Analysis: Washington Nationals sign Mike Gonzalez

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.

Oct 28, 2011; St. Louis, MO, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez throws a pitch in the seventh inning in game seven of the 2011 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

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.

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