A month after the first baseman was released by Atlanta from a contract that guaranteed him $21.5 million this year, Gonzalez finalized a one-year deal with the Mets on Thursday for the $545,000 major league minimum.
Bobby Valentine, Gonzalez's manager during Boston's last-place 2012 season, was quoted by the New York Post this week as saying: "He can really talk -- he is a smart guy and he is excessive in his willingness to share his thoughts."
"I think Bobby was in the right there," Gonzalez said. "I think going into that 2012 season I heard a lot of people tell me that I had to be more of a vocal leader and do things that were out of context for me. I feel like I went into that season trying to make myself do something that I'm not used to doing. And I do agree with Bobby: I think I had a lot of opinions that year. But I don't think it is who I am."
Gonzalez said he reverted to his previous demeanor after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2012.
"I made a commitment to myself to not be somebody that someone else wants me to be and just be who I am," he said. "I think that was the only season when I've been that person, and I promise that is not who I am and that's not who I'll be and definitely not who I'm going to be with the Mets because that's not me."
Now 35, Gonzalez will compete for playing time with rookie first baseman Dominic Smith, who hit .198 in 49 games after his August call-up. Outfielder Jay Bruce and Wilmer Flores also are possibilities for time at first, general manager Sandy Alderson said this week.
"There is somewhat of a defined role as far as starting a good amount of games, but it's not set in stone," Gonzalez said. "I am a player that can put up great numbers, drive in runs and help the team win.
"My role is going to be first baseman on the team and just be available off the bench in the games I don't start," Gonzalez added during a conference call with reporters. "I'm open and willing to do anything, obviously. One of my big, key points going into spring training is to work with Dominic on defense."
Gonzalez hit .242 for the Dodgers last season, when he was limited to 71 games because of a herniated disk in his back. He was left off the postseason roster and watched postseason games from a luxury suite. Major League Baseball limits the dugout to active players during games, and Gonzalez said the Dodgers didn't allow inactive players in the clubhouse.
"It was unique to be able to watch them from the TV," he said, "almost be a super fan and be there with them and the ups and downs and give advice from what I see."
A five-time All-Star, Gonzalez has a .288 average with 311 home runs in 14 major league seasons. The Braves, who sent outfielder Matt Kemp to Los Angeles, are responsible for all of his salary except for the amount offset by what the Mets are paying. He was in entering the final season of a $154 million, seven-year contract he signed with Boston, and the Braves will receive $4.5 million from the Dodgers by May 1 as part of the trade.
Gonzalez has changed his offseason workouts because of the bad back.
"I'm doing more Pilates, more stretching, more conditioning, a lot of water activity, water aerobics," he said. "It's responding really well."
He plans to mentor the 22-year-old Smith in spring training, especially on defense.
"Just kind of the mindset and tell him all my experiences and everything I've done," he said. "So I'm looking forward to that adventure, Dominic, as well, so I can help him become the best major leaguer he can be in the future."
To create room on the 40-man roster for Gonzalez and Bruce, whose $39 million, three-year contract was finalized this week, the Mets said Thursday they had designated right-handers Kevin McGowan and Chasen Bradford for assignment.