Gio Gonzalez is happy to help out in a pinch. The 33-year old pitcher agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal to provide much-needed support to the Milwaukee Brewers’ rotation, and he could receive performance bonuses on top of his salary. Gonzalez received offers from both Milwaukee and the New York Mets when the injury-plagued injury-plagued Yankees released him from his minor league contract. He spent the month of April playing at the Triple-A level, but the Brewers signing him could turn out to be one of the best free agent deals of the season. Here’s why.
The Brewers need help
Milwaukee’s pitchers have been plagued with injuries. Six Brewer pitchers hit the injured list six weeks into the season, including right-hander Bobby Wahl, who the team picked up through a trade with the Mets at the before the season. Wahl is out for the year with a torn ACL.
Left-hander Brent Suter had Tommy John surgery last July, and while he started tossing the ball in January, he went on the 60-day IL with only a possibility of returning late in the season.
Reliever Corey Knebel underwent Tommy John surgery in April, and he won’t return to work until 2020. Jimmy Nelson hit the 10-day IL as he recovered from 2017 shoulder surgery, although he is expected back soon.
Aaron Wilkerson, who belted his first home run this year, missed time with a left foot contusion, but he could return any day. Most recently, right-hander Chase Anderson went on the 10-day IL after suffering a middle finger laceration.
To make a long story short, the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching staff is a far cry from what it was supposed to look like at the beginning of the season. That’s where Gio Gonzalez enters the picture.
Gio Gonzalez’s history
The left-handed Gonzalez has been an All-Star twice and led the National League in wins in 2012. He was a first-round pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2004, and then he was traded around in the minors for the next few years.
Gonzalez made it to the majors with the Oakland A’s in 2008 and earned his first trip to the All-Star game with Oakland in 2011. From there, it was on to the Washington Nationals in December 2011. He earned his way back to the All-Star game in 2012, the same year he became the first Nationals’ pitcher to throw 25 consecutive scoreless innings. Gonzalez signed a five-year extension with the Nats, but the team traded him to Milwaukee during the 2018 campaign. Then came his Milwaukee-Yankees-Milwaukee game of pinball late in the 2018 season that lasted into the offseason and start of 2019.
During his 12 years at the major league level, Gonzalez holds a 3.69 ERA and has a 127-97 win-loss record. He has pitched more than 1,800 innings in more than 300 games started. Put simply, Gio Gonzalez is an innings-eater, which is precisely what the depleted Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff needs in 2019.
Why Gonzalez chose the Brewers, and how it’s going so far
Gonzalez had two offers following his April in the minors, one from the Brewers and the other from the Mets. His history with the Brewers, coupled with their promise he would slot into the starting rotation, led him to Milwaukee. He felt he’d see more starts with the Brewers than the Mets.
In his second Brewer’s start of 2019 on May 5, Gonzalez allowed one run, three hits, and struck out seven in 5-1/3 innings, but he had to settle for a no-decision. The sample size is small, but he has a 2.61 ERA so far this season. Considering the state of their rotation before Gonzalez showed up, the Brewers should be happy with their decision at this point.
Beyond the Brewers’ pitching staff
Other than needing to add help to their ailing pitching staff, the Brewers enjoyed a solid start to the 2019 season. Right fielder Christian Yelich hit his 100th career home run in April and is batting .350 right now. The team sits squarely in the middle of the National League Central with stats measuring them closer to the top of the division than the cellar. With Gonzalez in the mix, the Brewers could make consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the early 1980s.