White Sox going back to the future with Gio Gonzalez

The White Sox’s reported signing of Gio Gonzalez is not yet official, but like the Yasmani Grandal signing, there was a spot on the White Sox roster for him as soon as the offseason started, so it could’ve been made official well earlier as far as anybody’s concerned.

(UPDATE: James Fegan says it’s coming:)

The White Sox have two starting pitching vacancies, but only one of them needs a proven, durable, projectable entity. It wouldn’t hurt to sign two of them, but the other could be less certain to hold up over the course of a whole season, because Michael Kopech is going to kick somebody out of a rotation spot in short order when he proves fully back from Tommy John surgery.

Gonzalez fits that second vacancy mold as good as anybody, as he posted a 3.50 ERA with Milwaukee over a half-season’s worth of starts, and less than a half-season’s worth of innings.

Assuming the signing goes through, Gonzalez will have the benefit of knowing when and for whom he will pitch far earlier than he did last year. A victim of baseball’s dormant winter, he didn’t sign until March, when he agreed to a split contract with the Yankees that was worth anywhere from $3 million to $12 million if he made the majors with them. That didn’t quite materialize, but after opting out of his deal at its deadline, the Brewers picked him up on a $2 million deal at the end of April and benefited from doing so. He posted a 3.50 ERA over 19 games and 17 starts.

Here’s where we note that Gonzalez averaged fewer than five innings a start with Milwaukee, and it was due to a few factors. Milwaukee’s starter tend to work shorter because of Craig Counsell’s faith in his bullpen. Specific to Gonzalez, he’s always walked an above-average amount of guys, which meant that he was running up his pitch count after coming off an abbreviated offseason. If the Brewers were concerned about overdoing it, that concern was warranted, as he missed nearly two months with shoulder fatigue. He pitched well after returning in late July, though, even while shifting to the bullpen for some piggyback work.

There’s a decent chance Gonzalez could be more than he showed in 2019 during a highly irregular season. The curveball is still a weapon, and while his starts aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing, he knows what he’s doing. His job is to take the place of guys who don’t know what they’re doing (Dylan Covey and Carson Fulmer), or for whom knowledge is no longer enough (Ross Detwiler).

In an ideal situation, Gonzalez’s willingness to take up some bullpen work will come in handy when Michael Kopech proves ready to force somebody out of a regular job. The most pessimistic forecast has Gonzalez looking like the last one they employed (Miguel), whose history of dodging the worst with shoulder issues finally caught up to him.

The most cynical forecast has the White Sox treating Gonzalez like their Zack Wheeler replacement instead of somebody with a healthier track record like Dallas Keuchel. The White Sox needed to sign somebody like Gonzalez, though, so I’m willing to temporarily assume that they’re putting a circular peg in the circular hole, rather than the star-shaped one.

* * * * * * * * *

More than the value he provides, the Gonzalez signing is a fun story due to his own extensive history with the White Sox, a team he’s never actually pitched for. As Josh and everybody else has noted, the White Sox drafted Gonzalez in 2004, traded him for Jim Thome in November 2005, brought him back with Gavin Floyd when trading Freddy Garcia to the Phillies in December 2006, then sent him out to Oakland in the Nick Swisher deal in January of 2008.

All of those trades were generally OK ideas, although the Swisher trade exposed the White Sox’s issues with team-building that followed them well into the next decade. While Gonzalez has had a terrific career for other clubs, Kenny Williams put Gonzalez to good use himself.

The hope is that Gonzalez will be of use to the actual White Sox, and it’d be fun to see after a draft where the team found itself compelled to invest in high school pitchers again.

The White Sox took Gonzalez 38th overall in 2004, gaining the supplemental-round pick because the Yankees signed Tom Gordon, which tell you how far back this history goes. The White Sox could afford to take a flier on a prep arm that high because they already used two other picks on college players — Josh Fields at No. 18, and Clemson lefty Tyler Lumsden at No. 34.

Gonzalez ended up exceeding Fields and Lumsden, and it turns out that he’s been the third-best first-rounder of that entire draft, with his WAR of 29.2 behind only Justin Verlander (70.9) and Jered Weaver (34.4).

The White Sox have avoided prep pitchers since, by and large, selecting only four of them in the first two rounds of the 14 subsequent drafts.

  • 2007: Nevin Griffith (second, 89th)
  • 2009: David Holmberg (second, 71st)
  • 2013: Tyler Danish (second, 55th)
  • 2014: Spencer Adams (second, 44th)

Holmberg has been the only player to provide value, in that he was promising enough to be included in a trade for a productive major leaguer (Edwin Jackson). Then again, the White Sox haven’t had a whole lot of successes even among their collegiate picks.

