July 21, 2018

Winter Meetings/Hot Stove/Gio Gonzalez

December 11, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

A recent article by Pete Kerzel about the possibility of the Washington Nationals trading Gio Gonzalez at the Winter Meetings in Orlando lit my stove. The rumor is an annual one that excites hope that Washington GM Mike Rizzo is a magician, that he can get something of value for Gio and we won’t have to watch him miss the plate for four straight pitches after getting a two strike lead on the hitter.

But this year may be different. Gio is coming off a very good season and he has been nothing if not reliable during the regular season for most of his career. But those commenting on Pete’s article raised the question that if the need is for more starting pitching, doesn’t trading Gio create a hole rather than fill one?

The question is a valid one, but if the Nationals could package Gio with a lower level prospect–meaning a prospect from the lower minor leagues that has significant upside–could Washington go for an upgrade over Gonzalez that would provide the starting rotation another shot in the arm like it received with Scherzer or Doug Fister. Mike Rizzo has been at the heart of several large trades in recent years and when the opportunity presents itself for a significant upgrade to the roster, he has not been afraid to pull the pin. So what could a big Winter Meetings trade look like as we head into 2018?

If the target is to trade one lefty starter for another with greater upside, who–other than Clayton Kershaw–would make sense? More precisely, what team that has opted for a rebuilding program has a top flight left-handed starter that might be available for the right offer? One name that comes to mind is Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals. Duffy is under team control to the Royals through 2021 at $15 million annually–give or take a few hundred K here or there. Duffy is being paid like a staff ace, but he has been unable to throw 200 innings at any time during his career. If the Royals are rebuilding, they could conceivably be convinced to trade the somewhat under-performing ace of their staff for future potential.

It is also noteworthy to look at Duffy from last season and how he is changing his overall approach to pitching. Like Gio, Duffy spent much of the 2017 season throwing fewer fastballs and achieving better results.  Eno Saris at FanGraphs documented nicely in August 2017 how Duffy has changed his repertoire. Will those changes allow Duffy to go deeper into ball games and throw more innings in a season? No one knows, yet. But Duffy is only 29–or will be in a few weeks. Gio is 32. The Royals might enjoy having a dependable left-handed starter like Gonzalez if there was something to add to a rebuilding program, something like a high-upside outfielder of the caliber of a Juan Soto.

Mike Rizzo has shown himself capable of flying below the radar and pulling off the unlikely and making it work. Trea Turner and Joe Ross for Steven Souza comes to mind. Would the Boston Red Sox consider trading any of their left-handed starters, even David Price? Price pitched well coming out of the bullpen in September of 2017 and into the post-season. Can he return to the starting rotation in 2018? Or would the Red Sox part with Eduardo Rodriguez who is coming off elbow surgery and has, like Duffy, changed his approach to throwing. Adding Rodriguez for prospects might be appealing to the Red Sox and would add another arm to challenge for a spot in DC in 2018, one that might step into Gio’s shoes after he leaves at the end of the upcoming season.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of ways to skin a cat. In this instance the issue is a left-handed starter for 2018 and beyond. The Nationals need one and Mike Rizzo has a history of creative answers to life’s vexing questions. In the past ownership might not have been sanguine about moving Gio who has been a long-term crowd favorite. But after watching him cough up the lead in Game Five of last October’s NLDS, that may have changed.

Either way, such speculation is what Hot Stove is all about and this is the week of the Winter Meetings when rumors fly hot and heavy. So have at it. Find the left-handed starter in this picture? Where’s Gio? Hopefully he is in Kansas City. Or Boston, or Timbuktu? After all, it is only December.

 

Comments

One Response to “Winter Meetings/Hot Stove/Gio Gonzalez”
  1. Paul Dunn says:

    Apologies for not addressing your article on Gio Gonzalez, but since your are a Nats’ fan, do you think Rizzo will be able to resign Harper

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