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Why the possible interest in Gio Gonzalez?

You can never have too much left-handed pitching coming off a down season?

MLB: NLCS-Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Hot on the heels of the Jacoby Ellsbury trade rumor, a new Twitter report suggests that the Giants might have mild interest in Gio Gonzalez. That report comes from the questionably accurate Bob Nightengale

Gio Gonzalez’s 2018 was bad, but not nearly as bad as you might think. He had a 100 ERA+, which reads as shocking when you consider he had been putting together the worst season of his career through 27 starts with the Nationals. Then the Brewers traded for him and sat him down for a month in order to fix him. His first start with them wasn’t until September 8th, against the just starting to come completely apart Giants. I wrote at the time:

Gio Gonzalez will be making his first start with the Brewers since they acquired him from the Nationals on August 31st. He’s walked 70 in 145.1 innings, and his 4.24 FIP is the highest of his career through that many innings. The 32-year old has had a shaky season and the Brewers acquired him because they needed a steady-ish hand in the rotation, but he just might be vulnerable enough for even the shaky Giants to get to.

He started against the Giants in both Nationals series this year and combined for 8.1 innings, 14 hits, 7 earned runs, 7 walks, and 7 strikeouts.

He was anything but shaky, putting up his best start as a Brewer (5.2 IP, 0 ER, 7K) and helping them to a 4-3 win. The Brewers basically used him as an opener in the NLCS.

So, why might the Giants be interested in yet another left-handed pitcher, and especially someone so “old” by baseball standards? He’d join Mark Melancon, Jeff Samardzija, Tony Watson, and Pat Venditte as the only players born in 1985. Depth?

His five year FIP run reads like classic decline. Since 2014: 3.02 , 3.05, 3.76, 3.93, 4.16. His strikeouts per 9 innings: 9.2, 8.7, 8.7, 8.4, 7.8. But! In 2017, he placed sixth in Cy Young voting and had a 2.96 ERA in 201 innings. He struck out 188 and posted the lowest hits per 9 innings of his career, too (7.1), but he also walked an NL-leading 79 batters.

That’s what you’d be getting with Gio Gonzalez — a pitcher with some stuff but lots of walks. There’s definitely evidence of decline with that stuff, too — his pitch spin rates were all down year over year, although his fastball velocity held and whiff rates stayed solid; and, after the Brewers gave him that firs month off to work on his control, he wound up giving them a solid final 5 starts to the regular season: 2.13 ERA / 3.63 FIP in 25.1 IP with a 22:10 strikeouts to walk ratio. If we consider the team’s interest in him and their signings as part of a clear offseason strategy, an obvious description snaps into focus:

Bounce-back candidates and lottery tickets.

If Jake Barrett can learn control and deploy his slider effectively, then the Giants could have the next Bryan Shaw. If Drew Pomeranz can duplicate his 2017 form, the Giants will have a great rotation arm. If Gio Gonzalez could duplicate his 2017 — the same thing.

Obviously, the Giants want to see if they can get Gonzalez for something similar to the convoluted Pomeranz deal — they’re not going to spend a lot on bounce-backs and lottery tickets — but even if he doesn’t wind up catching on with the team, it seems clear that the goal will be to find the next diamond in the rough and see if stuffing the roster with those types of players can supplement “the championship core” they’re also hoping can bounce back in 2019.