The Yankees announced that veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez was not added to the team’s 40-man roster after exercising his opt-out clause over the weekend. The team had 48 hours to add Gonzalez to the roster once he triggered that clause, but he was instead allowed to become a free agent and is now able to sign with any club.
Bringing Gonzalez to the Majors would’ve been a fairly expensive bit of speculation for the Yankees, as the southpaw’s contract contained a $3MM base salary and called for him to earn an additional $300K per start made. With the decision to move on from Gonzalez, the Yankees will rely on James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Domingo German while awaiting the return of top starter Luis Severino, who is recovering from a lat strain.
Gonzalez, 33, made three starts with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton before opting out of his contract. Although he was shelled in the season opener (eight runs in four innings), the veteran rebounded with a pair of excellent outings, yielding a combined two runs with an 18-to-2 K/BB ratio in 11 innings. He threw 93 pitches in the most recent of those outings (April 14), so Gonzalez is plenty stretched out and could even be ready to join a big league staff in short order. He was slated to make a fourth appearance over the weekend but had that start rained out.
While Gonzalez found a tepid market for much of the offseason (to put things mildly), he should have no shortage of interested clubs this time around. Many teams have seen their rotation struggle early in the season, with some losing key arms for much (or all) of the season and others having to send younger rotation hopefuls back to the minors. The Brewers, Angels, Mets, Red Sox, Cardinals, Phillies, Athletics, Indians and Twins have all endured varying levels of disappointment from their starting rotations and could conceivably look to the durable Gonzalez as an alternative option.
While the 2018 season certainly wasn’t one of Gonzalez’s best, he topped 170 innings and 30 starts for the eighth time in the past nine seasons, working to a 4.21 ERA with 7.8 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9 along the way. Gonzalez has averaged 31 starts per season dating back to 2010 and hasn’t made fewer than 27 appearances in a given season since that time. As recently as 2017, he notched a 2.96 ERA in 201 innings of work, though he did lead the National League in walks that season. Nevertheless, Gonzalez has regularly been an average or better starter in the Majors for the past decade; that strong track record made it nothing short of bewildering to onlookers that he faced such a seemingly minimal market, but he’ll now venture into free agency for a second time with new representation as he looks to find a quick path back to the Major Leagues.