Editorial: The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to add a few starters this off-season. With that they definitely need to be looking to add a quality, left-handed starter. There might be one available in Washington.
Gio Gonzalez is a solid lefty pitcher who could be on the trade market this winter. Gonzalez is in the final two years of a contract that will pay him 24 million over those final years. At 12 million dollars a year, this is very affordable for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs passed on giving that kind of money to J.A. Happ last off-season. That turned out to a mistake, as the starting rotation struggled, while Happ went on to have the best season of his career. The Bucs cannot afford to bring in more mediocre pitchers this off-season. It is time for them to be aggressive and bring in a proven veteran who will no doubt help this team. Gonzalez represents that. However, there is no guarantee he will be available.
Will he be available?
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As of this past season Gio Gonzalez is the Washington Nationals number three starter, behind Scherzer and Strasburg of course. However, the Nationals have high upside and cheaper options they could roll with next season. The first option is Tanner Roark, who is now just entering his first season of arbitration and will likely make a third of what Gonzalez will make. The other options are young top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Both were considered two of the top pitching prospects in the game and made their MLB debuts last season. Giolito was actually considered the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. Both will make league minimum and need to be in the rotation next season to continue and develop.
The reason money keeps on being brought up is because the Nationals have a hole in their outfield and/or shortstop. They got little production from their center field spot when Trea Turner was not playing there. They tried to plug-in players like Ben Revere and Michael Taylor, but both were unproductive. The Nationals ideally would like to use Turner at shortstop next season, his natural position. They used Danny Espinosa there throughout the year, but saw him struggle mightily in the playoffs this past October. With the money saved by trading Gonzalez, the Nationals could reallocate it for a better center fielder. This would also allow their younger, and cheaper pitchers, to be a part of the rotation an develop. As Pittsburgh Pirates fan saw this off-season there comes a point when a team has to let their pitching prospects get chances to pitch in the big leagues.
Now, for the Pittsburgh Pirates side of things it should be a great fit. They could use at-least a veteran, and/or at-least a left-handed pitcher. With Gio Gonzalez, they could get both! In Gonzalez’s career he owns a 3.73 earned run average along with a 3.53 FIP, suggesting that he pitches better than his results. This would likely be a good thing coming to a ball park that is friendly to pitchers, especially left-handed ones. He also is a very good ground-ball pitcher, something that the Pittsburgh Pirates said they will be focusing on this off-season. With that he produced a 47% ground-ball rate in 2016, and a 54% rate in 2015. This would be exactly the type of pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates should be looking to bring in.
Gonzalez is also a work horse. We saw what injuries can do to a team’s rotation and playoff chances. The left-handed pitcher has only had one season with less than 30 starts since 2010, and his low was at 27 games started. Gio Gonzalez would be a solid pickup for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is a veteran, who can eat innings, and pitch effectively at PNC. He might be the top pitcher on the list I would like. The lone problem is that the Nationals will need to make him available, and there is no guarantee that they will. However, with plenty of other rotation options they could look to cut ties with him.
The Pittsburgh Pirates absolutely need to add a quality, veteran starting pitcher this off-season. Rum Bunter has already suggested a few targets, including Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez would represent a quality left-handed veteran who fits the Pittsburgh Pirates mold of a ground-ball approach. What would it take to acquire Gonzalez? Most likely it would take at least a package of two prospects. There is not much on the major league roster that the Bucs would be willing to part with at this point. That is unless your considering a player like Alen Hanson, who technically is on the roster, but still a prospect in many’s eyes. If the price is two mid-level prospects and I am Neal Huntington, I am on the phone tomorrow to acquire Gio Gonzalez.