Gio Gonzalez is a fine pitcher.
His combined WAR* for the 2010 and 2011 seasons of 9.2 is 7th best in the AL, and he pitched over 200 innings in both of those years. Over that period, he was in the top 10 in the AL in K/9 and ERA+. Plus he is still only 26, Plus he is under team control until 2106.
So it follows automatically that the Jays should be offering Oakland the sun and moon for his services, right?
Well, “for the sake of the argument” as we Irish folks say <grin!>, here are 7 reasons for the Jays to be wary.
Home and away
Gio’s career ERA at home is 3.56. Away is 4.32, three-quarters of a run higher. Granted, Oakland’s O.co Coliseum is a pitcher’s park, and granted that most pitchers pitch better at home, but this is still troubling. By comparison, Ricky Romero’s career stats are an ERA of 3.47 at home and 3.71 on the road.
Gio’s career ERA in the second half of the season is 4.36 – almost a full run higher than his first-half average of 3.43. His 2011 splits were even more pronounced – almost a 1.5 run difference. Raises questions about conditioning / durability / focus / etc?
If the Jays see themselves as a playoff team, should they be concerned about a pitcher with a history of fading in the second half?
Gio was first in the AL in walks in 2011, improving (?) on his second-place finish in 2010. His 2011 BB/9 of 4.4 is almost unchanged from his 2010 figure of 4.5.
In 2011, the Rogers Centre had a “home run factor” rating of 1.186 (6th highest in the majors). Oakland’s rating was 0.786 (5th lowest). Granted, a part of that difference is a strong Oakland pitching staff, but a pitcher with a history of free passes is more likely to be burned in Toronto than Oakland. Which bring us to …
Rogers Centre stats
Gio’s career ERA in the Rogers Centre is 5.09. In 2011 he only pitched one game in Toronto – 7.20 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP. Small sample sizes, admittedly, so perhaps we should also consider his stats against …
The “Big Boys”
The road to the playoffs for the Jays goes through New York and Boston. We need a pitcher who can step up against those two teams.
Gio’s career ERA against the Yankees is 7.27. Against the BoSox it is 5.79. His 2011 numbers were even worse – 8.18 and 6.17, respectively.
Good young starting pitchers are rarely available on the trade market. When they do come up, the price is high. Consider the Garza trade in January 2011. Tampa got Archer (#27 on the Baseball America top prospect list) and Hak-Ju Lee (#92), plus solid “extras” in Guyer (Cubs minor league system hitter of the year in 2010) and Sam Fuld.
That is the rough equivalent (based solely on rankings) of d’Arnaud + McGuire + Cooper + extras. Not cheap! And see “competition” below …
Someone once said about the stock market, “There are no good stocks or bad stocks. Only underpriced and overpriced ones”. The same is true about baseball. Vernon Wells, for example, is a good player – but overpriced at $21 million per year.
The 2011 free agent crop of pitchers is thin, and teams like the Yanks and BoSox (and Detroit, and Philly ...) are prepared to spend big to get an established SP. The more competition, the higher the price. As A-squared (Alex A) has said many times, he will pay what a player is worth but no more. But in this kind of market, a team might have to overpay to get a Gio-calibre player.
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In summary – would I like to see Gio in a Jays uniform? Absolutely. But only at the right price … and it is unlikely that we will be able to get him without overpaying. Having said that, A-squared has surprised us all before!
* Yes, I know that no one stat (WAR, ERA) is the “be-all and end-all”. But they provide an objective basis for discussion, and a starting point for further analysis.