Certainly, service time is an issue. By calling Gonzalez up now, rather than waiting a couple of months, the A’s are trading "contract control in 2014" for "putting the CFer with the most upside on the field right now." I wonder if part of the reason the A’s are not concerned with this is that their long-range plan is to make "C-Gon" the team’s first true "franchise centerpiece" – the guy locked up with a long-term, and expensive, contract extension. If the A’s think Gonzalez will be their first "$150,000,000 man," as opposed to the six-year rental Barry Zito was before becoming someone else’s expensive player, then the "contract control issue is lessened considerably.
Two reasons come to mind for wanting Gonzalez to come up to the major leagues now. One is that if he is a raw but great talent, who will need time to convert his ability into productivity, the A’s want Gonzalez to get his "major league growing pains" out of the way in 2008 so he can be a true impact player in 2009 – when I think Beane has every intention of fielding a contender. The other reason is that the A’s could not have asked for a better confluence of events to turn 2008 from a rebuilding year into a contending year, what with Rich Harden feeling great and pitching great and the Angels’ rotation comprised of their #3-#7 starters for at least a month. You know that Chris Denorfia and Ryan Sweeney will give you good defense and probably not great hitting, while Gonzalez is more of a "wild card" – he could produce the stats of a rushed, raw hitter or he could produce the stats of a superbly talented phenom. If he were to be the latter, and the A’s added another real impact bat to the order, it becomes easier yet to see the 2008 A’s as contenders.
The A’s must feel Gonzalez has what it takes to excel in CF in the major leagues – duh – but even if he has the potential to make it as a CFer, you have to wonder how wise it is to ask a 22 year old to learn a demanding defensive position before he has had time to refine his hitting maturity (there’s no doubt about his ability) at AAA – as scouts seem to agree would be prudent. This concerns me, but man oh man, if the A’s are right on this one … I’m liking the present, and I’m loving the future.
CarGon, take me away!