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