Scouting The Trade Market: Gio Gonzalez

The Yankees' ever-so-slight decline against righthanded pitching
Shocker: Yankees have talked to Edwin Jackson already

Late last week, word got out that the Athletics are open to trading pretty much everyone on their roster not named Jemile Weeks as they continue to remain in a holding pattern with their stadium situation. Since Weeks is a second baseman like his older brother, that means Oakland’s entire starting rotation is up for grabs, the same rotation that is chock full of young arms with upside.

I plan on exploring the rest of A’s starting staff later in the week, but I’m going to start today with Gio Gonzalez since he’s generated the most buzz in Yankeeland during the last few weeks. The left-hander has quietly developed into Oakland’s ace after being acquired from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade, the third time he was traded before his 23rd birthday. He’s been a 3+ fWAR and a 4+ bWAR pitcher in each of the last two years, his first two full seasons in the big leagues. Let’s break down the good and the bad….

The Pros

  • Working with two fastballs (two- and four-seamer) in the 91-94 mph range a hammer curve with two-plane break in the upper-70’s, Gonzalez misses plenty of bats (career 8.59 K/9 and 9.1% swing-and-miss rate) and generates a health amount of ground balls (47.5%). That’s helped keep his FIP comfortably better than league average, 7% better in each of the last two seasons.
  • Gio’s changeup isn’t much more than a show-me pitch, a low-80’s offering he’s thrown fewer than 7% of the time in the big leagues. Despite that, he actually has a reverse split because his curve is that good. Righties have posted a .321 wOBA against him in 1,786 plate appearances while lefties have gotten him to tune of .341 wOBA in 547 plate appearances. I suspect the platoon split will even out a bit once he starts facing more same-side hitters.
  • Other than a bout with shoulder stiffness during Spring Training in 2009, Gonzalez has been perfectly healthy as a pro. He’s never been on the DL and has eclipsed the 200 IP plateau in each of the past two seasons. He’s thrown at least 150 IP every year since 2006.
  • MLBTR projects Gonzalez to earn $3.6M in 2012, his first time through arbitration as a Super Two player. He’ll be arbitration-eligible three more times before becoming a free agent after the 2016 season. That’s as friendly as contract situations get.

The Cons

  • Gonzalez has fought a career-long battle with his fastball command, and it shows in his walk rates. His 4.05 BB/9 in 2011 was his lowest since 2007, but it was still the highest in the AL (A.J. Burnett was second at 3.92 BB/9) and second highest in MLB among qualified starters. His 91 walks led the league this year, one year after his 92 walks finished second to C.J. Wilson. Gio’s career unintentional walk rates are 4.35 uIBB/9 in the bigs and 3.97 uIBB/9 in the minors.
  • Although his walk rates have improved each year in the show, Gonzalez has also thrown fewer pitches in the strike zone each season. He bottomed out by throwing just 42.5% of his pitches in the zone in 2011, down about 2.5% from two years ago. In ten career starts against the patient offenses of the Yankees and Red Sox (five each), he’s managed to complete six innings of work just four times.
  • It happened more than seven years ago, but Gonzalez did get kicked off his high school team following an altercation with his coach that actually had to do with his brother’s playing time. He fell a bit in a draft because of the subsequent makeup concerns.
  • Gonzalez is a bit on the small side, listed at 6-foot-0 and 205 lbs. on the Athletics official site. Old school types will question his durability because of that, fair or not.

Gonzalez just turned 26 in mid-September, so (theoretically) his best years are still ahead of him and any team that trades for him would be getting basically all of his peak seasons. That means he will not be easy to acquire, and Billy Beane would have every right to ask for Jesus Montero as part of a package to acquire the southpaw. For comparison’s sake, the Mariners turned Doug Fister and his four years of team control into three young, big league ready players (a starting pitcher, a reliever, a platoon corner outfielder) and a top five caliber prospect (in a typical farm system, not all of baseball), and he didn’t have the same kind of track record as Gonzalez at the time of the deal, plus he’s 18 months older. The first Dan Haren trade is an apt comparison as well, though he had three years of team control left, not four.

I’m very much on the fence with Gonzalez. Lefties that can miss bats with many peak years ahead of them are about as  valuable as baseball commodities get, but the lack of control is very scary. Let’s put it this way, I have an easier time envisioning Gio developing into Oliver Perez than I do Randy Johnson. Gonzalez has ace-potential, I’m not denying that one bit, but he has a major hurdle to clear before reaching that ceiling. If you’re giving up multiple young players and high-end prospects, I feel like you need to get more certainty in return. Gio would undoubtedly improve the Yankees rotation, but by no means is he a sure thing.

The Yankees' ever-so-slight decline against righthanded pitching
Shocker: Yankees have talked to Edwin Jackson already
  • JobaWockeeZ

    Mike you were all for Ubaldo at the deadline. Gonzalez is the same pitcher as him but he has no injury or velocity concerns.

    • steve (different one)

      It is kindof funny how quickly everyone talked themselves into that trade. How sick to your stomach would you have been giving up Montero and getting the same production the Indians got?

    • http://none Favrest

      Gonzalez is a lefty. He’s nothing like Jimenez.

    • Urban

      Outside of being pitchers in the majors, I don’t see a tremendous similarity. One is righty, one is lefty, one has already pitched in the AL, the other is in the NL, and the guy from the NL has been been able to hit 99 mph, yet was showing a loss of velocity this year.

      I was not in favor of the Ubaldo deal based on the reported asking price. I’d have to see what they want for Gio to have a strong opinion. I like him, but the devil is in the details.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    Would cost too much. Interesting idea with some merit, but look elsewhere.

  • Rich in NJ

    There is no way I’d trade Montero for him.

    I don’t think the Yankees need to trade for a pitcher unless the price is discounted because they have sufficient in-house options, and they can probably sign Darvish if they want.

    • Cris Pengiucci


    • Kosmo

      How about Banuelos ? He´s all of 5´ 10´´ 155 lbs. Seriously Banuelos,Romine,Warren and another prospect should do it.

      • Ted Nelson

        What do Banuelos’ height and weight have to do with anything?

        • Kosmo

          It is in response to the above “Cons“ part. 4th paragraph.

          • toad

            We know short guys can’t pitch in NY.

            • Kosmo

              Thanks ! My all-time favorite Yankee. Notice his walk totals in 53,54,55 it didn´t get in the way of a great career.

            • Urban

              Two of the best lefties in NY history were under 6′. Add in Guidry, although having a 95+ fastball and a devastating slider can do a lot to overcome other shortcomings.

        • Slugger27

          when projecting durability from a 20 year old, my guess is its important

          • Ted Nelson

            My guess is it’s not. My guess is that it’s an old myth.

            Do you have evidence of a trend saying all else equal smaller pitchers are less durable?

            Plenty of pitchers with “prototypical builds” are not at all durable.

            It’s rare to find a successful small pitcher, yes, but I don’t see much anecdotal evidence that small pitchers are less durable. Valenzuela, Pedro, Glavine, Lincecum, Wagner (for a reliever)…

        • B-Rando

          Lol I was thinking the same thing.

      • William

        No, it’ll take Banuelos and Gary Sanchez to do it.

  • Kosmo

    Gio going forward could easily find better fastball command than turning into Oliver Perez whose walkathon trophy I thought was passed on to Jonathan Sanchez.
    His size has nothing to do with anything ,Pedro, Guidry and Whitey Ford all come to mind as pitchers who were small in stature.

    • Ted Nelson

      I agree on the size part, but he could find control… he could not. It’s a big risk to give up Montero or maybe even Montero + for IMO.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Definitely feel Montero, if traded, should bring back more than Gio has shown to this point. He’s got the high ceiling they’d be looking for, but he has enough flaws that I’d be concerned giving up that much. Patience is the key to finding the best option or return (if a trade is explored).

        • Cris Pengiucci


  • Granderslam

    I prefer Danks, but would definitely think of Gio as a viable upgrade.

    • Slugger27

      why would you prefer danks?

      • Nick

        Cheaper and better track record?

        • Slugger27

          im assuming by cheaper you mean prospects wise… and of course hes cheaper because hes under control for 1 year instead of 4.

    • Johnny O

      I’d prefer Danks. Only 1 year of control but presumably lower cost to acquire (and then we can either re-sign him or any of the other 2012 FAs)

  • Bavarian Yankee

    His BB/9 and his strike % are really a concern. No thanks, let’s look somewhere else.

    • Slugger27

      im not sure i understand the walk rate concerns. for one, theyve decreased 3 years in a row.

      also, isnt walk rate already calculated for in FIP? his FIP over 400 innings 3.7, thats not bad. i mean, hes already had the poor walk rate over 400 innings and hes still posted great numbers. isnt his overall contribution what really matters?

      • Bavarian Yankee

        but his low strike % could be an indication that his BB/9 could crush through the roof anytime. I mean he throws only 42.5% of his pitches for strikes, can it get any worse? Good pitchers have a strike % of 60%. I don’t trust Gonzalez, why should the Yanks take a risk like that? I’d rather trade better prospect for a guy like Danks.

        • Slugger27

          whoa whoa wait a minute. youd trade MORE for danks??

          • Bavarian Yankee

            more than I’d offer for Gio and I wouldn’t offer much for Gio, that’s for sure ;)

            • http://none Favrest

              Danks is not as good as Gonzalez. Gonzalez will cost more.

              • Ted Nelson

                Because you say so? Even in his off-season of 2011 Danks pretty much matched Gio’s fWAR.

                I’m not even trying to say that Danks is better, just that I don’t think it’s at all clear Gio definitely is better than Danks.

                • Slugger27

                  its more that gio is under control for 4 seasons, and danks 1.

                  • Ted Nelson

                    Favrest doesn’t say that, though. Favrest says “Danks is not as good as Gonzalez.”

                    There’s definitely something to the contract status, but with the White Sox budget compared to the A’s I’m not sure it’s a one-to-one relationship. From the Yankees’ angle, sure you don’t want to overpay for Danks. From the White Sox angle, though, why are you giving away a young ace that you can afford to re-sign?

              • Bavarian Yankee

                Gonzalez will cost more because he’s under team control for 3 more years than Danks. I think that Danks is the better pitcher and he’s not that much of a risk than Gio. I wouldn’t offer more than Betances + Romine for Gio but I’d offer the same package + another 2nd tier prospect for Danks.

                • Slugger27

                  dude, ive found your comments to be way off base in the past, but this is a whole new level. youd give up betances and romine AND another good prospect for danks?? may i assume this comes with danks signing a 3 year extension for peanuts?

                  • Bavarian Yankee

                    why can’t u accept my opinion? And where have I made “comment way off base in the past”? If you don’t show me these comments I’ll never ever respect you again, because u sir have obviously no respect for me.

                    Danks is one of the best lefties in the bigs, you don’t get that guys cheap. Betances + Romine highly likely don’t get it done so if you want him u have to offer more.

                    • thenamestsam

                      You don’t seem to be understanding that you can’t consider the player without considering the contract, or if you do understand it then you’re either way undervaluing Gio or way overvaluing Danks, and I don’t think that’s really an opinion.

                      Generous value for Danks next year is about 4 wins. Thats worth 20ish million dollars. He’s going to get paid more like 8 million, so there’s about 12 million dollars of surplus there. If you think Danks is going to be awesome next year you might say possibly 15. But unless you sign him to a team-friendly extension that’s all you get.

                      Now Gio is going to be paid 4 million next year, and lets assume generous raises after that so something like 6 mil, 9 mil, 12 mil for the rest of his arb years. That’s 31 million in salary for 4 years. To So to beat Danks’ 15 million in surplus value he needs to be worth about 45 million in value over the next 4 years. That’s less than two wins a year assuming even low inflation, which would mean falling apart as he hits his peak rather than improving. And basically every assumption made was generous to Danks, this could easily be a lot more favorable for Danks. On top of that the risk with Gio is diminished by the fact he’s still in Arb, so if he really does fall apart his salaries will increase by less or you can always let him go.

                      Personally I like Danks better overall and there’s a case to be made that the Yankees should worry more about absolute value in acquiring players and less about relative value, but to offer more for Danks doesn’t make sense unless he signs a very team friendly extension as part of the trade.

                    • Slugger27

                      honestly, and im trying not to sound like a dick… i didnt think id have to explain why offering more for danks than you would gio is a head-scratching move.

                      but heres the reason: when you trade for a player, you’re trading for his contract situation too. over the past 2 seasons, their performances are pretty equal, with a slight edge to gio. he’s also the guy you’ll have as an asset for 4 seasons as opposed to 1 season.

                      you really cant see how trading away betances, romine, and even another solid prospect for 1 year of danks at $10M is insane?

                    • Ted Nelson

                      thenamestsam– How is the WAR Dank has averaged the last four years “generous” value?

                      slugger– “you really cant see how trading away betances, romine, and even another solid prospect for 1 year of danks at $10M is insane?”
                      It’s not insane at all. Betances is wild as they come and Romine is a borderline starting C prospect. Chances are you would be trading a reliever and a bad starting C for an ace.
                      If I were a White Sox fan/employee, I would hate that deal and be dead against it. They’re a huge market team that can just keep Danks rather than give him away for another team’s B-prospects. I’m getting some real top prospects/young contributors for Danks or keeping him.

