Against considerable odds, Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to start for the White Sox tonight.
I predicted he’d make three starts before the White Sox found a deal to their liking in a waiver trade. This will be his sixth. The previous five aren’t the issue -- he has a 3.34 ERA during the month, or a 1.29 ERA if only look at the last four starts, and not the disaster at Fenway Park with which he opened the month.
There isn’t a shortage of contenders, real or imagined, and one of them did address a rotation hole on Wednesday. The Mariners acquired Mike Leake, who shares some things in common with Gonzalez, as he’s a righty who lives at 90-91 with a shaky recent track record. But Leake gets grounders with that velocity, and he’s working toward his sixth consecutive 30-start season, and the Cardinals are sending $17 million with him, meaning he’s working on a three-year, $38 million contract from here.
The Cardinals aren’t short on starters, at least those who can fill the back end of a rotation, so they’re redirecting resources to bigger ideas. The Mariners desperately needed a durable starter for the rest of 2017 and beyond, and they’re gambling that an attempt to solve a future problem won’t end up adding to their list of current ones.
Since the second half began, batters have hit .347/.394/.497 against Mike Leake, whose ERA in those nine starts is 6.90.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 30, 2017
Gonzalez doesn’t offer any kind of stability beyond September. He’s a rental in the strictest sense — a free agent after the season, and not a great bet to fix a hole for an entire future season, although he can point to his strong rebounds from DL stints the last two years. He shook off a groin injury to put together a strong September in 2016, and now he’s got a 2.94 ERA in his eight starts since returning from A/C joint inflammation in his shoulder. Maybe he’s great at listening to his body, which has its selling points.
The reduced durability just limits him to “useful guy to have within your top six pitchers,” which reduces his relevance to a postseason roster, what with the shortened rotations. However it happened, it seems like MLB teams are bypassing patches and going big or going home in August, even with roster liabilities abound. Justin Verlander has been the month’s biggest mystery man, but he’ll probably remain with Detroit (if anything were close, he wouldn’t have started Wednesday, right?). The Blue Jays had to pull back JA Happ and Marco Estrada from revocable waivers. The conditions are such that it took 30 days for teams to make a deal for a starting pitcher, and that starting pitcher will be paid through 2020.
It must be a hostile environment for proven-but-pedestrian starters, so much so that the White Sox have scheduled Gonzalez to start today’s game against the Twins, and he’s still listed with no Twitter rumors to be found (I checked before hitting “publish”). If this holds, he’ll take the mound shortly after the White Sox and Twins lock horns for a 12:10 p.m. start with the deadline at the day’s end (corrected). Maybe we’ll get one last blast of #hugwatch before autumn closes in, but like with Verlander, if anything were close, it seems like the acquiring team wouldn’t want to lose a start’s worth of value.
If Gonzalez remains with the Sox, he’ll serve a purpose as a friendly veteran face and the Sox’ best bet to throw six innings, both of which have their uses when rookies will be soaking up 40 percent of the other starts. The Sox could form a five-man rotation without him because Reynaldo Lopez is expected to return from the DL on Friday, but that would mean more Derek Holland, and even Holland understands if nobody wants that.
“I’ve got to take whatever they give me,” Holland said. “My job is to go out there and give them something every single time I go out there and I’m trying everything I can. It’s different when you don’t throw 95, 96 anymore. When you throw 91, 92 you’ve got to make some huge adjustments.”