Washington picked up Gio Gonzalez’s $12M club option for the 2017 campaign back in the first week of November. The option and one more for 2018 were included in the 5-year/$42M extension Gonzalez signed with the Nationals shortly after he was acquired from the Oakland A’s in December of 2011.
The $12M club option for 2018 is guaranteed if the 31-year-old left-hander reaches 180 innings in 2017, a total he passed for four straight seasons between 2010-2013, but hasn’t reached in any of the last three seasons, though he’s come close (with 175 2⁄3, and 177 1⁄3 innings pitched in the last two seasons).
Gonzalez was (11-11) in 32 starts in 2016, his fifth season in D.C., with a 4.57 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 59 walks (2.99 BB/9), 171 Ks (8.68 K/9) and a .257/.326/.404 line against in those 177 1⁄3 IP, finishing the season at 2.9 fWAR (down from 5.0, 3.2, 3.2 and 3.7 fWAR in the previous four seasons with the Nats).
Two years of control of a reliable if inconsistent southpaw could be attractive to teams in the market for pitching this winter, and Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo too told Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo that he understood the value of a pitcher like Gonzalez.
“I would not describe him as expendable at all,” Rizzo told the WaPost reporter.
“To me, he’s a reliable starter that takes the mound every five days, and those guys are worth their weight in gold.”
Castillo did, however, write that “Rizzo implied that Gonzalez’s spot in the rotation isn’t a lock,” with competition for the last two spots after Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark including the likes of Joe Ross, Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, Austin Voth and Reynaldo Lopez, though Gonzalez is the only left-handed starter in the mix.
Rizzo said “handedness is secondary in constructing a rotation,” though, and with reports of the Nats’ interest in Chicago White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale, it makes sense that Rizzo and Co. in Washington’s front office would at least listen if other teams express interest in Gonzalez.
According to New York Post writer Joel Sherman, executives from other major league executives he spoke to told him the Nationals, “... are aggressively trying to move lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, who is due $12 million in 2017 with a $12 million option for 2018,” as they simultaneously try to see, “... whether it is possible to form a super-rotation with Sale,” pursue a big outfield bat (Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista?) and look to add a catcher and closer to the roster.
“[Mike] Rizzo is pretty bold. He is going to do whatever he needs to do,” an AL exec told the NY Post writer.
Rizzo told MLB Network Hot Stove hosts Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian this week that he’s happy with the pitching depth in the organization, which gives the Nationals options.
“We have an opportunity here where we have depth in starting pitching which is kind of an important thing in today’s marketplace,” he said, “where we go five deep at the big league level and then we’ve got several prospects in the minor leagues that have already been pitching in the big leagues and kind of the second layer of that is guys that are on the come and could be in the big leagues some time in ‘17 or ‘18.”
Will the Nationals deal from that depth to satisfy other roster needs or bolster what is an already-impressive rotation?
Joel Sherman goes on to offer five reasons why he thinks the Nationals are ready to do something significant this winter: