8:18pm ET: The Yankees are now closing on a deal with Gonzalez, report Heyman and Ken Rosenthal. It will be a minor league deal with a $3M base salary at the MLB level, plus incentives based on games started. Gonzalez also gets an April 20th opt-out if he’s not on the big league roster, which indicates he is not an Opening Day candidate.
5:30pm ET: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have made a contract offer to the still unsigned Gio Gonzalez, though a gap remains. He says there’s not much optimism for a deal right now. Gonzalez is the best available (and only other viable?) free agent starter behind Dallas Keuchel at this point, with Opening Day less than two weeks away.
The Yankees have had interest in Gonzalez in the past, so it’s no surprise they’ve maintained interest now. The 33-year-old threw 171 innings with a 4.21 ERA (4.16 FIP) between the Nationals and Brewers last year, and his strikeout (19.8%), walk (10.7%), and ground ball (45.3%) rates all left something to be desired. Ditto his Statcast profile:
Assuming no setbacks, Luis Severino is slated to return sometime in early-May, and the Yankees expect CC Sabathia to join the rotation in mid-April. Luis Cessa and Domingo German are penciled in as the fourth and fifth starters for the time being with Jonathan Loaisiga likely ticketed for Triple-A Scranton (along with Chance Adams).
Given his age and present stuff and what he did in the National League last year, I’m not entirely sold on Gonzalez being a better option than Cessa or German at this point, but there’s definitely something to be said for adding depth. Is Gonzalez willing to sign with the Yankees as depth? Or will he hold out for a guaranteed rotation spot? That could be a dealbreaker.
For what it’s worth, Gonzalez threw 107 pitches in a seven-inning simulated game last week, says Heyman. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has feel for his pitches yet, but it does mean his arm is stretched out, and that’s half the battle in Spring Training. Gonzalez could be an Opening Day roster option despite being a late signing.
Cot’s has the Yankees’ 2019 luxury tax payroll at $225.02M, giving them less than $1M in wiggle room under the $226M second tax threshold. Once they go over $226M, they get hit with an increased tax rate. The first $980,000 they give Gonzalez (or anyone) is $1.176M in real money due to the luxury tax. Every $1 thereafter is $1.32. It adds up.