The wait is finally over, and left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez has finally signed on to a team. The Washington Nationals have signed Gonzalez to a minor league deal, and the 33-year-old previously rejected a minor league offer in the spring from the Texas Rangers. Gonzalez pitched for the Rangers at the end of last season after being traded to Texas.
Last season, Mike Gonzalez was worth 0.3 WAR in 53.1 innings with the Baltimore Orioles and Rangers. He finished with an 8.61 K/9 and a 3.54 BB/9. Gonzalez had a 4.11 FIP but was a victim of a 12.5 HR/FB%. He once again induced grounders a little over 40% of the time, but he was unlucky last season with a .295 BABIP.
There are many who believe that Gonzalez is done and is a poor pitcher, but that isn’t true. He was average last season in a down/unlucky year, and he was great in limited action in 2010. The previous year, Mike Gonzalez tore it up with a 0.9 WAR while pitching for the Atlanta Braves in 2009. He isn’t a top reliever any more, but he’s still a useful veteran and one of the best LOOGYs around.
With Drew Storen still on the shelf and Brad Lidge being about a month away from recovery, Gonzalez should step into a set-up role with the team. Gonzalez should at least receive some high-leverage innings and become the team’s primary left-handed reliever over Sean Burnett.
In a post back in February, this is what I had to say about Mike Gonzalez:
According to a simple Marcel system, Mike Gonzalez is projected to be worth 0.5 WAR next season if given 54 innings. He will probably be worth a little less than that if given too much time against right-handers, but he should be worth 0.5 WAR if he faces enough lefties. After all, this is the same guy who has a career 2.82 xFIP is against batters of the same hand. He may rely on his slider too much, somewhat of a health risk, but that is a devastating pitch and is the main reason for his dominance against same-handed hitters. That pitch is just filthy. It’s no wonder why he generates a swinging strike about 11% of the time and allows hitters to make contact under 75% of the time.
The Nationals added a quality lefty to their bullpen, and they did this on the cheap. He is at least a very good middle reliever/LOOGY and has the upside of a quality set-up man. Gonzalez is no longer as good of a strikeout artist, but he’s still good for about a K per inning and an ERA of around 3.30.