Time moves much slower in the off-season. It hasn’t even been a month since the Nats traded Brad Peacock, Derek Norris, Tom Milone, and AJ Cole for Gio Gonzalez and not Gonzalez has a fresh five year extension worth $42 million that includes two option years that could push the value to $65 million.
Since the trade went down Gio Gonzalez has expressed his happiness and desire to win with his new team. This is a deal that give Gonzalez long term security and the Nats a team friendly deal if Gonzalez pitches to expectations. If Gonzalez improves on his walk rate like many young strikeout lefties have in the past then his average value of $8.4 million a year will look like a bargain.
CJ Wilson in his first year of starting walked an AL leading 93 while striking out 170. Last season Wilson lowered his walk total by 19 to 74 and his ERA dipped from 3.35 in 2010 to 2.94 in 2011. In 2009 Clayton Kershaw walked 91 then lowered that to 81 the following season and finally got it all the way down to 54 in his Cy Young winning 2011 campaign. If Gio Gonzalez can make the same type of improvement then his new contract will make Mike Rizzo and the Nats look very smart.
The news of Gio Gonzalez’s extension comes as a surprise as many Nats fans have been watching and waiting for the Prince Fielder rumor mill to churn out something substantial. Scott Boras has engaged in this type of staring contest with teams before. He did it with Matt Holliday and the Cardinals in 2009/2010, Adrian Beltre and the Rangers in 2010/2011, and Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers in 2008/2009. The Manny Ramirez contract wasn’t signed until March 4th. While it is expected that a resolution to the Fielder drama will come sooner Boras has a history of waiting teams out.
People joke about the clandestine operations of Mike Rizzo and the Nats but there wasn’t even a whisper of a Gonzalez extension until the Nats sent out the press release. The average value of $8.4 million a year already looks like a value if Gonzalez can continue to be who he has been the previous two seasons. There are concerns about him moving out of a pitcher friendly park in Oakland to a neutral park in DC, but that could be offset by no longer having to face a DH.
For the past two seasons Gonzalez has pitched to a 3.2 and 3.5 WAR level respectively and is projected to be worth 3.2 WAR in 2012. That places his current estimated value at around $15 million a year. By signing this contract now Gonzalez gets long term security in case of injury, which is all too common for pitchers, and the Nats have potential to not just get a bargain but an outright steal.
The Gonzalex extension comes at a time when the entire baseball world is waiting on Fielder and it gives Nats fans a little something to talk about while everyone awaits to next Nats’ move which could come as soon as later this week. There are thoughts that Fielder’s destination hinges on whether or not the Rangers can secure the services of Yu Darvish and that decision must be made by Wednesday the 18th at 5:00 PM EST. Stay tuned for this could either be a busy or disappointing week for the Nats.