While the eerily passive offseason continues, the White Sox remain active, albeit in a modest fashion appropriate for their situation. On Wednesday, Miguel Gonzalez agreed to return to the South Side on a one-year, $4.75 million contract. After pouncing on Gonzalez once Baltimore put him on waivers in 2016, he and Don Cooper gelled marvelously and Gonzalez delivered 135 innings of above-average run prevention with less than stellar peripherals.* 2017 didn’t go quite as smoothly, but he chipped in another 130+ innings of league average ball before getting flipped to the Rangers at the deadline.
*The Orioles won 89 games that year, more than the White Sox have since 2006, despite giving 429 innings from starters with ERAs above 5.20. So I guess they didn’t need Gonzalez, but also … why did they dump Gonzalez?
Gonzalez’ peripherals have never been great, as the owner of a career DRA of 4.95 and a career WARP of 1.9. Still, there are pitchers whose ERA is regularly lower than their secondaries suggest — for example, Mark Buehrle’s career ERA of 3.81 beats his 4.36 DRA, and as a knuckleballer, the rules don’t apply to R.A. Dickey and his 4.04 career ERA is prettier than the 4.31 DRA thinks he deserves. Although Gonzalez isn’t in those fellows’ class in terms of pitching witchcraft, he still has a career ERA of 3.95 after almost 900 innings pitching primarily in Baltimore and The Cell. That’s not nothing, and he seems like a decent enough bet for ~100-140 innings of serviceable pitching.
While the signing is clearly not going to be the difference between the White Sox making the playoffs or not, it still stands to be hugely beneficial to the organization. Right now, the rotation is riddled with uncertainty. Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer, and Reynaldo Lopez are virtual locks to continue growing pains of some sort, and even if they generally have successful seasons, you don’t want to require what are essentially rookies to throw 200 innings a piece just to get through the year. Meanwhile, the other 40 percent of the rotation suddenly seems brittle (Carlos Rodon may not even be ready for Opening Day) or threatens such catastrophic ineffectiveness he may not even soak up innings (James Shields). Then factor in normal injuries, etc. and suddenly those ~100-140 serviceable innings look downright delicious.
By all accounts, Gonzalez was popular with the front office, clubhouse, and coaching staff, which is icing on the cake. His whole career has been a high-wire act, where he survives more on guile than anything else, and at some point it will collapse. It could collapse as soon as this year! But given the investment (uh … nothing?) and their contention posture, there isn’t really much downside here. The upside is more proficient innings to protect the rest of the pitching staff and hey, maybe even something neat at the deadline.
In a corresponding move to clear a space on the 40-man roster, Jacob May was designated for assignment. Given the presence of Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, and even theoretically Charlie Tilson or Tito Polo, a 26-year-old with a career minor league OPS of .692 is no longer uh … essential I suppose.
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