The Yanks have only one spot open on the 25 man roster. With all of the starting positions filled and all the bench spots taken, the conventional wisdom says the 25th man will be a reliever, preferably a LOOGY to complement Boone Logan. In house candidates are many, and most observers have LHP Cesar Cabral as the most likely candidate to head north with the team. But can the Yanks do better? A recent check of ESPN’s free agent tracker shows that lefty Mike Gonzalez is still available. Should the Yanks give him a look?
The Yanks have shown an interest in Gonzalez in the past. They tried to trade for him back when he was with the Pirates and offered Melky Cabrera for him. They may or may not have shown interest in him again this off season. Jon Heyman was the one who reported it. And yep, you guessed it M-Gon is a Scott Boras client. He’s also a close friend of Rafael Soriano going back to their days in Atlanta, so he has an ally in the organization.
All of that aside let’s take a look at what he might be able to offer the Yanks. There’s no draft pick compensation attached to signing him, which comes as no surprise given how often he’s been injured in recent years. He walks a few too many batters (career 4.1/9) but does a good job limiting hits (career 7.1/9) so his WHIP doesn’t suffer too much. He’s surprisingly good against righty batters (.659 OPS) as well as being death on lefties (.616 OPS) so you don’t mind leaving him in for a full inning if needed. Looking at his BP injury history there’s less there than I expected in terms of quantity, but two of the injuries were major. He’s coming off knee surgery last year, but that’s the least of his troubles. He had TJS in 2007 shortly after the Braves traded for him, and he was diagnosed with two tears in his rotator cuff and a frayed labrum in April of 2010, just after signing a 2/12M with the O’s. He never had surgery (sound familiar?) opting to go the rehab route instead. Unsurprisingly, his stay in Baltimore was disappointing. He spent most of his first year getting knocked around in the O’s farm system, and after an awful first half (5.46 ERA 1.691 WHIP) in 2011 he was lights out in the 2nd half (2.86 ERA 0.864 WHIP) some of which he spent with the Rangers after an August 31st deadline trade. Though he wasn’t a complete waste in Baltimore. He did provide O’s fans a few memorable moments, such as this:
All kidding aside, he has a lot going for him when healthy. He’s left handed, sports a career 10.34 K/9 and appeared to be over his injuries by the end of 2011. According to Fangraphs he averaged 92.4 MPH on the heater last year, which is in line with previous seasons. Even better, his 2011 velocity chart appears to have been more consistent than it was in 2010, and mirrors his production pre-shoulder injury. That’s encouraging, but given the condition of his shoulder its still difficult to offer him much guaranteed money, even for one season. On the heels of the Pedro Feliciano signing I can’t see Brian Cashman offering anything but an incentive laden, minor league deal. That’s something a lot of teams will offer, and I would think the reason he’s still available is that Scott Boras is looking for the most guaranteed cash he can get. A player in Gonzalez’s position will want to go somewhere he will get a chance to pitch, to earn a guaranteed deal for next year. With Boone Logan ahead of him on the depth chart, the Yanks aren’t the best situation from his perspective. Looks to me like the two sides aren’t a match, barring an injury in camp.