Mike Gonzalez Traded to Rangers

The Texas Rangers just can’t stop making trades. After acquiring Mike Adams and Koji Uehera (yes, another Oriole) at the trade deadline, the Rangers went out yesterday and traded for pitcher Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles for a PTBNL.

On the surface, this is a relatively minor move. Ooo, the Rangers add another veteran arm to help them shore up their bullpen down the stretch — not such a big deal, right? For some reason, though, this move has sparked off about 10 different simultaneous thoughts in my head. So if you’re looking for gratuitous, over-the-top coverage of relatively small baseball moves, you’ve come to the right spot today.

I’ll run through this team by team, to help keep my thoughts from becoming too chaotic. First the Rangers, then the Orioles, and then…the Angels?

The Rangers

Before making this trade, the Rangers only had one left-handed pitcher in their bullpen: Darren Oliver. While Oliver is great and all — 2.23 ERA, 2.83 FIP on the year — he’s also 40 years old and a typical Left-Handed One Out Guy (LOOGY). He’s not built for long outings, and although he’s been equally effective against both righties and lefties this season, having another left-handed pitcher will allow the Rangers to make more effective bullpen matchups.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Mike Gonzalez is a good reliever. That might seem like an overstatement, considering he has a 4.27 ERA and 4.28 FIP this season, but the majority of Gonzalez’s struggles have occurred against right-handed hitters. He’s struck out 27% of the lefties he has faced while only walking 4% of them, giving him a 2.55 FIP against them. He’s also been quite effective over the last month, striking out 15 batters in 10 innings, so it’s possible that he’s started to regain some of his form that made him a shutdown closer for the Braves in 2009.

The Orioles

Why is it that the Orioles seem to break every pitcher that they touch? Brian Matusz has taken steps back this season, and hasn’t developed into the pitcher many thought he’d become. Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman have been disappointments since making their major-league debuts. Kevin Gregg all of a sudden imploded since coming to the Orioles this season. Brad Bergesen had a good rookie year, but has struggled since then.

And of course, Mike Gonzalez was a major disappointment last season, posting a 4.01 ERA and getting injured for the majority of the season. I’ll never forget his first appearance as an Oriole, when he allowed three hits and one walk to blow a 3-2 lead and hand the Rays a win on a silver platter. Talk about a great beginning to a 2 year, $12 million deal.

It’s tempting to draw a thread through all these disappointments and to come to the conclusion that the O’s should fire their pitching coach, but I don’t know if it’s that simple. Many of these struggles were the result of injuries, so how much blame do you put on the coaching staff, and how much do you blame rotten luck? Should the Orioles work to  improve their medical team, so they can be better about getting more from their pitchers?

But then I look at a pitcher like Kevin Gregg, who has all of a sudden lost all command of the strikezone with no discernible injury. I don’t know what’s the cause of all these struggles, but something needs to be done.

The Angels

I know, the Angels weren’t involved in this trade in any way, so why are they being mentioned? It comes down to this: the Angels are only 3.5 games behind the Rangers for first place in the AL West, but they’ve done nothing to improve their team down the stretch. They didn’t acquire anyone at the trade deadline and they haven’t acquired anyone since then, meaning the only thing they have done recently to augment their team was promote Mike Trout to the majors. Exciting move? Oh yes. A game-changer? Not really.

By sitting tight, the Angels are essentially handing the division to the Rangers. They started off with a weaker team than the Rangers — BPro has their playoff odds at 10% right now — and the Rangers keep making small moves to improve their team here and there. The Angels have a chance to make the division race close, and to possibly even make the playoffs, but their front office isn’t even giving off the impression that they’re trying at the moment.

Of course, anything can happen down the stretch; the Angels could get hot or the Rangers could fall off a cliff. But the Angels aren’t doing themselves any favors by sitting tight.

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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

23 Responses to “Mike Gonzalez Traded to Rangers”

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  1. The reason the Angels didn’t make a move at the deadline: AA was busy with Rasmus.

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  2. Dash says:

    The other perplexing thing about the Orioles is that they have had 3 different pitching coaches since Gonzalez signed his contract and 3 different managers. It can’t simply be the coaching that causes every pitcher the Orioles touch to suck. I feel bad for Dylan Bundy.

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  3. Adding players does not necessarily improve a team, even if they are good players. How many games has Adams personally lost since joining the Rangers?

