The Brewers announced this morning that they’ve replaced left-hander Gio Gonzalez on their NLCS roster following yesterday’s ankle injury; righty Zach Davis will take his place. The move renders Gonzalez, a pending free agent, ineligible to pitch in the World Series should Milwaukee advance, as players removed from the roster mid-series are automatically ruled ineligible for the following round of postseason play.
Gonzalez suffered a high ankle sprain in the second inning of last night’s game against the Dodgers when fielding an infield single off the bat of Yasiel Puig (video link via MLB.com). His short start forced skipper Craig Counsell to go to his bullpen early, which proved to be all the more significant in a game that would go 12 innings and deplete the bullpen for each team. Adding Davies to the mix, then, will give the Brewers a fresh arm while simultaneously ending Gonzalez’s season.
Davies, 25, missed a good chunk of the 2018 season due to a rotator cuff issue in his right shoulder, but he returned to the Brewers in September and posted a 3.91 ERA and an 18-to-4 K/BB ratio in 23 innings down the stretch. His overall numbers in ’18 aren’t much to look at, but Davies entered the year with a career 3.91 ERA in 388 2/3 innings with 6.6 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 after being acquired from the Orioles in a 2015 trade that sent Gerardo Parra to Baltimore as a deadline rental.
The 33-year-old Gonzalez will reach free agency for the first time in his career this offseason. He’ll head into the open market coming off 171 innings of 4.21 ERA ball in the regular season, during which he averaged 7.8 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and 0.89 HR/9 to go along with a 45.3 percent ground-ball rate. It’s the second pedestrian ERA for Gonzalez in the past three seasons, though his 2017 season was terrific in that regard (2.96), and his 2016 ERA (4.57) was heavily skewed by an uncharacteristic dip in strand rate.
Gonzalez has a solid track record over the years and was a fixture in the Nationals’ rotation for seven years after coming over in a trade from the Athletics. He’s lost about a mile off his average fastball since 2016 and turned in the worst full-season walk rate of his career in 2018 — neither of which figure to do his free-agent stock any favors. But Gonzalez has generally been a durable and dependable rotation piece since 2010, averaging 31.4 starts per season along the way. He’s only fallen shy of 30 starts once in that time (27 starts in 2014) and has posted solid run-prevention numbers with a knack for missing bats and limiting home runs.
Gonzalez’s swinging-strike and chase rates both improved substantially with the Brewers, albeit in a small sample of 25 1/3 innings, which could give interested parties some optimism in free agency this winter. At worst, the veteran southpaw should be viewed as a dependable source of 30+ starts, and if a team feels his 2018 control issues can be corrected (and/or that his improvement with the Brewers is sustainable), he could be seen as a step above that in terms of value.