The Benefit of the Padres Potentially Signing LHP Gio Gonzalez
With the need for a veteran workhouse, the San Diego Padres would benefit a lot from signing left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
Since he broke into the majors halfway through the 2009 campaign with the Oakland Athletics, Gio Gonzalez has been the epitome of a consistent middle of the rotation workhorse. Since debuting, he has been a model of consistency with eight 3+ WAR campaigns across work with both the Athletics and Nationals.
Staying on the field is a huge benefit for any starting pitcher that is expected to take the ball every fifth day and anchor the major league rotation. Gonzalez has produced eight seasons of 170-plus innings pitched with five of those being over 195 innings.
Even during a “down” year that saw him with a career-high BB/9 of 4.21 and the second lowest K/9 of his career at 7.79. Now to be fair, his numbers did see somewhat of a spike when arriving late in the season in Milwaukee where over five starts he finished 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and peripherals more in line with his career norms in a small sample size.
With two weeks before the beginning of the 2019 season, Gonzalez still finds himself available on the free agent market. Represented by super-agent Scott Boras, the typical strategy of waiting late into the spring has reared its usual head again but pitchers don’t do very well with this strategy historically. Case in point would be last year when starting pitcher Alex Cobb signed late in spring training and ended up having a career-worst first half as he tried to work himself into major league form during regular season games.
Even worse than Cobb’s first half with the Orioles, was reliever Greg Holland‘s first half with the Cardinals that saw himself released, before tagging on with the Nationals later on in the season. As you can see with this narrative, it is much more imperative for a pitcher to get into camp earlier than the comparative hitter needs.
Now, what is Gio Gonzalez and Scott Boras holding out in hopes of? Take a look at some of his contemporaries from this free agent class to see what comparable players were able to capture in this market to date.
- J.A. Happ – Age 36
- Two years – $34 million
- Charlie Morton – Age 35
- Two years – $30 million
- Lance Lynn – Age 32
- Three years – $30 million
- Anibal Sanchez – Age 35
- Two years – $19 million
- Mike Fiers – Age 34
- Two years – $14 million
- Matt Harvey – Age 30
- One year – $11 million
- Trevor Cahill – Age 31
- One year – $9 million
Boras is certainly looking to get the workhorse who is 33 years old a contract in the two-four year range based on what others have received. You could argue he is in the same quality of hurler as Happ or Morton with AAV’s of $17 and $15 million respectively but also younger than both which could justify the extra year that Lynn received. Now what you want is a whole different ballgame as to what’s actually available in the market at the moment, especially two weeks from opening day.
One thing is for sure, if the Padres were to make an investment in this hurler, it would be buying quality innings every fifth day that has a long track record of durability and performance. Nothing he showed finishing out his 2018 season makes you think the gas tank is empty and with a postseason resume to boot. This might be a sound investment to add to the young stable of pitchers.
Adding a veteran to the mix wouldn’t be anything but beneficial in teaching the ropes to the younger pitchers and what it is to pitch in “big” games and how to handle yourself. He won’t cost a draft pick or talent in a trade, just a justifiable contract that looks like a possible value this late in the spring. Let’s see if A.J. Preller has one more signing up his sleeve to bolster the rotation and give the team an extra boost before spring training ends.
I am a lifelong Padres Fanatic who loves to talk and debate any and all sports. But SD Padres and minor leagues hold a special place above all. A 33-year-old born and raised San Diegan who is a season ticket holder and puts his money where his mouth is.
The Padres brought up four pitchers last year, and tried out two relievers – Erlin and Strahm – an brought back Perdomo and Mitchell. This year they have Paddack, Logan Allen, and Quantrill waiting. Next season it’ll be Baez, Morejon, Avila, and Margevicius. The season after that it’ll be Gore, Weathers, and Espinosa.
That’s a lot of young pitching that will need innings to prove themselves. Several of the starter candidates may well match anything Gio can produce, so why give him the valuable innings and wait until next year to see what the kids can do – especially when Lamet and Richards will be added to the pitchers I’ve already mentioned?
This is the year to find out what the kids can do, and Preller has said as much. The team will still be respectable, but unlikely to contend this year even with a veteran starter, so why sign one and take innings away from the pitchers who need to show what they can do?
There are reasons to be cautious here. He’s 33, has thrown a ton innings over the years, and his KO/BB ratio last year was 148/80. He was bad in 2016, very good in 2017, and a little of both in 2018. So what the heck are we getting here?
Bottom line could be that a short term deal makes sense given his age and mileage, but it would be better to go after a pitcher with a higher upside.
I would be opposed to this move. Gonzalez has been inconsistent the last few years and is clearly past his prime. Would also prefer the fifth starter to be right handed since there seems to be a lock that there are at least three lefties in the rotation already.