Seattle Mariners extend the quietly excellent Marco Gonzales

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 17: Marco Gonzales #7 of the Seattle Mariners in action during inter-league play against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 17, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 17: Marco Gonzales #7 of the Seattle Mariners in action during inter-league play against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 17, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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The Seattle Mariners have extended LHP Marco Gonzales for 3 years and $30M.  Gonzales may pitch in the obscurity of the Pacific Northwest, but he’s a damn good pitcher.

When I first saw the Seattle Mariners extended Marco Gonzales my reaction was part indifference, part good for Marco, and part who cares. Gonzales is a fine pitcher on a team that’s still a year or two away from being competitive.  Then I looked at the numbers and was surprised to find out Marco Gonzales has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two seasons.

Gonzales just turned in the best year of his career pitching 203 innings with a 3.99 ERA and an impressive 3.7 fWAR.  That comes on the heels of a solid 3.4 WAR campaign in 2018.  All told, Gonzales has been a top 20 pitcher the past two seasons putting up similar numbers as Jose Berrios, Jack Flaherty, and German Marquez.

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Gonzales doesn’t fit the archetype of today’s physically imposing pitchers with infinite velocity but rather gets by as the “crafty lefty”.  He averages 89 on his fastball and also features a curveball, cutter, and change-up.

One way Gonzales manages to be excellent without overpowering velocity is by limiting walks as his 6.5% BB rate was top 25 in all of baseball.  He also has a strong GB rate at 41% but what makes Gonzales especially impressive is that he’s one of the best in the leagues at generating infield fly outs.

His IFFB% is at 12% and one could argue this is the best type of batted ball since they are out 99.9% of the time. Gonzales only has a 17% strikeout rate but when you combine that with his IFFB% and GB% you get 70% of his plate ABs have a high probability of being an out.

This is a deal that has the potential to be a steal for the Mariners but does carry some risk. Gonzales will pitch this season at age 28 so he still has his prime years ahead of him. The Mariners are locking in cost certainty on one of their best assets now.

If he stays on track, Gonzales could end up looking something like Jose Quintana as a soft-tossing lefty who gets the job done and has a team-friendly contract.  The downside though looks something like Rockies soft tosser Kyle Freeland who was a borderline Cy Young candidate in 2018 and replacement level in 2019.

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If the Seattle Mariners are competitive and Gonzales is good, then they’ll have a front line pitcher on a cheap deal.  If something doesn’t work out, then the Mariners could look to trade Gonzales for prospects or if he isn’t great the Mariners aren’t out a ridiculous amount of money.  Marco Gonzales is a better pitcher than you think.  The Mariners recognize that and have locked him in to be one of the front line pitchers when they are good again.