    Don’t count the Angels out just yet.

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    • Welp says:

      Nah, definitely go ahead count out the Angels. Right now.

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    • Mr. Jones says:

      Uehara has been the shaky one of the two trade deadline acquisitions, not Adams.

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      • GhettoBear04 says:

        What you’re missing is that Adams gave up a game winning HR to Trumbo to prevent the Angels from being swept in a 4 game series by the Rangers in LAAAA. Obviously, this means that Adams has been bad and any move the Rangers make is probably overrated. Or something, I dunno, it’s an Angels fan.

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  4. SOB says:

    “Kevin Gregg all of a sudden imploded since coming to the Orioles this season.”

    Uhm, Kevin Gregg has always sucked – he’s merely sucking a little bit more then some of his other years (but about equal to how horrible he was in 2009)

    Anyway, we now have 2 season of 4.50 range ERA’s with 4.95 range FIPs in the last 3 seasons from Gregg. He took a different route to this years suckatude, but the same suckatude it still is…

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  5. JCA says:

    Isn’t Oliver more likely to be the guy who goes for more than one batter than Gonzalez? In12 appearances this month, he’s gone 1 batter 4x, but he’s gone 3 batters 5x and 4 and 8 1x each. lower FIP and xFIP v. righties than Gonzalez (2.82 and 3.68 v. 6.19 and 5.14). Gonzalez has been very good this month, so maybe it is a function of the hot hand, but otherwise Oliver is more the guy designed to go against hitters from either side and is still comfortable for an inning of work.

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  6. deadpool says:

    Speaking of Gonzalez, I’d be pretty interested to know how a guy completely loses effectiveness against opposite hand hitting.

    I seem to remember him as a pretty good pitcher to both sides with the Braves. Did he just get worse overall and now he can only get out the side he should be stronger against? Or is there something else going on?

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  7. Takashi Saito says:

    As a former teammate of Gonzo, I can attest to the fact that he has lost velocity over the past few years. While he was in Atlanta with me, his fastball easily touched 96 and his breaking ball was absolutely filthy. Now, his fastball is about 1-2 mph slower with less life while his breaking ball isn’t quite as sharp either. Perhaps the anti-aging cream he bought from Yunel Escobar years ago didn’t work after all…

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  8. Cheery o-di-O's says:

    I was hoping you might have some thoughts on Pedro Strop, whom the O’s received in the trade. He looks like another marginal pitcher, another relatively medicre patch to try to cover up the abyss that has been Oriole pitching this year. Say it ain’t so….

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    • Sean O'Neill says:

      Strop’s actually fairly decent. He was a hitter->pitcher conversion project for the Rockies (can’t recall how he made his way to the Rangers) who got a fair touch of hype after his first full season as a pitcher. He has posted fairly decent peripherals as a reliever in the minors; his command has never been that good, but he strikes out enough guys that he’s still useful, and he keeps the ball on the ground. He’s got excellent stuff with a mid 90s fastball, decent slider, and very good splitter that he can’t control for his life. I haven’t seen any video of him, so I can’t comment on his mechanics.

      Basically, he’s a pitcher with plenty of upside, but he needs to learn to harness his stuff. Great thing he moved to an organization with such a high reputation for nurturing young arms…

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      • GhettoBear04 says:

        Yep. Great stuff, terrible command in the majors. Watching him seemed to suggest that he had too much adrenaline going for his relief outings…that seems like an easy enough thing to fix.

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      • Cheery o-di-O's says:

        Thanks for the info! Good to hear there’s some hope. I’m confident that the expert coaches of our great system will hone him to razor-sharp perfection. :)

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  9. WonkoTheSane says:

    Mark Connor, the Orioles’ pitching coach since Buck Showalter was hired last season, quit earlier this year.

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    • TippysTacos says:

      Not so. Rick Kranitz, the PC under Dave Trembley, finished out the 2010 season after the Showalter hire. Connors was hired in the offseason.

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  10. AA says:

    Poor research on Oliver, who have never been a LOOGY

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  11. RC says:

    “It comes down to this: the Angels are only 3.5 games behind the Rangers for first place in the AL West, but they’ve done nothing to improve their team down the stretch.”

    Exactly what move could the Angels have made that would improve them by 3.5 Wins?

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