The New York Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez on Monday night. The deal could be worth as much as $12 million if he makes the major-league roster and earns a number of incentives.
It’s a logical depth signing for general manager Brian Cashman, who has seen a fair share of misfortune already fall upon his starting rotation.
Luis Severino, the Yankees’ ace, will be out until at least May due to shoulder inflammation. He became the second Yankees starter to start the 2019 season on the injured list as CC Sabathia underwent an angioplasty and right-knee surgery this offseason. He is expected to make a return in mid-to-late April.
Gonzalez provides a veteran arm to the equation now, although it is an inconsistent one. The 33-year-old is a two-time All-Star that once led the National League with 21 wins to go with a 2.89 ERA back in 2012 with the Washington Nationals. Since then, he’s been close to a .500 pitcher, going 68-57 with a 3.72 ERA.
Starting last season with Washington, Gonzalez was on pace for one of the worst seasons of his career as he went 7-11 with a 4.57 ERA. He was traded at the deadline to the Milwaukee Brewers where he rediscovered his stuff, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts.
His finish to the 2019 season seemingly provided enough promise for the Yankees to take a chance on him, though it is a change of tune for Cashman.
“We’re going to rely on what we have here in camp and be open to any opportunities that present themselves that make sense,” Cashman said on Mar. 6 after Severino went down. “What I’ve got is what I’ve got, and we’re comfortable with that… You can’t rule anything out, but I’d say the main focus is what we have.”
Severino’s timetable being pushed back to May is what likely forced Cashman to hit the open market to find a stop gap. It’s one thing to have an inexperienced arm like Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, or Chance Adams make a spot start. It’s something else entirely to roll one of them out every fifth day for more than a month in a hotly-contested division like the American League East.
While the Yankees added some security for the rotation, the crosstown-rival Mets have been nowhere to be found. The Queens club lacks legitimate rotational depth behind the fivesome of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Jason Vargas.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, once starters, are expected to be exclusive members of the bullpen in 2019 which leaves the team with the likes of Chris Flexen and Corey Oswalt, two younger right-handers who have career ERA’s over 5.80 (Flexen’s is a whopping 8.45).
Gonzalez, like Clay Buchholz, Wade Miley, and Ervin Santana before him, all would have provided important, cheap signings to ensure the rotation doesn’t collapse should one of the Mets’ starters run into injury problems.
If history suggests anything, it would be foolish to think all five arms are going to stay healthy in 2019.