Yankees sign veteran pitcher Gio Gonzalez as a precaution
By Alex DaSilva
After learning of Luis Severino’s lingering rotator cuff soreness, the Yankees opted to push Severino’s 2019 season debut back until at least May. In doing so, the Yanks opened a rotation spot up for the newly signed Gio Gonzalez.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone has decided to give the Opening Day nod to the split-finger throwing Masahiro Tanaka, in lieu of the flame-throwing Severino.
As the Yankees ace was quickly shut down from baseball activities due to an inflamed rotator cuff, the already concerning rotation just as quickly became an even more significant concern.
Losing any starter other than Severino wouldn’t have hurt the Yanks quite as much, but a month without their 25-year-old ace, one of the two right-handers in the rotation — and undoubtedly the best of the staff is a major blow.
Of course, the Bombers offense can make up for the lack of pitching, but a healthy Severino can push this team past other powerhouse clubs.
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Sevy’s 3.18 ERA over the last two seasons with 450 SO in just under 385 IP is unmatched by any Yankee starter, these past two seasons.
With the recent roster spot opened up and much uncertainty on an in-house replacement for Severino, the Yankees turned to free agency, signing lefty Gio Gonzalez.
Inked to a minor league deal with an up to $3 million major league option, Gio Gonzalez will be the fourth left-hander on the Yankee staff; joining James Paxton, J.A. Happ and C.C. Sabathia (when he too returns from the IL).
Gonzalez’s new contract will earn him an additional $300,000 for every start in pinstripes, at a max value of $12 million.
Although Gonzalez isn’t what he used to be in terms of overall effectiveness, his career 3.69 ERA speaks volumes as to what he’s produced and still may.
His numbers in 2018 were all worse than previous years, but Gio’s late-season burst with the Milwaukee Brewers proved he can still be of value.
Now, we shouldn’t expect Gonzalez to provide an ERA near 2.00 as he did with the Brewers, but I’d be a bit shocked if his ERA floated back up above 4.00 like it had with the Nationals.
The likely cause of this drastic increase in success was the impressive defense of the Brewers as compared to the sluggish defense of the Nats.
Last season, the Nationals gave up 55 runs on D as compared to the Brewers’ 116 saved defensive runs; 25th and 2nd in the baseball, respectively.
In spite of his lower numbers across the board, Gonzalez still produces a ton of ground balls and throws for strikes; over 1.5 strikes for every ball thrown last season.
The potential downside to Gonzalez is that he’s yet another lefty in the Yankees rotation. But perhaps the Yankees are on to something.
Over the last three seasons, batters tended to hit more home runs against RHP than LHP. Although in 2018, the difference was marginal, 2017 and 2016 resulted in batters hitting around half a percent more HR per AB.
To add to the LHP effect, hitters grounded into more double plays when facing lefties, which could explain Gonzalez’s success as a groundball pitcher. These are very slight advantages for a left-hander that might provide the Yankees otherwise lackluster rotation with the same small advantages.
The Yanks will likely stay far from the potential $12 million Gonzalez could earn, with Severino hopefully returning sooner rather than later.
However, with a relatively tame beginning of the season for the Bombers — only two series against playoff teams from last year, and 13 of their first 50 games against the Baltimore Orioles — Gonzalez should be all right.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence Gonzalez could be the fourth LHP to join the Yanks’ rotation. Either way, it’ll be exciting to see what he has in store and if he can do Severino any justice in his absence.