David Villavicencio reported yesterday morning that the Fish are looking into a potential trade with the Oakland Athletics that would bring Miami Native Gio Gonzalez back to his hometown. His report indicated that the two teams have discussed a package including at least one of three current Marlins who received significant playing time this past season. Given the A’s penchant for young, cheap, team controlled players, one would expect that Billy Beane and co. would also be looking for top prospects in exchange for the lefty starter.
Gonzalez is coming off of several very solid years as a starter, including a career year in 2011. At just 26 years old, Gonzalez will not hit free agency until 2016. In the past two seasons, he has put up ERAs of 3.23 and 3.12 respectively. Gonzalez has also twice reached the 200 inning mark (202 in 2011), tossing 197 strikeouts on his way. His demonstrated durability, albeit at a young age, would certainly be a plus for the Marlins’ rotation. Ace Josh Johnson is coming off a season in which he appeared in only 9 games. Last year’s strongest starter, Anibal Sánchez, has a history of shoulder problems.
There are a few small items of concern regarding Gonzalez, despite his recently strong seasons. Last year, he led the American League in walks with 91. And, as Ken Rosenthal noted yesterday on Twitter, Gonzalez’s home/road splits do stand out. In the past two seasons, he has racked up a 2.63 ERA at home, compared to 3.78 on the road. While his road numbers are far from poor, it is still worth noting as the Oakland Coliseum is one of the better pitchers’ parks in the game. How the new Marlins Ballpark will play remains to be seen.
Bill James’ 2012 projections show an ERA of 3.83, with a jump especially occurring in Gonzalez’s HR/9 rate which has over the past two seasons stayed below league average at 0.67 and 0.76. James projects a rate of 0.95. Despite these modest issues, Gonzalez would certainly be one of the strongest pitchers available this offseason, and provide a huge boost to the Marlins’ rotation, should the A’s truly entertain trade possibilities.
Of course no trade is completely one sided, and the Fish would have to give up some talent to acquire the young lefty. As Villavicencio pointed out, discussions have included at least three Marlins bats, all of which received significant 2011 playing time. The most realistic option seems to be Logan Morrison, given the A’s lack of consistency at Morrison’s natural position of first base. In 2011, Oakland played a combination of Brandon Allen, Daric Barton, Chris Carter, Kila Ka’aihue at first.
Any deal for Gonzalez would also require some of the Marlins’ top prospects, potentially Matt Dominguez. Just like at first, the A’s have struggled to find consistency at third base. Dominguez disappointed with his bat in 2011, especially after moving up to the AAA level where he hit just .244/.292/.333. The fielding prowess that the Marlins’ have seen in Dominguez, though, could sweeten a deal that included the aforementioned Morrison.
Trading for Gio Gonzalez would certainly be an upgrade for the Marlins’ starting rotation, even if it means giving up young talent like Logan Morrison. Morrison’s natural position, first base, is covered by Gaby Sanchez for the time being. The Fish also have some other options in the outfield, where Morrison has acted as a defensive liability. Internally, Bryan Petersen is one player who could see more time on the field, and Chris Coghlan could somehow return to his 2009 form. The Marlins have also been linked to Cuban star centerfield Yoenis Cespedes, who is expected to post as a free agent sometime this offseason.