SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Winning might not be in Carlos Gonzalez's short-term future. But at least he can take comfort in stability.
While Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce monitors social media for updates on his trade status, Dexter Fowler is just settling in at the Chicago Cubs' camp only days after reports that he had agreed to a multiyear contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Those quaint and innocent days of the hot stove being confined to November, December and January have long since passed.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, revels in the familiar surroundings of the Colorado Rockies' clubhouse at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays in a big July deal, but Gonzalez has survived sporadic flurries of trade speculation and will return for his eighth season in a Colorado uniform.
When Gonzalez shrugs off the perception that he might be stressed out about the trade rumors, it's not just a defense mechanism. He was 22 years old when Arizona traded him to Oakland in December 2007, and 23 when Oakland dealt him to Colorado for Matt Holliday the following winter, so he's prepared for whatever disruptions might come his way.
"I'm always relaxed, to be honest with you," Gonzalez said. "Of course, it's hard for Jay [Bruce] or guys who've been with one organization for so long. But I understand the process. I've been traded twice, so it's nothing new for me.
"The first time I got traded, it was really hard on me. I went through a lot of emotions, because I didn't know what to expect. That's normal. After the second time, I knew how to handle it. The bottom line for me is being able to play every day and continuing to live my dream. Things go fast, so I'm trying to enjoy it as much as possible."
It's understandable why Gonzalez would be in demand for a team in search of a middle-of-the-order bat. He's a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner who is under contract for a reasonable $37 million over the next two seasons. He's enough of an impact player to attract the type of prospect haul the Rockies should be seeking in their efforts to put a winning team on the field for the first time since 2010.
Gonzalez is also coming off an absurdly strong finish in 2015. After starting slowly while recuperating from knee surgery, Gonzalez found his swing in June and began smoking balls with regularity. His 27 home runs led the National League after the All-Star break and tied Dante Bichette's franchise mark set in 1995, and he drove in a major-league high 62 runs in that span. During a memorable 281 at-bat stretch from early June to early September, he went deep 32 times. That averages out to a homer every 8.78 at-bats.
"I've never seen anything like it," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "He's a special player, and that's what special players do. It was the most locked-in of anybody I've ever seen."
Gonzalez has a new running mate and workout buddy this season in outfielder Gerardo Parra, who signed a $27.5 million deal as a free agent in January (paving the way for the Rockies to send Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay in exchange for closer Jake McGee). They're fellow natives of Venezuela who played together in Arizona's minor-league system before the business of baseball sent them on separate paths.
Nevertheless, it seems a little strange to come to Rockies camp and see Gonzalez in his old corner locker without Tulowitzki in the vicinity.
"It's tough, because Tulo and I spent about seven years together," Gonzalez said. "Having to see him leave was one of the weirdest things in baseball. I really enjoyed playing with him for so long. We learned from each other, and we went through a lot of situations together. We had good moments and bad moments. That's what it's all about -- all the experiences you have in baseball."
If the Rockies plan to make inroads in the post-Tulo era, they'll need lots of competitive innings from Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Chatwood and Jon Gray in the rotation, and for veteran setup men Chad Qualls and Jason Motte to justify the combined $16 million that Colorado spent on two-year deals for them. The biggest intrigue in camp revolves around the status of shortstop Jose Reyes, who has been placed on leave by Major League Baseball pending a resolution of his domestic violence case.
Even if a lot of things go right, the Rockies probably will have to be satisfied with beating out San Diego and finishing fourth in the National League West. At least the fan base can take solace in daily CarGo sightings at Coors Field. Now that Todd Helton has retired and Tulowitzki is a Blue Jay, Gonzalez is officially "the man" in Denver. If he's ready to lead, his teammates are happy to follow.
"It's a little different for him, yeah, and that's a good thing," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "CarGo is a guy who all his teammates like. He plays with a joy, and he's got a good heart. If his voice is going to have more impact, I'm all for it."