Why The Washington Nationals Should Not Trade Gio Gonzalez


Even though the Nats have shown interest in adding a free agent starter, they should keep Gonzalez in the rotation.

During this offseason, the Washington Nationals have entertained adding a starting pitcher to their rotation. On Friday morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote about the possibility of the Nats signing free agent Wei-Yin Chen and trading away Gio Gonzalez. Even Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweeted back in December that the Nats asked for Christian Yelich in exchange for Gonzalez. For the sake of this article, if It were to come down to picking between these two left-handed pitchers, I would take Gonzalez.

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My first reason for this move would be the cost of adding another pitcher. With Chen and his agent, Scott Boras, looking to get a long-term deal, Gonzalez is on a very team-friendly deal. The left-hander will make $12 million this season, has a $12 million team option for 2017, and an option of $12 million for 2018 if he throws at least 180 innings.

With all the talk around Max Scherzer’s historic 2015 season and Stephen Strasburg’s strong second half, Gio Gonzalez’s numbers went overlooked. He had a 3.56 ERA in his final 15 starts of the season, but when the Nats were struggling in July, he was their best pitcher, going 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA over a five-start stretch.

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When I took a look at Wei-Yin Chen’s numbers a few weeks ago in our free agent profile, the stat that stood out was his ERA has decreased each of the last four years. While his ERA was 3.34 in 31 starts, his FIP of 4.16 was the second highest of his career. Meanwhile, Gonzalez had a FIP of 3.05, which was tenth in the National League and the third lowest of his career (3.02 FIP in 2014 as well),

Another factor to consider when looking at these two pitchers is the ground ball rate, which is important considering the shaky defense Daniel Murphy has played at second base in his career. Last season, Gonzalez was ninth in the Majors by inducing ground balls nearly 54% of the time (according to Fangraphs). As for Chen, he was at 40.5%. However, that number could change if he moved from Camden Yards, a hitter’s ballpark.

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Since the Nationals acquired an outfielder (Ben Revere) in the Storen deal, I don’t see the Nats trading Gonzalez. You could make the case the Nats should spend on a pitcher this winter with Strasburg being a free agent after 2016 and the pitchers on the market being strong this year. However, while Gonzalez is not the 21-win pitcher he was in 2012, he still will be a crucial part of the Nats rotation in 2016.