But the Rockies traded with the Indians for Drew Stubbs in December. Stubbs is considered a strong defensive center fielder, but he was not as effective last year when the Indians moved him to right field. Stubbs, who avoided arbitration by signing for one year at $4.1 million, has never played left field.
Additionally, the Rockies are expected to go with a platoon in center, since Stubbs hits left-handed pitching (.274 average, .349 on-base percentage, .448 slugging percentage) better than right (.226/.296/.358).
Left-handed hitting Charlie Blackmon is a center fielder by trade, and lefty Corey Dickerson played passably in center in the past and made progress over the winter. Also, right-handed hitting Brandon Barnes, who arrived in the Fowler trade, played center for most of last season for the Astros and is a candidate.
"We are feeling comfortable with the alternatives, watching these guys run around," Weiss said. "The big thing is we want to keep [Gonzalez] on the field. Risk and reward has kind of swung the other way. We are in a different place than we were in the fall. That's what it comes down to."
The Rockies' first full-squad workout is Sunday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Weiss said he spoke to Gonzalez on Friday and again Saturday.
The center field mix also affects the Rockies' batting order, which has a hole in Fowler's old leadoff spot.
Stubbs has displayed top-end speed (127 steals in 156 attempts) -- enough that the Reds tried to make him a leadoff man during his time there (2009-12). However, Stubbs also hits with occasional power but also with a high strikeout rate (729 in 2,221 at-bats). Weiss has already said Stubbs will hit behind the middle of the order when he plays, which means second basemen DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge would lead off when Stubbs plays. The rest of the competitors will likely be trying to prove themselves as leadoff hitters.
At any rate, the Rockies were looking to keep Gonzalez in one position. He played all three outfield spots with aplomb early in his Rockies career, but he has dealt with nagging injuries. Also, in 2011, his versatility likely cost him a Gold Glove. It was the first year the awards were position-specific, instead of going to three outfielders.
However, the decision eliminates what could have been a dramatic race between Gonzalez, who won last year's National League Gold Glove Award for left field, and the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen, who won it in center.
Gonzalez is coming off a sprained ligament on his right middle finger, which curtailed his power in the second half of the season. Any decision that trims Gonzalez's injury risk, Weiss figures, is a good one.