Red Sox Rumors: Gio Gonzalez an appealing replacement for injured Nathan Eovaldi
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox may need to find a replacement for the injured Nathan Eovaldi and Gio Gonzalez is now available as a free agent option.
A timeline for Nathan Eovaldi‘s return from his latest elbow injury has yet to be established but he seems likely to be heading for surgery that could keep him out of action for an extended period. If Eovaldi ends up missing the rest of the season, or even a significant chunk of it, the Boston Red Sox may seek external replacements rather than rely on their underwhelming in-house options.
That should have Boston’s front office eyeing Gio Gonzalez. The right-hander was released from his minor league contract by the New York Yankees on Monday, granting him free agency.
The deal Gonzalez signed in March included an opt-out clause that he exercised on April 20. The Yankees had 48 hours to add him to their 40-man roster once the clause was triggered but they instead allowed him to become a free agent so that he can find another team that can offer a clearer path to playing time.
The Red Sox could be that team. The 33-year old owns a respectable 3.69 ERA and 8.7 K/9, both of which are quite similar to the numbers Eovaldi produced last season.
The two-time All-Star has garnered Cy Young consideration a couple of times in his career, most recently in 2017 when he finished 6th on the NL ballot.
Last year, Gonzalez was in the midst of his worst season since 2009 but finished strong following an August waiver deal that shipped him from Washington to Milwaukee. He went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts with the Brewers. Gonzalez also made two postseason starts during the NLCS, although he was essentially treated as an opener, totaling only three innings as the Brewers relied heavily on their loaded bullpen throughout the series.
Gonzalez was shelled for eight runs in his first start of the season with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate in Scranton but bounced back with a pair of strong performances, allowing only two runs in his last 11 innings with an excellent 18-to-2 K/BB ratio.
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A potential hang up in signing Gonzalez could be the price tag. Boston has very little wiggle room below the third tier of luxury tax penalties and their approach in free agency over the winter shows they are hellbent on staying away from that territory. Gonzalez’ deal with the Yankees would have paid a base salary of $3 million if he reached the majors plus $300,000 per start (topping out at $12 million). That’s probably too pricey for a Red Sox team working with a tight budget.
Settling for a minor league deal shows how lukewarm the market for Gonzalez was over the winter and that likely hasn’t changed much yet. That could enable the Red Sox to find a bargain on a short-term deal if Gonzalez is eager to find a quick path back to the big leagues but he may be content to wait for more suitors. It won’t take long for other teams to lose patience with their struggling starters or be hit with injuries that send them scrambling for a replacement.
The Red Sox are still waiting for an update on Eovaldi but if the news turns out to be a worst-case scenario then they should be prepared to scoop up a suitable replacement. Gonzalez is the best available option that they can potentially afford and an upgrade over their internal options.