Mike Gonzalez Potentially an Oriole

Baltimore may not be thought of as the class of the AL East, but that’s not stopping them from making some additions. Last week they dealt reliever Chris Ray for starter Kevin Millwood and now it appears likely that Mike Gonzalez will join the fray on a two-year deal worth at least $12M and up to as much as $16M. The deal is currently contingent on Gonzalez passing a physical – usually a given, although as we witnessed with Brett Wallace, not always without blips.

Gonzalez is a lefty with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and ridiculous slider. His fastball has some riding action in to left-handed batters, but only resulted in 8% swinging strikes. The slider, though, that’s the money pitch. He threw it 423 times last season and 17.1% resulted in empty swings. He occasionally tosses a non-fastball/slider, but those are his bread and butter. Above average strikeout rates are nothing new for the 31-year-old. Since coming over to Atlanta his walks have been kept in check as well. That means the only question is whether he can remain healthy.

Bobby Cox rode Gonzalez pretty tough this season; using him in a career high 80 games (previous high: 54) as he pitched 74.1 innings (54) and threw 1,307 pitches. This from a guy who threw just over 1,830 pitches in the previous three seasons combined – most of which he missed with injuries. As for the money itself, it’s no slam dunk. Gonzalez has never been worth $6M in free agent dollars throughout his career and while he should receive a boost from increased leverage, I guess I’m more concerned about Gonzalez’ health than anything. Factor in the loss of next year’s second round pick and I’m not sure I completely approve of giving decent – not great, mind you – cash to a injury prone reliever coming off his heaviest workload.

Gonzalez figures to be the Orioles’ closer which raises the question: do the Orioles really need a closer? There’s some nice talent in Baltimore, and sure, they have the cash, so why not, right? Plus, there’s an outside chance the Orioles could really make a run in 2011, which would make all of this butter.

Make sure to add your projection for Gonzalez in 2010 here.

In other news, Brandon Lyon has the best agent in baseball.

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13 Responses to “Mike Gonzalez Potentially an Oriole”

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  1. I agree with this, but the deal looks a little better given that it takes the O’s out of the running for Fernando Rodney, which would have been a far (far) worse signing.

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  2. China Grove says:

    I am not so sure Daniel. It depends somewhat on the length of contract. As a Braves fan, I can assure you that Gonzo’s arm has fallen off significantly over the past year. Actually, I would add that the statistics don’t even show the truth of this, as the Braves rarely used Gonzalez in too many tough spots later in the season. Soriano took the 9th and Moylan was the go-to guy down the stretch.

    Further, I actually owned both Gonzo and Rodney in my fantasy league, and I’m fairly sure Rodney was a better performer ‘for-the-buck’.

    I’d agree that Gonzalez is better, but with far larger risk… and likely at a higher price.

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  3. No, I do agree CG. I’d be very surprised if the O’s get 60 IP a year from Gonzalez.

    We’ll see about Rodney’s price, but given Lyon’s deal I’d think it’ll be at least close to Mike’s deal.

    As for the risk, I don’t think it’s that much worse. If Gonzalez gets hurt and misses time you get 0 out of him. With Rodney, even if he’s on his game you’re not getting too much more than 0 anyway. To me that means that Mike Gonzalez can miss time/lose effectiveness and still be worth something, while Rodney can’t.

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  4. saj says:

    Flanaganesque. Andy’s 2010 theme is to only bring in pitchers whose OPS against trend has been ratcheting upward. That way they come really cheap, like only 9m for a starter whose trend projects to a 790 ops vs. and 6m for a reliever who projects to 650. Say I just noticed a great coincidence – both those numbers are likely to rank the same #55 for their positions. Possibly Andy is so good at robbing other gms for his sell-by date players because he so clearly understands how they think.

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  5. Jay says:

    I’ve always liked Gonz, but as an Orioles fan I’m just not that into it. Oakland has proven time and again that closers can be found. The O’s should understand this well after the Ray injury. The money and years are fine. Injuries are a concern. The real loss in the draft pick. It’s how the O’s now have talent. They need to stick to the path of prospect development.

