Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Matt Shoemaker (“The Shoe”) is out for the season with a torn ACL, might Gio Gonzalez be a tempting replacement?
You have to feel for Matt Shoemaker. He had an outstanding start to the season – tied for second in the American League in wins, second in ERA, 25th in strikeouts, 14th in innings pitched, and third in WHIP. But then what appeared to be a minor strain in a rundown in Oakland turned out to be a torn ACL and the end of his 2019 season.
Unfortunate for him, and for the ays (who had hoped that a resurgent Shoe might be an attractive trade chip at the upcoming July 31 deadline).
The Jays have internal options. Clayton Richard will eventually be healthy, as will Ryan Borucki. Sam Gaviglio or Thomas Pannone or (Lord help us) Joe Biagini could be moved to the rotation, but all three are excelling in the bullpen so the Jays would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
There is another option, however. A veteran, innings-eating starter who might just come available in the next couple of days.
Let’s talk about Gio Gonzalez.
Toronto Blue Jays
“Double G” averaged 183 innings pitched from 2016-2018 (14th best in baseball). His 3.87 ERA over that stretch was 49th among qualified starters – just ahead of guys like Patrick Corbin, John Lackey, and Rick Porcello. And he is a lefty (always useful to have!). But he had a 4.21 ERA in 2018, and at 33 years old he is clearly on the down ramp of his career.
Gio signed with the Yankees this offseason, but he received (and has exercised) an opt-out clause if he were not on the New York 40-man by April 20. The Yanks could still keep him by adding him to their 40-man, but that does not appear likely.
So why should the Jays be interested?
Gio’s contract with the Yanks was a very unusual one. He was guaranteed only $3 million but had incentives (like $300k per major league start) that could increase his total package to $12 million. It would likely take something similar for the Jays to sign him. But if the plan were to give him a chance to build value before a deadline trade in 3 months, the Jays might only be on the hook for about $4 million. Meanwhile, he would (could?) help stabilize the rotation and eat innings, giving players like Borucki and Richard time to heal and players like Sean Reid-Foley and Trent Thornton time to hone.
And why would Gio be tempted?
The negative about coming to Toronto would be that he would be pitching in a hitter’s park in a hitter’s division. Not the best for a pitcher who is trying to re-establish himself. But the flipside is that, if he could pitch well in the AL East (assuming the BoSox and Yanks recover their mojo) it would open a few eyes. The two big positives from his perspective would be playing time and money. He would step right into the rotation, and the Jays (in my scenario) would offer him a deal at least as good as the one he walked away from.
The bottom line
Gio has a lot in common with Shoemaker and Richard in that he is coming off a poor year but has substantial upside. If the Jays’ plan is to sign players that have the chance to be attractive trade bait at the 2019 deadline, GG could be an intriguing fit.