DECEMBER 20: Gonzalez is slated to receive a $5MM guarantee, per James Fegan of The Athletic (via Twitter). He’ll be paid $4.5MM for the coming season, with $1MM in incentives, before the club decides between a $7MM option and $500K buyout.
DECEMBER 19: The White Sox are in agreement with left-hander Gio Gonzalez, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. Reporter Robert Murray (Twitter link) was the first to break the news that Gonzalez and the Sox were nearing a contract. Gonzalez is represented by CAA Sports.
Gonzalez represents Chicago’s first major pitching acquisition of the offseason, after the Sox were widely expected to target rotation help. While the White Sox have thus far been linked to several big name hurlers on the free agent and trade fronts, the 34-year-old Gonzalez is a less-heralded veteran who still offers some significant upside to the 2020 staff.
Gonzalez was actually drafted by the White Sox (38th overall) back in 2004 but never played for the team, as he was sent to the Phillies as a player to be named later in the November 2005 deal that brought Jim Thome to the Windy City. Over 1901 1/3 career innings with the A’s, Nationals, and Brewers, Gonzalez has established himself as a usually-durable starter who can miss bats (8.6 K/9), limit free passes (3.8 BB/9), keep the ball on the ground (47.1% grounder rate), and limit home run damage (0.8 HR/9).
Gonzalez came close to matching all of these career numbers in 2019, and his 3.50 ERA over 87 1/3 innings with Milwaukee also fell near his 3.68 career ERA. The big outlier, however, was the lack of innings, as Gonzalez spent almost two months on the injured list due to a dead arm. The southpaw already got off to an abbreviated start to the 2019 campaign since he didn’t sign until March 19 (a minor league deal with the Yankees), and missed much of Spring Training rather than going through a normal ramp-up process to Opening Day.
With a full offseason to prepare, Gonzalez could very well return to his normal self next year, which would be a nice boost to a young White Sox rotation. Ace Lucas Giolito is the only projected 2020 rotation member coming off a quality season, as Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez have yet to prove themselves at the MLB level, with Lopez taking a step back after a promising 2018. Gonzalez will now join that trio as Chicago’s starting four, with Dylan Covey, and veteran swingman Ross Detwiler in line to compete for the fifth starter’s job. Michael Kopech is also expected to be in the mix as he returns from undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2018.
It isn’t quite yet the pitching staff that you would expect from a contending team, which is why the White Sox are likely to keep up their efforts to acquire more front-of-the-rotation help. The Sox have been linked to such names as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel, and David Price in recent days, though came up in efforts to sign Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Jordan Lyles, and Cole Hamels.