Although many Washington Nationals fans would like to see a reunion with long-time starter Gio Gonzalez, it just doesn’t appear to be on the cards.
One of the priorities of the Washington Nationals this offseason was to ensure that they upgraded their rotation. They appear to have mostly accomplished their goal so far, which makes the possibility of a reunion with Gio Gonzalez unlikely.
Earlier this winter, the Nats were able to sign top free agent starter Patrick Corbin to give the team one of the best 1-2-3 punches in the game. They then followed that up by essentially replacing Tanner Roark with Anibal Sanchez. While many are dubious as to whether this is actually an upgrade, the front office clearly believes so.
That leaves an open competition for the fifth spot. Promising young arms Joe Ross and Erick Fedde are the likely front-runners, but minor league free agents will also have a chance at the job. Henderson Alvarez and Vidal Nuno have already been brought in with this in mind, but the team could still bring in other options with a chance to impress in Spring Training.
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With this in mind, it all but rules out a possible signing of fan favorite Gio Gonzalez, who deserves a major league deal, which will probably for multiple years. That just doesn’t fit in with the team’s current plan or payroll. Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports also believes it’s unlikely, as he said the following in a Q&A back in December.
"“I think they’d decided to move on from Gio. Not that they don’t appreciate what the guy did for them over seven seasons, but I think they feel like they’ve been there and done that, and they’d like to try somebody new.”"
That’s understandable after Gonzalez had a pretty rough go of things last season, with fans becoming increasingly frustrated by his performances. With the Nats last year, the lefty went 7-11 with an ugly 4.57 ERA despite holding a 2.10 ERA entering June. His walks were up, his strikeouts were down and almost every outing seemed to be a slog for him.
But, the left-hander was able to bounce back after being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and may now be able to find a two or three-year deal. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports predicted that he would net a three-year, $30 million deal, while his expert predicted $33 million over the same three years.
If Gonzalez does indeed seek a multi-year deal, then it would be unwise for the Nationals to jump into the fray. Both Fedde and Ross only have one option remaining on their contracts, which would obviously be used next season if Gonzalez returns. That would put the Nats in a tricky situation in 2020.
A better strategy for the Nationals to improve their rotation is simply to add more veterans on minor league deals with an invitation to Spring Training. Not only would this give them depth if injuries strike next season, but it’s also a lot less risk long-term, as if they don’t work out then there’s no cost to the major league team like there would be if they brought back Gonzalez for multiple seasons.
While Gio Gonzalez was one of the best pitchers to wear a Washington Nationals jersey since the team moved to the capital in 2005, a reunion just doesn’t seem to line up. Hopefully, he can be a success wherever the next step in his career takes him.