Is Gio Gonzalez Worth the Hype?

Step aside, C.J. Wilson. There’s a new pitcher in town commanding the attention of major league teams. Following his best season as a pro, the Oakland Athletics are looking to deal Gio Gonzalez. While Gonzalez has developed into a very successful pitcher the last two seasons, there are still some questions about his actual value. Given that he won’t cost as much as the other free agent options — and he would be under team control until 2015 — Gonzalez appears to be a valuable piece in this market. How does he stack up against his competition?

In order to gauge Gonzalez’s value in this market, let’s look at how he compares to some of the other available pitchers over the last two seasons — when Gonzalez became a full-time starter.

While Wilson and Edwin Jackson have pitched better than Gonzalez over that period, both players will make more money than Gonzalez next season. Roy Oswalt has also performed better than Gonzalez in fewer innings pitched, but his back injury makes him a riskier proposition going forward. Kuroda also looks like a decent option, but he’s 36 years-old and isn’t a long-term option. If a team doesn’t want to commit the years and the money to these free agents, Gonzalez looks like a good, cheap alternative.

If a team is looking to acquire a pitcher by trade, the ability to control Gonzalez until 2015 makes him an intriguing option. Gavin Floyd has been a better pitcher over the past two seasons — and he’s signed to a very reasonable deal until 2013 — depending on whether his $9.5 million option is picked up. He’ll likely be a better pitcher than Gonzalez over the length of his remaining contract, but getting Gonzalez for an additional two years is significant.

John Danks comes with the same issue. He’s been better than Gonzalez, but Danks is only under contract for one more season before he becomes a free agent. Jonathan Niese may not have pitched as well as Gonzalez over the last two seasons, but he’s also pitched fewer innings. Niese has solid peripherals — and is also under contract until 2015 — making him nearly as desirable as Gonzalez.

Since Gonzalez can be controlled for so long, the A’s are asking for quite a bit for the 26-year-old pitcher. The A’s are allegedly looking for a package similar to the one they received for Dan Haren. They’ve also asked for Jacob Turner, Martin Perez and Mike Stanton/Logan Morrison in separate deals depending on whether you believe the rumors. While Gonzalez has been a good pitcher, he still has his warts.

Since he’s become a permanent member of the A’s rotation, Gonzalez’s 4.09 BB/9 ranks as the highest in baseball. While his high strikeout rate can offset that deficiency, Gonzalez’s walk rate is a one thing holding him back from being an elite starting pitcher. If Gonzalez loses even an ounce of command, things will go downhill for him very quickly.

There’s also a question of how Gonzalez will pitch outside of Oakland’s ballpark, but those worries are overblown. While Gio’s ERA is nearly a run higher on the road, both his FIP (3.97 to 4.15) and xFIP (3.90 to 4.05) are actually better away from the Coliseum. Nearly all of Gonzalez’s peripherals remain the same no matter where he pitches, so a change of scenery shouldn’t affect him as much as people may think.

All told, Gonzalez looks like a valuable commodity in this market. He’s younger and cheaper than the other free-agent pitchers, and he’s under control longer than the pitchers available in trades. He might not be the best pitcher on the market, but Gonzalez is a fine acquisition for a team that misses out on the premier free-agents. When those teams start scrambling to acquire pitchers, Gonzalez might be the most attractive option still on the market.

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Chris is a blogger for He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

37 Responses to “Is Gio Gonzalez Worth the Hype?”

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  1. Bob Loblaw says:

    Do his road FIP and xFIP really prove he’ll be ok away from Oakland? Couldn’t his road ERA be a run higher, in large part, because of factors that FIP and xFIP are supposed to neutralize?

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    • Tom B says:

      ^ this. His home and road FIP should always be roughly the same since it uses a normalized HR rate… which is exactly what changes between pitcher and hitter parks.

      Do that many pitchers really have a different home/road K and BB rate?

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Parks affect both to varying degrees, so why not?

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      • Kampfer says:

        Yes, park factor includes Ks and BBs too.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Last year, leaguewide K/BB for pitchers was 2.44 at home and 2.16 on the road. Everyone performs better at home, and that’s even before taking into account a pitcher-friendly home field.

        And, yes, different parks have different effects on K and BB rates. Differences in wind/humidity/elevation/temperature effect pitch velocity and movement. And differences in ballpark dimensions effect the batters approach at the plate.

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      • cs3 says:

        ” Last year, leaguewide K/BB for pitchers was 2.44 at home and 2.16 on the road. ”


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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        cs3, I don’t know if it’s umpires. I only pitched in high school, where the mounds aren’t as well taken care of, but from my perspective, every mound feels a little different. Pitching is so much muscle memory. Even the background you see out of your peripheral vision could change slightly. the difference in ratio was less than .3. So maybe it’s that during the first inning or two when pitchers are making the slight adjustments that BB increase slightly or K decrease slightly.

        Could just be random too. Is .3 statistically significant?

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  2. It is probably also worth mentioning that Gio is one of those pitchers that fWAR and brWAR disagree strongly on (6.7 fWAR vs 9.2 brWAR over the last two years).

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    • NS says:

      I’d like to see FG pieces split the difference more often in their analyses.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Not really. 7.3 fWAR vs 7.4 bWAR over their careers. The difference is just that he underperformed his FIP his first two seasons and outperformed it his last two seasons.

