A not-so-crazy thought: Gio Gonzalez reuniting with the Nats as a reliever

Chris Lingebach
April 19, 2019 - 6:52 pm
A not-so-crazy thought: Gio Gonzalez reuniting with the Nats as a reliever

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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Former Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez had to wait out a long winter, with no one ringing him up in free agency until March 19, when he signed with the Yankees on a minor-league contract.

One month later, 33-year-old Gonzalez is still getting his bearings after missing most of spring training. With a 6.00 ERA through three starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he wouldn't be an obvious rotation candidate for the Yankees right now. That's what puts him on the trajectory he's currently on. 

A clause in his contract allows him to opt out if he's not on the Yankees roster by a certain date. That date arrives on the calendar Saturday. If Gonzalez opts out this weekend, the Yankees will have 48 hours to add him to their roster, otherwise he becomes a free agent. Speaking of agents, Gonzalez fired his, Scott Boras.

Just for argument's sake, it wouldn't be the craziest idea in the world for Gonzalez's old ball club in Washington to get him on the phone.

Nearly a month into the season, the Nats' 8.01 bullpen ERA is still the worst in Major League Baseball. Indeed, it's come down some, but still the worst. A Gio experiment sure sounds better than Tony Sipp right about now.

Gonzalez probably would have laughed at the idea of converting to a reliever six months ago, when he was starting in the postseason for Milwaukee. Many great starters have extended their careers by years doing the same. The Nationals had one a few years ago in Ollie Perez.

If the suitors don't come calling for Gonzalez the second time around in 2019, it might be time to give relief work consideration. He might not consider it for others, but what better way to get his career on track by reuniting with his former club, in a familiar environment where he's comfortable.

A year ago, Mike Rizzo convinced Mark Reynolds to take a minor-league deal versus sitting on the couch and waiting for someone to call. Two weeks later, he was back in the big leagues.

The conversation should be similar with Gonzalez. Take less money now to get on a big-league roster, wind up that arm and let those fastballs fly for one or two innings a night, and fight your way back into a starting gig. If he turns out to be great out of the pen, he just extended his career and made that starter money back in the long run.

A starter goes down and Gonzalez could be back in the Nats' rotation by summer. Sounds better than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

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