Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baltimore Orioles Sign RP Mike Gonzalez to be Team's Closer

In a move that is a head-scratcher, the Baltimore Orioles have signed Braves RP Mike Gonzalez to a 2-year, $12 million deal.

Why would the Orioles sign an expensive veteran reliever to close in 2010? If the team was a contender, I could see it. But this team is not a contender and an expensive closer is a luxury that losing teams cannot afford. I am a little perplexed by the deal.

Living in Atlanta for the last few years, I've seen plenty of Mike Gonzalez. The good news is that he's really, really good. He's a lefty. His stuff is nasty. He's basically a fastball-slider pitcher and his fastball can touch the mid-90's (although low 90's seems to be where it sits). He's a flyball pitcher but a lot of those balls are hit weakly and he induces a lot of popups. He also strikes out a ton of guys, striking out 10.6 per 9 over the last three seasons. Last year, he seemed to be completely healthy after his Tommy John surgery in 2007 and the Braves deployed him in high leverage situations last season over the course of 80 games.(hopefully, the O's don't ride him quite so hard...). He's a bad man on the mound.

The bad news...he's a Type A free agent so the Orioles will surrender their 2nd round pick in 2010 (43rd pick overall). He will walk batters regularly. He tends to give up the inopportune home run. He's a pitcher coming from the National League to the American League. He's going to make $6 million and year (and maybe more) and he's clearly not worth that much money, especially for a team that will probably lose in 2010. Even, who (in my opinion) overvalues player performance, only values Gonzalez's 2009 at $4.1 million.

Make no mistake, Gonzalez is a great relief pitcher and he will improve the bullpen. But for $6 million per? I am guessing that Andy MacPhail will be listening to offers at the next two trading deadlines.

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