Gonzo Gone-zo

Just two days after he became the oldest player to reach 50 doubles in one season, Luis Gonzalez was informed by club officials that he would not return to the club in 2007. While the outfield situation for next year appears to be set, it is not known who will replace Gonzalez as the face of the franchise.

With prospects Carlos Quentin and Chris Young slated to assume the everyday duties in right and center field next year, Eric Byrnes moves over to take over Gonzalez' role for the past eight seasons.  The move is not likely to have been based solely on performance, as Gonzalez has posted significantly higher batting average and on-base percentage totals than Byrnes this season.

However, Gonzalez would almost certainly demand more money in the offseason than Byrnes.  The Diamondbacks held a club option of $10 million for Gonzalez next year, whereas Byrnes makes just $2.25 million this season.  It was thought that the team might decline the option on Gonzalez, then renegotiate at a lower price.  But it is likely that Luis would have been relegated to platoon duty in the best case scenario, and any corollary salary offer to Luis could have been insulting.

In fact, this may be the best situation for Gonzalez, who is still good enough to be the starting left fielder on many major league teams.  A change of scenery will allow him to add to his career totals more so than performing as a role player with the Diamondbacks would have.  He has made it clear through both his actions and his words that he loves living in Arizona, however, and the switch to another club might adversely affect his personal life.

From the Diamondbacks' perspective, this is a lose-lose situation.  Brandon Webb is next on the club in terms of consecutive tenure with four years, half of the time that Gonzales has spent in the desert.  Even if Webb wins the Cy Young award this season, it's not going to be able to compete with Gonzalez' World Series-winning hit back in 2001 in the minds of the fans.  There could be a significant drop in attendance for Arizona's home games next year as a result.

The Diamondbacks also take a hit in terms of talent.  In losing both Gonzalez and Shawn Green, the club moves from having an outfield with incredible depth to one that is an injury away from being a serious weakness for the club.

GM Josh Byrnes may have some offseason moves in mind to both appease the fan base and improve the ballclub's chances of competing in 2007, and the loss of Gonzalez does provide him with more financial flexibility to do just that.    

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