    Tho if you told me it was Ray and a 2nd round pick for Millwood and Gonzalez, I guess that doesn’t sound too bad.

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  6. Matty Brown says:

    Players dubbed as “Closers” will forever see exxagerated money.

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  7. Larry Smith Jr. says:

    It seems to me that the Orioles have improved themselves dramatically in a small period of time, are having an outstanding off-season, and really are looking like a first class organization as of late. And for their efforts, will likely finish in fourth or last place again next year.

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  8. JollyRoger says:

    I think it is a good move for the orioles.
    It can be demoralizing for a young pitching staff to see 7th/8th inning leads disappear like what happened last season after J Johnson had to take over the closer role.
    Johnson who is clearly better suited to a set up role also blew 3 of 11 saves opportunities.

    Altogether so far, the orioles have dished out
    – $ 9million + Chris Ray +Rule 5 pick for Millwood
    – $12 million [+$ 4million in incentives] n the 43rd pick for Gonzales.
    – undisclosed amount for Garret Atkins

    The O’s under A.McPhail is showing they have a sound plan/direction and spending wisely compare to Hou/Lyon and KC/Kendall.

    They are slowly accomplishing their off season objectives of
    – finding an innings eater in Millwood to take the burden off J.Guthrie
    – getting a bona closer n let Johnson & Koji Uheara assume the set up roles
    – getting a decent stop gap 3B until Josh Bell is ready

    Granted these are baby steps, but the orioles are clearly improving themselves without having to trade away any of their promising young players yet.

    They may still end up finishing 4th in the AL East but if they can showed significant improvements in the win/loss column, they might a better chance to attract free agents from a stronger 2011 FA class.

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  9. Haze says:

    This is an OK signing for the Orioles. The bullpen has been terrible for a long time, and a backend with Gonzalez and Uehara should be a big improvement. The dollars are high, and Gonzalez is high-risk both with his health and his flyball tendencies in the AL East. But the O’s are going to have to overpay until the team improves significantly…

    Now about Garrett Atkins…. I hope that’s for the veteran minimum, I’d be shocked to see even Melvin Mora production out of him next season.

    These aren’t the players a team like the Orioles should be signing if this is going to affect their ability to draft (losing the 2nd round pick) and sign (budget?) amateurs.

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  10. TheImpossibleMan says:

    Several times last year, when Matusz or Tillman were pitching, Trembley would deliberately put the best defensive lineups behind them he could – sacrificing bats for gloves in order to protect his young guys. Similarly, I think this move is designed to protect the young guys by giving the team a real closer.

    Also, the team DIDN’T have a real closer. I think Johnson and Gonzalez will battle it out in Spring Training for the closer’s role and the O’s will be a better team for it. Still, that’s a big price tag…

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  11. Craig says:

    Strange signing, it seemed like the Orioles front office had done a good job of building for the future before this move and the Millwood trade. IMO, Baltimore would be better off spending the Millwood/Gonzo cash on over slot draft picks and int’l talent.

    Glad to see your reference to the Wallace/Taylor trade. I’d love to hear some fangraphs analysis of that trade. IMO, Toronto just gave Oakland the player that they always hoped Vernon Wells or Alexi Rios would be (Taylor) for the second coming of Lyle Overbay (Wallace).

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  12. Casadilla says:

    Didn’t the O’s flip George Sherrill at the deadline for a B level 3B and C+level SP prospect to a team willing to overpay? Gonzalez will be another version of the same story. Seems like a good pickup.

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  13. jirish says:

    I don’t see a particular problem with this signing. I guess you could question “high priced closer” for a team not likely to be a contender, but all teams need someone to finish games. It is true Oakland seems to find relief pitching from their system and the waiver wire. San Diego does too. Baltimore hasn’t been able to do it that way. Until they figure out a way to emulate Oakland and San Diego, they are going to have to trade for or sign some of their relief help.

    They didn’t give up a prospect; Gonzalez isn’t blocking anyone, and a two year contract isn’t going to hurt their finanacial health. Hey, if the Orioles brass likes Gonzalez enough to pay him that, I say go for it.

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