The Toronto Blue Jays will need to figure out what to do with their rotation in 2021 and Marco Gonzales might be of interest
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The Toronto Blue Jays will need starting pitching. That’s an easy one as it is pretty much the same story every year. That said, looking ahead at the 2021 isn’t really as typical as we might think. 2020 showed us, and the front office, that there are a number of depth arms available to fill out the rotation. However, if Toronto is going to continue to improve, they’ll need more than that depth. Recently, President Mark Shapiro said that they club would target defense and strike throwers. This leads to an examination of Marco Gonzales.
In the recent past, we’ve seen GM, Ross Atkins bring in starters that were expected to eat innings and provide some sort of stability. They weren’t meant to be All Stars, but relatively quality arms to bridge the gap to guys like Nate Pearson et al. Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Matt Shoemaker are examples of this. Later, Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling were brought in. None of these names will win a Cy Young award, but they will absolutely serve a purpose and help the team…or at least that was the thought.
Moving forward, it is reasonable to expect a couple more of these arms to be added. That is what sent me to Fangraphs to see if there is a pitcher out there to be had that could be of use and fits Shapiro’s definition of a strike thrower. There are guys like Max Scherzer “out there”, but that is too far out there. Lest I be accused of foolish Hot Stove rumouring and click baiting, I immediately looked over guys like that. But, one name that came across the screen was Marco Gonzales.
The first thing I checked was his contract status. He’s 28 and has a contract that almost looks like the Blue Jays did it up. It is financially viable over a few years, which very much fits into how we see them moving forward. Check out the details in the screenshot from Spotrac:
This would give Toronto team control for years AND at a rate that leaves room for future spending, whether that is on free agents or extending young stars. We know that this front office would prefer years of control over trading for someone with a year left before free agency, so this works for them.
But, just because the money and term work, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Let’s take a look at Gonzales as a strike thrower. In 2020, he put up a 3.10 ERA, 3.32 FIP and 2 fWAR. He did so on a K% of 23.1% and a BB% of just 2.5%. His 0.95 WHIP was by far his career best. He is not a flame thrower by any means, with his fastball (14.3 wFB) averaging 14.3 in 2020.
Digging deeper, by checking Fangraphs pitching leaders, there are some interesting numbers to point out. Gonzales was 6th in MLB balls thrown in the zone (Zone%: 45.4) and 13th in throwing first pitch strikes (F-Strike%: 64.3). These numbers indicate a guy who throws strikes. Of course, Robbie Ray was once known as a strike thrower and we’ve seen how that has turned out.
We can’t ignore some obvious issues, here. While Gonzales had some good numbers in 2020, the reality is that he had the 4th highest contact rate in MLB at 82.3% and 8th highest Z-Contact% at 88.9%, so throwing in the zone hasn’t exactly been the highlight it may appear to be. That is especially true when you consider he was 1st in all of baseball with a 39.1% Hard Hit rate. These are very compelling reasons to proceed with caution if you’re the Blue Jays.
Marco Gonzales comes with a team friendly contract when you consider that he’s projected to put up 2+ fWAR in each of the next two seasons. He’s a starter who’s been healthy enough to make 29, 34 and 11 starts in 2018, 2019 and 2020. He does present value to the Blue Jays. But, the same reasons why some readers of this will turn up their noses at the idea of trading for Gonzales (getting hit, and hit hard) may help keep his costs down. One must also wonder if pitching coach, Pete Walker, would be able to help Gonzales… or not.
Remember that Toronto is not looking for the kind of starter that will guarantee a championship. They’re not one or two pieces away from that. They’re moving toward that and Marco Gonzales could fit into their plans.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.