Posted on April 24, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
He took a rather circuitous route, but starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez is ready to spend the 2019 season where he ended the 2018 season. On Wednesday, Gonzalez agreed to a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. Gonzalez agreed to return to Milwaukee a couple of days after he opted out of his minor league contract with the Yankees. The lefty will make $2 million to pitch for the Brewers the rest of the season with a chance to make up to make $2 million in incentives.
Like a lot of veterans, Gonzalez had trouble locking down a big league job over the offseason. After six-plus seasons with the Nationals, Gonzalez was traded to Milwaukee last August. He went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over five starts with the Brewers down the stretch. Alas, the 33-year-old couldn’t find a team willing to guarantee him a spot in their starting rotation for 2019.
Toward the end of March, Gonzalez settled for a minor league deal with the Yankees. But when the Bronx Bombers declined to add him to the major league roster earlier this week, Gonzalez exercised his option to become a free agent. Being familiar with Gonzalez and in need of some pitching help, the Brewers swooped him to sign the veteran amidst interest from a few other teams.
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Milwaukee’s starting rotation currently has the highest ERA in the National League. Aside from Zach Davies, none of the team’s starters have performed up to expectations during the first month of the season. The Brewers also have a vacancy in their rotation with Freddy Peralta and Jimmy Nelson on the IL and Corbin Burnes being sent to the minors after posting an ERA greater than 10 over his first four starts.
“We have some really talented arms here. Some guys have performed well, others haven’t,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said earlier this week. “I think we’ve seen flashes from a number of guys that they can compete here and contribute here. Clearly, we need more consistent starting pitching than we have had thus far. And I do think we’re going to get it.”
In his three starts this year for the Yankees triple-A affiliate, Gonzalez was 2-1 with an ERA of 6.00. However, those numbers are a little misleading. He got hit hard in his first outing. But Gonzalez allowed just two runs over 11 innings in his two other starts.
In addition to Milwaukee’s immediate need in the rotation, Gonzalez is a nice addition with the big picture in mind. Young pitchers like Peralta and Brandon Woodruff don’t have enough innings under their belt in previous seasons to remain in the rotation all year. There could be similar concerns for Davies, who only pitched 66 innings last year because of shoulder problems. Sooner or later, the Brewers will need a pitcher like Gonzalez who can be relied upon to take the ball every five days and eat up some innings for them, as Woodruff and Peralta are likely to move to the bullpen at some point.
In the end, signing Gonzalez was a no-brainer for the Brewers. He may not be the frontline starter he was earlier in his career. But he’s averaged over 31 starts per season over the last nine years. He’s one of the most durable and reliable starters in the game. For a team that’s expected to compete and has questions to answer about their rotation depth, Gonzalez is a perfect fit for the Brewers.