White Sox reportedly agree to deal with Gio Gonzalez

Matthew Rago, Editor-in-Chief

The White Sox have reportedly agreed to a contract with two-time All-Star pitcher Gio Gonzalez, according to Jon Heyman of the MLB Network.

Gonzalez, a former Sox first-round draft pick who was traded alongside Aaron Rowand in exchange for Jim Thome,  posted a 3.50 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP over 87.1 innings pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. Gonzalez’ ERA and WHIP would have ranked second among White Sox starting pitchers last season, trailing only Lucas Giolito’s 3.41 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

However, save for a brief late-season resurgence following a trade to the Brewers in 2018, the left-hander has struggled with consistency, staggering stellar seasons from a statistical standpoint with pedestrian performances. In 2017, Gonzalez posted a 2.96 ERA alongside a 1.179 WHIP. In both 2018 and 2016, Gonzalez pitched to a 4.00+ ERA, casting doubt on his ability to bolster a White Sox pitching rotation in desperate need of stability.

What Gonzalez’ acquisition means for the White Sox remains unclear. The Sox, spurned by their top free agent target (Zack Wheeler) despite offering the highest bid, are rumored to have interest in free-agent starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Whether the signing of Gonzalez signals a change of course or serves as a safety net should Carlos Rodon or Reynaldo Lopez find themselves unable to regain their form remains to be seen.

Should the Gonzalez signing operate as a supplemental signing that precedes a bigger splash, then it will likely go down as an intelligent, prudent signing for the sake of obtaining depth. However, if Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams expect Gonzalez to act a quick fix for a Sox rotation that was woefully inept in 2019, then they, alongside Sox fans who have been critical of their adoption of a more passive free agent approach, will most likely be sorely disappointed. Gonzalez is still a capable enough starter to stabilize a rotation paralyzed by injuries and disconcerting regression, but not a strong enough presence to elevate the Sox to playoff contention.

The Sox will hope that Gonzalez discovers a way to regain the form that has earned him two top-six Cy Young voting finishes. However, the velocity that propelled Gonzalez to a league-leading 9.3 SO/9 in 2006 has since escaped him–his fastball currently hovers between 90-91 miles per hour on average–necessitating an increased reliance on his sinker. The initial results were good, with Gonzalez posting a sub-3.00 ERA in 2017, though his fielding independent pitching (FIP), a statistic that measures a pitcher’s ability to maintain his current statistical output after recalibrating his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) to reflect league averages, remains higher than desired. Gonzalez will have to continue to tinker his approach if he hopes to replicate the success he found with both the Brewers and Nationals.