When Ken Rosenthal mentioned on Friday that the Oakland A’s will listen to offers for practically everyone on their roster, left-hander Gio Gonzalez was a name that probably came to the minds of all 30 Major League GMs, and with good reason.
He’s young, controllable, and entering the prime of his career; the type of player Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos would love to get his hands on. But would it make sense?
In 2008 and 2009, Gonzalez toiled against Triple-A hitters before making jumps to The Show, where he averaged more than one strikeout per inning but gave up too many hits and battled control issues. Things clicked for him last season in his first full big league campaign, though, as he managed a 3.23 ERA/3.78 FIP in a career-high 33 starts (200.2 innings) while cutting down on the amount of hits he allowed.
In 2011, Gonzalez put together a season very similar to his 2010 campaign, going 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA/3.64 FIP across 32 starts with a ground ball rate of over 47 percent for the second-straight season. The biggest difference was his increased strikeout totals, thanks particularly to his improved approach against left-handed hitters, where his sweeping curveball helped raise his strikeout percentage against them to 10.6 this year from 7.3 in 2010. In fact, Gonzalez finished just three strikeouts shy of 200 this past season, and his 8.78 K/9 ranked 4th in the AL and 11th in MLB.
While there’s no denying that Gonzalez will continue to be a power pitcher, his walk rate continues to be a concern to some people. As one of the few pitchers that averaged over four walks per nine frames, Gonzalez’s 4.05 BB/9 was the highest mark in the AL and second highest in all of baseball to only James McDonald of the Pirates. Gonzalez walked at least one batter in all of his 32 starts this season, finishing with only one walk allowed in just seven outings. Nevertheless, Gonzalez was able to limit the damage, finishing the year with a LOB percentage of just over 77, narrowly cracking MLB’s top 20 in that category.
Even with his walks, though, it’s hard to ignore all the positives. Having just turned 26 this past September, Gonzalez has logged at least 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, and he’s marginally increased the average velocity of all four of his pitches every year. He’s three years younger than another available southpaw, Giants’ lefty Jonathan Sanchez, his ground ball rate would play out well in many ballparks, and, though he qualified as a Super Two player this year, he’s under club control for four more seasons through 2015.
The Jays obviously aren’t the only team that knows of these positives, though, and, given the weak market for pitchers this offseason combined with the fact that Oakland is really in no rush to move him, one would think that they would be able to obtain an impressive haul for Gonzalez, their best starter in 2011.
Like every pitcher in baseball, it’s almost guaranteed that Anthopoulos is doing his trademark due diligence and at least exploring what the cost would be to acquire Gonzalez. If the price makes sense, the Jays have quality prospects that they could send to Oakland, even if the Athletics are stocked with pitching. It’s highly unlikely, though, that Anthopoulos would get into a bidding war and offer an exorbitant package of players, considering many other teams around the league are more desperate to improve their rotation than the Jays are.
There is, however, another Oakland pitcher who is rarely talked about and would cost a lot less than Gonzalez, so check back for a look at who that is.