This will sound like blasphemy to Diamondbacks fans, but here goes:
If Arizona falls out of the National League pennant race by the July 31 trading deadline it should try to trade Luis Gonzalez.
I know. Trade Gonzo?
You don't deal a player who has meant so much to the franchise, both on the field and in the community.
Gonzalez is the face of the Diamondbacks, the treasured link to the 2001 World Series and, arguably, the most popular player in team history.
But here's the thing: If it was any other 37-year-old outfielder making $10 million a year for a losing team, suggesting a trade wouldn't raise a single eyebrow.
In fact, fans would scream for such a move.
Understand, I'm not saying the Diamondbacks should dump Gonzalez today. Or tomorrow.
They're five games behind the San Diego Padres with 2 1/2 months left in the season. It would be crazy to trade a productive Gonzalez — he's hitting .276 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs — just to see if prized prospects Carlos Quentin or Conor Jackson can hit major league pitching.
As Gonzalez said, “What would you rather have, a guy who drives in 100 runs every year or a guy who has great Triple-A numbers?”
But if San Diego leaves Arizona in its wake by the end of the month, why not make a few phone calls to determine if there's a market for Gonzalez?
The Diamondbacks have to make room in their lineup next year for Quentin and Jackson. They're too good to spend another year at Class AAA Tucson — as of Monday, Jackson was hitting .363 with seven homers and 65 RBIs; Quentin .310 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs — and it makes no sense to stunt their development by playing them once or twice a week at the major league level.
One spot will open up when Jose Cruz Jr. is jettisoned. But to get Quentin and Jackson on the field, someone else has to go.
It won't be the 25-year-old Chad Tracy, who's blossoming into a productive major league hitter with unexpected power (he already has 13 homers this season). And it won't be Shawn Green, whose contract extension makes him virtually untradeable.
That leaves Gonzalez, who is in the second year of a three-year $30 million deal and, let's be honest, is on the downside of a stellar career.
The Diamondbacks may discover there's not much interest in Gonzalez because of his age and contract. That's fine. There are far worse things than Gonzo patrolling left field at Bank One Ballpark for a couple more years.
But just as it did with Randy Johnson, Arizona should determine if trading Gonzalez would be in the best long-term interest of the organization.
As a 10-5 player — 10 years of major league service, five with the same team — Gonzalez could veto any trade. But he said Monday that if the Diamondbacks approached him, he would listen to what they have to say.
“I don't want anything like that happening, and I don't foresee it happening,” Gonzalez said. “But if that's what the organization wants. . . I have a lot of respect for those guys (team executives).”
Managing partner Ken Kendrick dismissed the notion of trading Gonzalez, saying, “You'd never do that. He's just too important to us in all kinds of ways. There are guys who have really earned their place in an organization, and he's one of them.”
That's a nice sentiment and a classy quote, but if a team calls Arizona and offers one of its top pitching prospects for Gonzalez, you can bet the organization won't hang up the phone.
As far as any public backlash, let's not kid ourselves. The Diamondbacks' average attendance this season — 25,696 — is an all-time franchise low.
Gonzalez is a terrific player and a great guy, but he doesn't put fans in the seats.
In a perfect world, Arizona makes a run at San Diego this season, and Gonzalez stays put. But if the Diamondbacks sink in the standings, they should try to trade their left fielder.
It wouldn't be a popular move.
But it would be the right move.