New York Yankees: If Gio Gonzalez Wants to Start, He’ll Have to Earn It

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 09: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on August 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 09: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on August 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

When the New York Yankees signed Gio Gonzalez on Monday, it was apparent he would be dubbed a starter in the MLB rotation already. But the front office and manager Aaron Boone want to ensure he earns that spot.

New York Yankees fans acknowledged that the team needed a short-term solution to its rotation vacancies. Brian Cashman took note of the situation, signing veteran Gio Gonzalez to a minor-league deal Monday.

But some New Yorkers believe the left-hander will quickly make his way to the bigs and feature in the back end of the rotation. It’s not going to be that simple for Gonzalez.

Gonzalez enters 2019 with an opportunity to put most of 2018 behind. The southpaw owned a shoddy 4.21 ERA across 32 starts but needed a change of scenery to pitch more consistently. His five best starts were arguably with the Brewers in the last month of the regular season.

Still, Gonzalez posted a 1.44 WHIP thanks to his highest walk rate since 2009. He also registered his fewest strikeouts since 2009. Needless to say, Gonzalez may need additional time to prepare for the regular season, as he’s missed the entirety of Spring Training with the Yankees thus far.

New York didn’t take much of a risk due to Gonzalez’s considerable pay cut. Yet he has enough potential and experience to enjoy a rebound season.

Washington paid the two-time All-Star more than $50 million for a reason. And during his tenure with the Nationals, he was a mostly-stable No. 4 starter. Maybe the most important aspect of his résumé has been his ability to remain healthy. He pitched more than 150 innings each of his six full seasons in the capital.

Of course, Gonzalez could struggle now that he’s back in the American League. But it wouldn’t make much of a difference to the Yankees and their rotation questions anyways.

There remains a competition to obtain the last two starting spots, and several capable pitchers remain in the mix. Cashman said the organization would mull over the in-house options – before signing Gonzalez.

Some higher-tier prospects, like Domingo German, have shown promise during Spring Training. And Luis Cessa, who has been unimpressive most of his career, is making one last push before being deemed irrelevant.

Spring Training numbers tend to be ignored because pitchers face a medley of minor-league players. Yet, it’s difficult to completely disregard what the three Yankees pitchers have done.

Cessa owns a sub-1.00 ERA with 13 strikeouts and just one walk across 13 innings. German racked up 18 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings and yielded two walks.

Some other young pitchers, such as Chance Adams and Jonathan Loaisiga, are not technically eliminated from the race, though both will likely begin in Triple-A after a rough Spring.

New York has a plan for the first month of the season as it allows CC Sabathia and Luis Severino to recover. Gonzalez, German, and Cessa all have an opportunity to win the final starting spot.

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But the question to consider is not “who will be in the rotation once the season begins?” but rather, “how will they perform?” The Yankees cannot afford to let the Red Sox and Rays gain a considerable lead in the A.L. East. And as the front office has admitted, the starting rotation is not as strong as the bullpen or offense.