                    • thenamestsam

                      Ted, I just weighted the last 3 years 3,2,1 which given how bad this past year was comes out to 3.5 WAR for next year. You’re right that it’s not actually that generous to Danks; It’s certainly possible that he might post more than 4 WAR next year. Even if you bump it up to 5 though it’s not going to fundamentally alter the calculation in any way.
                      I think my main point (Gio is clearly the better commodity once you factor in the contracts) stands. However,you’re right to take issue with my choice of the word generous, however.

                  • Ted Nelson

                    If you are a White Sox fan, would you support the White Sox giving up Danks for anything less than that?

                    • thenamestsam

                      I think this is actually an interesting issue and one of the reasons these prospect for star trades are always so contentious when raised. For the fans it’s almost easier if he leaves as a free agent, then they just curse his name under their breaths and boo him whenever he’s in town. If they trade him, it transfers the blame over his departure to the team, and that’s why you’re right when you say the fans would be against it, and it’s easier for the team. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good decision for the team.
                      You say trading a reliever and a bad starting catcher for an ace, but it’s really only 1 year of an ace. If you resign him after that you’re talking about a completely different deal. If you expect to get good value out of that contract going forward you’re hoping he likes being in Chicago enough to take a slight discount. If he does, maybe he comes back even after you trade him, Cliff Lee style. I wonder how much trading a player impacts their decision to resign when they become a free agent. If it does substantially, then you might be right that ignoring the value of resigning him isn’t correct.

  • baseballnation

    The Yankees don’t have an offensive, high level player outside of Montero that would intrigue he A’s. Can’t imagine a Romine, Laird deal do it.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t know that Billy Beane would only look for high minors bats. It’s their biggest need and I’m sure he’d be all for it if the value were there, but I think he’s smart enough to look at value over need.

      Not saying that the Yankees will or should do this, but they could probably build a package around younger guys and/or pitching along with some immediate bats like Romine, CoJo, Laird, Nunez.

  • Ted Nelson

    I am a little confused at how the Fister trade is a comparison to a Gio-Montero deal…

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Not sure that was the point. I think he was saying we should look at the return the M’s got for Fister, not that Montero was comparable to that return. Just saying that Bean would have the right to ask that much.

      • Ted Nelson

        I understand what he was saying. What I’m saying is what does the return for Fister have to do with whether or not Gio brings back Montero?

        The Ms traded a crappier pitcher for a much, much crappier return… so I don’t see why it’s a good comparison. It’s something like Andruw Jones signed for $1 million per, so Carl Crawford has the right to ask for $25 million per.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    If Banuelos, Bentances, Montero are the “big 3” prospects, then I would be opposed to including them in a deal for Gio, he’s not an ace. That said.. someone has to pitch on days 2 through 5, and he’s capable of that.

    • Slugger27

      gio has posted very nice stats in his first 2 years as a full time starter. aren’t those numbers basically what we’re hoping manban becomes?

      • Kosmo

        manban isn´t exactly tearing it up in the minors. In 2011 he had a little Oliver Perez in him. He´s never thrown more than 129 innings in his pro career , so now NY has to wait on him overcoming his control issues and raising his IP totals. He´s still a work in progress. If Beane wants him as the principle piece in a trade for Gio I´d say go for it.

        • Slugger27

          yes, agreed, thats exactly my point.

    • Jesse

      I’d center a trade around Betances for him.

      • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

        My irrational prospect-hugging of Dellin Betances says no to that.

        • Jesse

          Gotta give up something good to get something good in return.

      • Craig Maduro

        I want to say no, but it might not be a terrible idea considering both at least share the same issues with control. I like Gio somewhat, but that’s because I can watch him from afar and his BB don’t negatively impact the Yankees. I’m not the least bit anxious to see anything much more than Betances head over in a hypothetical move.

  • Joe

    If you can keep Montero & Banuelos out of the conversation and get this done for a Romine/Betances level package then I would make this deal. Gio essentially replaces Betances on the Yankees and Romine is expendable.

    If the cost of doing business is Montero or Manny? Sign Darvish and more veteran bounce back projects like Harden, etc. and roll the dice.

    Not to mention the Yankees should be developing the rehabbed Joba as a starter under Rothschild’s watch since the pen is already stacked and the rotation is thin. If he fails again just put him back in the pen. He’s barely the 6th inning guy now.