The 2019 draft saw the White Sox place an unprecedented emphasis on prep talent, drafting pitchers Matthew Thompson in the second round and Andrew Dalquist in the third, along with center fielder James Beard in the fourth. Asking either of them to become Gonzalez might be a little too much, but asking either to become promising enough to involve in a beneficial trade is a little more realistic. Now, three trades in four years? Again, that’s probably asking a little too much.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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tdogg

I’m cool with this. Just make sure to add the additional quality starter that’s needed. Counsel was goofy at times and pulled Gio in a few games I watched. There is no bat in his hand, so no worries on “pinch hitter needed” in the 5th inning.

anthonyprinceton

Yeah, Gio alone is not enough. Kopech and possibly Cease will have innings limits, Rodon can’t stay healthy. Gio can always move to the pen if necessary.

knoxfire30

For sake of argument lets assume Gio is getting 8 mil. That puts the sox give or take at what 90 mil??? Add 10 on EE, 20-25 on Ryu or Kuechel. Thats not to shabby for a total obligation of 120-125. Even Jerry’s cheap ass should be able to handle that.

roke1960

That would be ok, but I’d rather see 20-25 on Ryu/Keuchel and 17 on Castellanos, so we can have a ligitimate rf against lefties. That would put the total obligation at about $130M.

knoxfire30

sure, i mean there is no reason this team shouldnt be at 150 but baby steps

anthonyprinceton

$150m is certainly a reasonable number. That would have put them right around the top third of opening day payrolls for this past season. Ranking wise, that is in the same neighborhood they were in for several years after 2005, bottom of the top 10.

GrinnellSteve

I’d like to see Ryu and Hudson. If they do that, I’m willing to let the rest sort itself out.

Eagle Bones

I had them at just under 90 mil before Gio. Might be missing something though.

knoxfire30

grandal 18.25
abreu 11
colome 10.5
Herrera 8.50
Mazara 5.25
McCann 5.50
Rodon 4.50
Anderson 4
Garcia 4
Jiminez 1.50

73 mil

Gio 8

81

15 other players at .6 = 9 mil

90

I am probably missing some buyout money or deferrments but this is how I got to 90.

GoGoSoxFan

Cot’s has them at 83.775, so you’re not missing much.

Eagle Bones

I have Abreu at 12.67 (including the prorated portion of his bonus). MLBTR has Mazara at 5.7 last I checked. McCann was 5.4 I believe (though a very minor quibble). Jimenez is 2.33 according to BR. Alonso had a 1 mil buyout. I included Marshall (he’s at 1.3 mil est). I don’t know what the heck the min salary is now, but I think BR uses 750k. Comes out to 97.2 mil on my sheet.

Eagle Bones

Colome at 10.3 also.

anthonyprinceton

Looks like Gio is getting $5m guaranteed.

spartacusmax

I like avoiding prep talent in the greater organizational depth chart building process.

Seemingly with Gonzalez now the Carlos Rodon project has come to it’s predicted futility. He’s just always hurt and should be shutdown until traded.

Rebuild complete now with a contending mindset CWS.

Depth in pitching taking priority for an extended 4 year run is required.

I’d find a willing rebuild GM for a well rested Carlos Rodon.
Baltimore has a 21yr old lefty D L Hall.

Eagle Bones

What would Baltimore want with a guy who has 2 years of control left? They’re not going to be competitive until like 2025.

HallofFrank

I don’t like the trade idea, but theoretically Rodon is a nice fit for Baltimore. He’d be a project to try to flip for better prospects if he bounced back nicely. Though with the injury I’m not sure he’d have quite enough time to build his value back up.  

Eagle Bones

I mean yeah I guess if the Sox were basically giving him away that makes sense. I don’t see why they’d do that though.

rotofool

I like Gio as a fit for that Nova role, but agree the SOX need to add another, better SP to help anchor the staff.  I’d be fine we’re they to hit on Keuchel and preserve prospect depth, although Price may have the highest upside of any seemingly available starter.

A corner IF bat also seems to need addressing.  To me COL’s McMahon would seem a good fit (LH, 2B/1B, 25yo, cheap, available, upside).  Paired with an expensive reliever (Shaw, McGee, Wade Davis), it might not cost the farm and would greatly strengthen the bench/pen.  Send’em Zebby and Rutherford.  Perhaps CO can save a few $$$ to afford to keep its stars.

Eagle Bones

Where would he play? The infield is pretty well locked down the next several years. I’m not averse to adding good players, but they should probably fill the black holes before filling holes that aren’t there.

asinwreck

The one infielder I’d want to pick up is a veteran second baseman for whatever length of time the Sox want to keep Madrigal down. Ideally, this guy could then slot in as a utility guy once Madrigal is in Chicago.

