Let's take a look at the upcoming free agency of left handed relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez:
The Case for Gonzalez
The mere fact that Gonzalez is a power lefty makes him much more valuable on this market. Billy Wagner and Mike Gonzalez are in exclusive company as free agents.
Gonzalez is a pure strikeout pitcher. Aside from two seasons (2003/2007), Gonzalez's K/9 rate has been at least 10 in every season. Wow. And this year, Gonzalez's K/9 is 10.9 and he's struck out 90 batters in just 74 innings. When he's on, Gonzalez is lights out.
Baseball people have always thought that Gonzalez had the stuff to be one of the top closers in baseball. Even though he's been unable to prove himself aside from 24 saves in 2006, Gonzalez still has fantastic stuff that could make him an attractive option in the ninth inning.
The Case against Gonzalez
For years I have thought Gonzalez was the next great closer in the National League. Well, that never happened. At this stage in his career, Gonzalez is 32 years old and you have to wonder if he'll ever become a top flight closer.
Gonzalez missed a majority of the 2007 season and most of the 2008 season because of Tommy John Surgery. The key to Gonzalez's success is keeping him on the field, but at this point, Gonzalez has to be considered a little risky.
Incredibly, right handed hitters hit .340 against Gonzalez this year. That number has to make you wonder if Gonzalez has a future as a close.
There are plenty of relief options available this winter. Between Kevin Gregg, Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde, Rafael Soriano, etc; there are a number of options for teams to choose from. When it comes down to left handed closers, there are only two options: Gonzalez or Billy Wagner. Both guys have dealt with major arm injuries in the past few seasons, but Gonzalez is younger and could command more than a one year deal.
Elias Ranking: Type A
Gonzalez earned $3.4 million this season, so it makes total sense for the Braves to offer Gonzalez arbitration. Considering his production this season, Gonzalez would be well worth the $6-$7 million (or so) that the Braves would pay Gonzalez in 2010 after arbitration. And even if Gonzalez walks, the Braves still get the two high draft picks.
Will Gonzalez's type A status prevent teams from going after him?
(2 years/$12 million)
Here are some comparable contracts:
-Juan Cruz (2 years/$6 million)
-Kyle Farnsworth (2 years/$9 million)
-Brian Fuentes (2 years/$17.5 million)
According to fangraphs, Gonzalez was worth $4.2 million dollars this season, but I anticipate that Gonzalez will earn more than that on the open market. Do you think Gonzalez will get a three year contract on the open market? I'm undecided. For now, I'll go with two, but it would not surprise me to see him get a deal anywhere in between 1-3 years.
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