Be Careful With Gio Gonzalez

Athletics’ lefty Gio Gonzalez is the hot pursuit of multiple teams this winter.

But there are red flags that would tell me to steer clear of him.

In fact, there are similarities between Gonzalez and other lefties—Jonathan SanchezOliver Perez and Rick Ankiel—who have or had great stuff, but were at risk of disintegrating at a moments notice.

Two of them did.

His arm lags behind his body and he has trouble maintaining an arm slot and release point; he barely uses his body and the entire stress of generating arm speed falls on his elbow and shoulder; he lands on a stiff front leg and throws slightly across his body.

These flaws could be a problem as his career progresses or they might not be—hindsight tells all with injuries; they’re probably a factor why he strikes out and walks so many hitters.

This is not atypical among lefties who rack up a lot of strikeouts and walks, in part, because of their lack of control and a funky, deceptive, ball-hiding motion. They miss bats, but they also miss the strike zone.

It’s much easier for a hitter to get comfortable with a pitcher like Greg Maddux, Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay (even with their willingness to knock hitters down) because he at least knows they’re going to throw strikes; there’s almost a surprised aspect to the games in which a Gonzalez, Perez or Sanchez have their control; by the time the hitters realize they’re not going to be walked, it’s the eighth inning, the boxscore makes it appear as if they’ve been dominated and the starter’s out of the game.

When a team is paying for incremental improvement and potential while ignoring landmines, they run the risk of doing as the Mets did and overpaying to keep Perez only to flush $36 million down the tubes.

Billy Beane—for all the mistakes he’s made in the journey from “genius” to mediocrity and worse—is not stupid.

He saw from across the San Francisco Bay what Jonathan Sanchez was; he knows that Gonzalez’s value is never going to be higher; Gonzalez is arbitration eligible under “Super 2” status and is going to get a big raise after consecutive seasons of 200 innings pitched and that he’s a rising “star”.

But trapdoors are rampant.

Sanchez has talent and it made sense for the Royals to acquire him; they only surrendered Melky Cabrera. The Royals knew that they had replacements at the ready for Cabrera and he would never again be as good as he was in 2011.

The phrase, “Gimme a break, it’s Melky Cabrera,” is a viable excuse to trade him.

But Beane’s not asking for a Cabrera in a deal for Gonzalez.

He asked the Marlins for Mike Stanton.

Few are looking for an underlying agenda in the shopping of Gonzalez because Beane has plenty of reasons to do it.

Under the guise of “I have no choice” Beane can mask the intent of why he’s trading Gonzalez if anyone asks. There are several simple answers to give and all are effective subterfuge to the issues listed above.

“He’s arbitration-eligible and we can’t pay him.”

“We’re not getting the new ballpark, so I have to tear the thing down.”

“He’s one of our most valuable assets and we’re trying to maximize him with multiple pieces.”

Responses like these will assuage any concerns that Beane’s selling the interested party a product that he might not want in the first place.

But if the Athletics were in a better position, Beane might still be looking to trade Gonzalez. This just makes it easier to do and get more in the process.

The fall of Beane has had some interesting side effects in his dealings. Since he’s no longer considered a “genius” who’s going to pick their pockets, opposing GMs won’t be as reluctant to trade with him; and with the legitimate reasons for putting Gonzalez on the market, he can get some quality in a trade and dispatch a pitcher who could come apart if one of his mechanical or control problems manifests itself and swallows up the talent therein.

If I were an interested team and the A’s demands remained on a level with Stanton, I’d wish Beane a good day and move on from Gio Gonzalez. There are too many concerns to give up a ton for a pitcher who’s hair trigger to implode at any time.

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  1. #1 by Jeff on December 15, 2011 - 5:55 pm

    With Beane and the Athletics, one wonders if they’ll ever be a contender, considering their m.o. of trading away all young talent. I guess if he got a guy like Stanton out of the deal he could build a foundation there, but like you basically say: that’s CRAZY talk.

    That being said, thanks for the warning on Gio. His under-the-radar status made me some pretty decent coin in 2011, but now I know better than to bet the house on him.

    • #2 by admin on December 15, 2011 - 11:35 pm

      The prior housecleanings were based in logic and the freedom to do what he wanted from the fame accrued from Moneyball; now people are looking at him with something of a jaundiced eye and wondering why, if he’s such a “genius”, the team has been so consistently mediocre-to-terrible since the rest of baseball caught onto and replicated what he was doing.
      Now? It makes zero sense to build up this pitching staff with 20-somethings and then deal them all away. When precisely does the team try to win? And he can’t use the phantom excuses of having tried and failed in 2009 and 2011—you try for a year and then give up? Is that how it works?
      Gonzalez walks almost 100 guys a year; put him in a more hitter-friendly ballpark and he’s gonna have a big problem with all those baserunners.

      • #3 by Aaron on December 20, 2011 - 3:04 am

        Ok I have to ask about the “almost 100 walks” which is a 10% increase from his 91 BB. It is better to just say he had 91 BB. A 10% difference does not equal almost.
        Its like saying he almost had 215k’s.

      • #4 by admin on December 20, 2011 - 10:23 am

        If you’re going to nitpick with percentages from 91 walks to 100, I cannot help you. Should I go back and count up the number of times he went to 3 balls on a hitter and the hitter swung at a pitch out of the strike zone too? He has trouble throwing strikes. Accept it.

      • #5 by Aaron on December 22, 2011 - 2:52 am

        A 10% misrepresentation is a big deal in any field or business.

  2. #6 by No One In Particular on December 24, 2011 - 12:30 pm

    Aaron, if you are not able to discern that “almost 100″ means 90-something, that’s on you.
    And so it’s not a 10% misrepresentation. Clearly, almost 100 means something less than 100. So at most it’s like a 7% misrepresentation. And that means when you call it a 10% misrepresentation, that you are off by, what 30%! OMG!

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