  • Bronx Byte

    Hold off until the winter meetings Dec. 5-8 in Dallas.

    Meanwhile, padlock Burnett in his barn in Maryland.

  • Jesse

    The Yankees have their own Gio Gonzalez in the minors, his name is Manny Banuelos.

  • Bean Tooth

    I look at that photo and think, Vote for Pedro.

  • Yazman

    Mike, who do you think we’d need to give up to land him?

    • Jesse

      Obviously, I’m not Mike, but my guess is that Montero would have to be in the deal to get him. The A’s NEED offense BAD. He’d certainly have to headline a package for him, in my opinion.

      • Craig Maduro

        That’d have to be a resounding ‘no’ from the Yankees’ end though.

  • TogaSean

    I’d pass on Gio, I just don’t see the upside as being worth what you’d have to give up to get him. I’d much rather continue seeing the development of manban and betances while the yanks use their buying power to get a guy like darvish in the meantime.

  • yoo-boo

    While I like his back to back seasons with 200 innings, he does not fare well against more talented lineup it seems.

    I believe acquiring him will cost more than what we want to fork over but you never know. I may be okay with giving away Phelps, Warren and Joseph for him and passing on Wilson in order to keep 1st round draft pick what will eventually be reserved for a stud SP.

    Yanks will need to re-sort on young pitchers somehow.

  • Kevin

    He’s not worth what it would take to give up for him.

  • S

    If the yankees are willing to trade for a guy who has great stuff but severe walk-itis, they might as well move betances into the rotation without anymore minor league seasoning. This strikes me as a trade for the sake of a trade. Until Gio actually shows at the very least decent command, might as well just keep the prospects until someone better is put on the chopping block

  • Dicka24

    Wow, a 42.5% strike rate? Holy %^#$ that’s bad. I know the kid has control problems, but sheesh. All those walks would scare me in the AL East.

    I think this is a tough one from a Yankees perspective. I think the A’s will, and should ask for the moon. The kid is 26, and has 4 more years of team control. Nevermind that he’s a swing and miss lefty, he’s an affordable, 26 year old under team control for 4 more years one at that. I don’t see how the Yankees could aquire him without giving up at least one of the ManBan, Montero, Betances trio. The A’s will probably demand two. If I’m the Yankees GM, I don’t do that for a kid that can’t come close to hitting the strike zone half the time.

    I prefer Danks to Gio, but Montero or Manban wouldn’t be a consideration in any deal. What I like about Danks is the track record, and that he bridges the gap to the superb free agent class of 2012.

    • nycsportzfan

      I like Danks, but hes no GIO.. I don’t know why people sleep on GIO or JAIR for that matter.. Those are legit ACES in my opinion, and guys i always feel are gonna pitch well.. Danks had a real shaky yr, and i would like to have him, but the upside to a Jair or Gio si way to high to pass up, as long as u keep Montero and either Ban or BEtances.. Our system is loaded, we gotta pull the trigger on someone why the system is looked at as so promising..

  • nycsportzfan

    I’m sorry people, Gio is exactly what the Yanks need.. He could end up being better then what we got outta CC last yr, and is every bit as durable and is super young, just entering his prime seasons.. If i’m the yanks, i’m getting my hands on either GIO or Jair, as those are legit, young, ACES, that will not have to be your act, but your number 2… I woulden’t give up Montero, as the Yanks simply need guys who can hit for AVG, or it’ll be the same story come playoff time every yr, as streaky power hitters usually tend to flame out come postseason time, and you see what good solid hitters like Hideki and Cano(last yr), and Damon and Jeter(in prime) can do in the postseason.. Outside of Cano, Montero is probably the one HITTER we hope is gonna be a 300ba hitter or right about there going forward(maybe not in 2011, but short there after), and that is every bit as important as having guys who can hit 40hrs but K all the time, and especially when your facing guys like verlander twice in a series.. But if u can get Gio for say Betances/ Romine/ Warren/Kontos, i’d do it!

    That still leaves u with Banuelos, Phelps, Noesi, Stoneburner, Nova, Hughes, and Brett Marshall going forward, with a bunch of other even younger guys who can eventually be solid.. I put Marshall in tehre, because he should end next yr close to Triple AAA anyways.. And you’ll have GIO as well.. Guys like GIO and JAIR are the real pitchers i wish were free agents, and going VIA trade when you ahve a system like ours right now, is clearly the best option, as your getting way more potential, and guys who aren’t all ready in there 30’s..