SAN DIEGO — Luis Gonzalez started in left field at Petco Park again Wednesday and would not mind if it became permanent.
Gonzalez identified San Diego as perhaps the top team on his wish list among possible landing places in 2007.
“This is definitely one of them for me,” said Gonzalez, speaking publicly about his future options for the first time since the Diamondbacks told him they don't want him back next season.
“Plus I would get an opportunity to play against my former team. That is a huge thing. Why wouldn’t it be? This is the team that said they don’t need you any more.”
Gonzalez, 39, will re-enter the free agent market this winter for the first time since 1997, when he signed a two-year, $4.05 million contract with Detroit.
The Tigers appear to be the only one of his former teams he's not interested in.
“Atlanta is good. Both Chicago teams. Houston,” Gonzalez said, listing other top choices.
“I’m just looking at good scenarios. I mean, I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to win.”
Gonzalez has said he would prefer to remain in the NL West, and he might be a good fit in San Diego, where Dave Roberts has started in left field this season.
Roberts signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract while avoiding arbitration after San Diego traded for Mike Cameron to play center field.
The Padres are expected to pick up Cameron’s $7 million option for 2007 but do not seem as committed to Roberts, who will become a free agent this winter. San Diego won the NL West last season and would make the postseason if the 2006 season ended today. Gonzalez seems to believe it will take the D-Backs a year or two to get to that level.
“The direction this team (D-Backs) is going, it’s going to be good. It’s not going to be good tomorrow or overnight. It’s going to take a while. They have a great number of young players, and it is going to take a while for them to develop,” Gonzalez said.
If Gonzalez is to stay in the NL West, San Diego appears the best available option. Gonzalez does not see himself in San Francisco, where Barry Bonds could be re-signed as he chases Hank Aaron’s career home run record.
Los Angeles and Colorado have young, promising left fielders in Andre Ethier and Matt Holliday, respectively.
The market has increased appreciably since 1997, but Gonzalez said it is too early to think about contract numbers.
“Basically, we have to see what the market is. If there is a team that really needs your services, then everything changes,” he said.
“I have to go through the process and see who is out there feeling me out. I’m not going to rush through it. I haven’t been in this situation in a long time.”
If Gonzalez enters the free agent market, he will join an outfield class that could include Bonds, Moises Alou, Jeromy Burnitz, Jim Edmonds, Torii Hunter, Carlos Lee, Gary Sheffield and Alfonso Soriano.
Burnitz signed for $6.7 million with Pittsburgh as a free agent last offseason. Brian Giles signed a three-year, $30 million contract with San Diego.
Jacque Jones signed a three-year deal with an average value of $5.33 million, and Juan Encarnacion and Reggie Sanders signed contracts averaging $5 million a year.