      I don’t see any evidence to suggest that he will continue to outperform his FIP going forward, so it’s better to use fWAR.

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  3. Matty Brown says:

    apparently my Jays are negotiating with the A’s for him right now, and I am balking at their asking price.

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    • test says:

      He seems like a Ricky Romero type of pitcher -similar fastball velocities and results the past couple of years (also, fWAR and bbWAR are similarly different). As a Jays fan, I’d trade quite a bit to have another Romero in the rotation instead of the dead weight from last year. Of course, the minor league system might be providing this soon anyway, but hey, I want to win now…

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      • Matty Brown says:

        I don’t know about the Romero comparison…sorta similar i guess…

        19.2 K%, 9.4 BB%, 0.87 HR/9, 54.6 GB% for Romero
        21.9 K%, 11.3 BB%, 0.92 HR/9, 47.5 GB% for Gonzalez

        We do have 5 or 6 pitchers in the minors ranked by Sickels as a B+, but I would certainly not deal D’Arnaud. I just don’t think Gio will be worth the prospects; although he is entering his prime.

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    • Penelope Crews says:

      What’s the reported asking price? I don’t really see a match sans Travis D’Arnuad or a couple of arms that have reached AA at the least (think Drew Hutchison/Henderson Alvarez).

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  4. Sammy says:

    BBio BBonzalez

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  5. MikeS says:

    I always liked him, but he’s been traded what? three times already and this would be four. Makes you wonder what people don’t see in him.

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    • B N says:

      Control. The guy is still walking 4 per 9. That ain’t good. With that said, his K rate gives him enough upside that everybody wants to take a crack at lowering the walk rate and having an ace.

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    • Mac says:

      Have to look at the context of those trades. People see greatness in Gio, not problems.

      Gio came up with the Kenny Williams White Sox. Williams flipped a prized prospect in Gio as part of the price tag for the great Jim Thome. The next year Williams decides the farm system could use some stocking and works to bring back his prized possession by giving up Freddy Garcia.

      Gio spends two more dominant years in the White Sox system and becomes the #1 prospect of the team. The White Sox by them had just come off an underwhelming ’07 season and it was time to gear up for another run. So top prospect Gio was AGAIN sent off for a big bat, this time for Nick Swisher.

      It’s all part of the Kenny Williams topsy turvey world of trading.

      Oh, and now Gio’s a valued part of the A’s roster. The A’s love Gio, but it’s a period of rebuilding or the green & gold, so it’s ship out the stars time.

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  6. Derek says:

    When I think of a player who is “hyped”, Gio Gonzalez doesn’t come up in the first 1,000 names.

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  7. greenfrog says:

    Good pitcher, but 4.1BB/9IP the last two years, and 4.1BB/9IP career in the minors. Ricky Romero’s control, in contrast, has been improving over the last few years (4, 3.5, 3.2 BB/9IP).

    If you think Gio can tighten up his control, he could become a front-rotation starter. Otherwise he’s just a very solid mid-rotation lefty (which is nothing to sneeze at).

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  8. Mario Mendoza of posters says:

    I doubt Gio is overhyped, but Danks is underhyped. If I was going to offer a big package for a lefty SP, it would be Danks.

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  9. Pat says:

    Never really understood why people see Gio as an ace yet CJ Wilson isn’t. The media seems to take a popular opinion and run with it, pushing it on everyone else.

    Gio is a VERY good starter with ace potential because of his K rate, but he’s not there yet. The walks are a slight concern.

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    • Tom B says:

      The walks have been a problem for him since his first day in A ball, it’s taken him 3 full seasons to get his walk rate BACK DOWN to the terrible 4.1 it’s at now. it’s not gonna get better, he just have no control.

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  10. Yinka Double Dare says:

    I’d still be really wary of him if I were the GM of a team that played in a good HR ballpark.

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  11. JB Knox says:

    Where can I find his contract information? All I see is he made 420K in 2011, yet this article starts off with him being under team control until 2015. I am not doubting this info I just can’t seem to find his contract parameters anywhere

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  12. Buford says:

    Not that one game matters, but Gio had a game rained out vs. Texas in the 3rd inning where he put up these numbers:

    IP 2.2—Hits 6—ER 7—BB 5

    Year-end ERA would have been 3.39 rather than 3.12

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  13. Hangman says:

    Small sample size cuts both ways. Gio also had a bad game in a rainy NY were he gave up 6 ER in 4.2 inn. If that one game had been actually rained out, his ERA would have been 2.92 for they year.

    He is what he is. A good, young, still improving, cost-controled, lefty.

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  14. Justin says:

    Great, he is a solid upside cheap lefty that can rack up innings… BUT SERIOUSLY, Cole, Milone, Norris, AND Peacock… Milone could possibly end up being exactly what Gio is next year… Milone’s minors are sick and his first call up went fine. Peacock is #34 in BA America’s newish rankings. Norris was #72 coming into the year. Cole is rapidly climbing up the top 100. Giving up two top 100 and a package makes sense, but four!!! This is not a surefire superstar by any stretch of the imagination.

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    • Adam says:

      I agree, i like him a lot, but it was a bit of an overpay. Take away any of the pitchers and I say good deal.

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