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The case for Gio Gonzalez

It’s not a rumor, but maybe it should be.

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The currently playoff positioned A’s are in a position to add a starter as they enter the final month of the playoff race. One name that’s been floated there way in a not-really-a-rumor fashion is that of Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez has an ERA of 6.00 this half and still might be a difference maker for the stretch run. Baseball in 2018 is wild.

The numbers get worse the closer you zoom in and yet we’re here to talk about why Gio Gonzalez (or someone similar) is the right move for the A’s.

The A’s don’t need arms, but they need some arms

In theory, the A’s have enough pitching to get them through the month of September, especially with the roster expanding to 40 men. Frankie Montas, Daniel Mengen, and Chris Bassitt can fill the gaps in the rotation created by Sean Manaea and Brett Anderson. Guys like Josh Lucas, J.B. Wendelken, and Daniel Coulombe will help finish games in which the starter exits early.

But say Frankie Montas isn’t able to make it out of the third inning a day after Trevor Cahill has a tough start and the bullpen has spent Lucas and Petit? There will be some innings to be eaten.

David Forst has indicated that a Gio Gonzalez isn’t likely to happen, and instead the As may go with an “Opener” strategy a la Tampa Bay Rays. That works! But it’s not mutually exclusive to grabbing Gio who might be better as a shorter innings pitcher anyway. With 40 spots soon available, taking on another arm is no problem at all.

Cole Hamels

The idea behind Gonzalez pretty much boils down to a) the fact he was good a couple of months ago and b) that sometimes players get better just by switching teams. Changes of scenery don’t always cure a player, but sometimes they do.

Cole Hamels is throwing harder after being traded from the last place Rangers to the first place Cubs and with that has gone from a decent pitcher in the first half to an absolute stud. Part of that is undoubtedly the Cubs superior defense (something the A’s have too), but it really looks like Hamels is just better now that he’s in a playoff race.

Gonzalez is a change of scenery guy because everyone on the Nats is a change of scenery guy. He’s been good as recently as the first half and there’s reason to believe that playing for a team that cut Shawn Kelley for throwing his glove is getting Gonzalez down. Chemistry can have a major effect and while we can’t really know from our vantage point, it’s highly possible.

Gio’s stuff has stayed roughly the same from the first half to the second in spite of his numbers plummeting. The good pitcher is still in there and the A’s have been able to pull value out of two veterans who started their careers in Oakland already this season. Why not try for a third?

You can never have too many LOOGYs

And the A’s currently have one.

Granted, Gio isn’t a perfect LOOGY. He doesn’t own lefties quite like a Ryan Buchter but has has been much better this year against lefty hitters. With the A’s going to their bullpen so early in games so frequently, another LOOGY is even more valuable. With half or more of games belonging to the pen, the A’s will have more situations to use a LOOGY and Gonzalez’s worst case is giving Melvin one more arm to call on to gain a matchup advantage.

Also, using a LOOGY earlier in games makes it harder for opposing managers to pinch hit. Should they pinch hit to counter a matchup, they burn their bench.

A clerical note

It may surprise you (or maybe just me) to read that players can in fact be traded after August 31st. Players can be traded through the waiver process into September, however players changing teams after August 31st are ineligible for the playoffs.

Anyone the A’s would be willing to add wouldn’t be a crucial for the playoffs. Obviously, it would be ideal if they were eligible but anyone the A’s would target would fit more of an innings eater mold. So while it might seem optimal and necessary to make a move right away, the A’s do have time.

The downside

Gonzalez is still owed $2 million or so dollars fr the final month of the season. It’s not a lot of money, certainly not a hinderance. It is a potential hinderance when it’s attached to a non-sure thing like Gonzalez and ultimately will be a factor in a move like this not happening.

Between the lines, the A’s don’t have a whole lot of innings to use as a testing ground. There will be the occasional blowout or two, but most innings are high leverage and an area you might hesitate to roll the dice with Gonzalez. A year ago, the A’s could have taken a flyer on a Gonzalez type and run him out there as much as possible to let him get right. Not the case right now.

Finally, Gonzalez has been pretty bad this half, and may in fact continue being pretty bad even if he’s wearing a different jersey. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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