8:00am: Gonzalez will earn $1MM if he makes the big league club, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports (via Twitter).
7:25am: The Marlins have agreed to a minor league pact with veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez, reports Craig Mish of the Miami Herald (via Twitter). The CAA client will head to Major League camp as a non-roster invitee.
It’s a homecoming for Gonzalez, a Miami area native who has spent more than a decade in the Majors since being drafted by the White Sox with the No. 38 overall pick back in 2004. Gonzalez was traded three times before making his MLB debut with the Athletics in 2008 but returned to the White Sox last offseason on a Major League deal and spent the shortened 2020 with his original organization.
The results were mixed, at best. Gonzalez was signed with the expectation that he could hold down the fifth spot in the rotation, but he made just four starts and eight relief appearances while posting a 4.83 ERA with his highest walk rate (12.4 percent) since 2009.
That was also the only truly sub-par season for Gonzalez since 2009, however. After breaking out with the 2010 A’s and making his first All-Star team in 2011, Gonzalez was traded to the Nationals and spent the next seven years as a rock-solid member of their rotation. He continued that steady production in a year-and-a-half stint with the Brewers from 2018-19 before signing in Milwaukee.
In that decade-long peak, the now-35-year-old Gonzalez racked up 1786 2/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball (3.99 SIERA) with an above-average 47.3 percent grounder rate, a quality 22.5 percent strikeout rate and a 9.6 percent walk rate. Even though he was limited to 17 starts in 2019 due to some arm troubles, Gonzalez still averaged 30 starts and 179 innings per season during that time. And from 2010-18, his only injuries were a two-week IL stint for shoulder soreness in 2014 and a postseason high ankle sprain in 2018.
The Marlins have plenty of young pitching talent, but much of it is unproven, which gives Gonzalez a chance to win a rotation spot out of the gates. Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez are clearly locked into places. Over the offseason, manager Don Mattingly suggested that to be true of righty Elieser Hernandez back in October as well. However, he was less committal when asked if top prospect Sixto Sanchez, who impressed in seven starts during his 2020 debut, would also be guaranteed a spot.
Even if that is indeed the top four the Marlins carry early in the year, the fifth spot is largely up for grabs. Lefties Trevor Rogers and Braxton Garrett both made their debuts in 2020, as did right-handers Nick Neidert, Jorge Guzman and Jordan Holloway (though the latter two only pitched a combined 1 1/3 Major League innings). Righty Edward Cabrera has been slowed in camp by nerve issue in his right biceps thus far (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola), so he’s probably not in the Opening Day mix.