There are tons of these players freely available. My suggestion was Ben Zobrist, but César Hernández, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Travis Shaw, Scooter Gennett, Joe Panik, Adeiny Hechavarría, or Brock Holt will do.

Even old friends Yolmer or Saladino could fill this role. Given the glut on the market, the Sox can afford to wait a while to sign someone. (Just, please, not Gordon Beckham.)

Eagle Bones

Yup, agreed. He can hold down 2B until Madrigal is up and bump Mendick to AAA at that point if needed. Like you said, plenty of guys that fit that mold, should be able to get one for cheap.

GrinnellSteve

I wonder if they view Cuthbert in that light, even though he hasn’t played any second in 2 years. I certainly hope that isn’t the case.

asinwreck

I would prefer someone who can actually field the position. Also, someone who can manage an OBP above .300. It’s possible Cuthbert is earmarked as Charlotte’s starting third baseman. I hope that is the case.

GrinnellSteve

From your fingers to Rick’s eyes.

Eagle Bones

Sure hope not, he’s pretty awful.

AdamH

Gennett would still be considered pretty good, no? He had a bad year because of injuries, but he’s only 29 and prior two years had an OPS over 120.
If he’s actually in that same price range as those other guys, should be adding him immediately and then just have him DH or see if he can platoon in RF whenever Madrigal is ready.

asinwreck

The Giants released him in August and no one’s picked him up yet. Don’t know if he’s injured. Would a team looking for a starting 2B choose him over, say, Starlin Castro?

Eagle Bones

He was pretty awful this year. I would think he could be had on a cheap one year deal.

I do like the idea of a guy like him or Kipnis or even Zobrist who can play some OF as well.

onedog

The Fielding Bible listed Yolmer Sanchez 3 times in DRS PARTS system

melidoperez

Crowdsourcing to see if I’m the only one more interested in solidifying the everyday lineup vs the bulk $ going to a SP and the risk that entails. Most attractive to you right now:

A. Ozuna 5/85 + Nova/Cashner/Sánchez 1/ 6 to 8
B. Castellanos 5/90 + Nova/Cashner/Sanchez 1/ 6 to 8
C. Keuchel 4/80 + Calhoun/Dickerson 2/16
D. Ryu 3/65 + Calhoun/Dickerson 2/16

Eagle Bones

I choose Option E: Ozuna and Ryu/Keuchel

karkovice squad

I think I prefer the one where the Sox sign Ryu and prevent the Twins from signing Donaldson.

Michael Kenny

I still think Ryu should be the top priority, but I don’t see them signing Calhoun or Dickerson now that they have Mazara. If they do add a budget outfielder, it should probably be a lefty masher.

denman

Not much faith in Maraza having a 2020 breakout season.

asinwreck

I like this deal. If he’s effective, the Sox have him for 2021.

Per source, Gio González and White Sox have a deal. Base salary of $4.5M in 2020 with up to $1M in incentives ($250K for reaching 15, 20, 25, 30 starts)

$7M club option for 2021, with a $500K buyout.

Wrote about his potential impact here: https://t.co/gqhi2GDjKt

— James Fegan (@JRFegan) December 20, 2019

Eagle Bones

Yeah they did well here. Though he was on a milb deal to start last year so I guess we shouldnt be shocked.

lil jimmy

Even if he’s a long man ,spot start guy in year two. This looks nice.

christmastime

Puig 3/12, Nova 1/8, Wood 3/8, A Russell 1/5………Playoffs

35Shields

Puig 3/12, Nova 1/8, Wood 3/8, A Russell 1/5………Playoffs

Absolutely not. Go away

dwjm3

Yeah I don’t want Russell 

Michael Kenny

I personally like the team free of human garbage. Just my opinion

denman

I was for taking a flier on Puig; a lot of talent and could be had for cheap. But, from what I’ve been able to gather from his Dodger teammates, he’s a clubhouse pain. I’m not sure the Sox would be the positive influence I would have hoped. And, there are a 1/2 dozen or more free agent infielders I’d take ahead of Russell, including Beckham.

lil jimmy

Following the lead of this years draft. I see at least two more high school pitchers being drafted early in the upcoming draft.

christmastime

Lovely to interact with you Mr. Shields

christmastime

Doesn’t have to be Russell, want a utility infielder who can play SS, not named Mendick. Having a rookie backing up a rookie is foolhardy. 

lil jimmy

Leury?

PopeDonnPall

Gio’s got a sense of humor.

PopeDonnPall