger eligible for free agency after the 2011 season?
Brewers outfielder Jody Gerut has a rare perspective on the subject.
In 2008 and part of 2009, Gerut was a Padres outfielder who came to marvel at the fellow left-hander's ability to hit for power in San Diego's home ballpark, which has fit several hitters for straitjackets.
A Stanford graduate who runs his own investment fund, Gerut is more business savvy than most ballplayers. He's both broad-minded and dispassionate when discussing baseball economics. In his nomadic career, he's played in small markets (Pittsburgh and Milwaukee), a medium market (Cleveland) and a big market (Chicago).
Gerut isn't telling Padres execs what to do. But if Gonzalez were traded, Gerut would be a bit disappointed.
"At some point, ownership has to lead the revenue," he said. "It doesn't always occur where your players first start to win and then you start to build around it. Sometimes the ownership has to lead that first. There's ancillary stuff that I probably know nothing about. I know sometimes that if you build it, fans will come. It doesn't always have to work out the other way. You don't always have to get guys at absolute steals in order to keep them."
Gonzalez grew up rooting for the Padres, then became a star for them after Texas traded him to San Diego before the 2006 season. Before the 2007 season, he signed a four-year, $9.5-million contract that included a club option -- now worth $5.7 million -- for 2011.
The Padres nearly reached the playoffs in 2007. Losing seasons followed in 2008 and 2009.
With a payroll of about $38 million, the youthful Padres (14-8) are atop the NL West, which, for now, is quieting talk that Gonzalez will be traded this summer. Padres players have said they believe the club is less likely to trade Gonzalez if the Padres are in playoff contention leading up to the July 31st trade deadline.
"To me," Gerut said, "there's no better thing than playing your ball successfully in the city you grew up, and I'm sure if Adrian had his choice, he would at the very least consider staying there. From a franchise-building standpoint, that's a guy you want to build around."
Gerut said he has no doubt that young Padres hitters are learning from Gonzalez.
"He hunts," he said. "He hunts for pitches. He's an example for all of us, and that is, you don't become successful by hitting every pitch. You become successful by waiting for a pitch you believe is going to come. The difference is, if his plan is better than the next guy's, he's going to succeed more because he's got the ability to repeat a good swing more times than not. His anticipation skills, combined with the ability to repeat, carry him each and every year. It's the reason he can hit 40 home runs in (Petco Park)."
Whether the Padres invite trade offers on Gonzalez, or keep him for one season or two, or begin negotiations on a contract extension, Gerut doubts that Gonzalez will become distracted by the noise.
"I'm sure he's fine with all of this stuff happening; he understands the business side of it," he said.
Gerut added: "It's just a shame. It's a shame when cities like that, when you've got a guy like Adrian ... once you get rid of those guys like that, you can't get those guys back. San Diego will never get him back. It's hard to even just get those guys. So if you have them already, why not just keep them and go for it?"
Here's a humorous thought: Maybe the Padres can put "X" number of dollars in Gerut's investment fund, and apply it later to a Gonzo Fund.
Sounding like a guest on Wall Street Week, Gerut gave his best investment plays.
"For the long term, I like natural gas and silver," he said Thursday from Petco Park's visiting clubhouse, adding with a smile: "I'm picking housing shares for 2010. Nobody wants them."