The New York Yankees are interested in Oakland Athletics’ pitcher Gio Gonzalez, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. General Manager Billy Beane is reportedly looking for a hefty return for the left-hander.
Gonzalez, 26, is not an easy pitcher to analyze because of the perception that his home ballpark has a big impact on his overall success.
Let's breakdown his strengths and weaknesses to get a better idea of what he might offer the Yankees.
Gonzalez is still young, he’s left-handed and has four years left of team control before free agency. He made just $420,000 in 2011 and is in line for a solid bump in pay as a Super-2 arbitration-eligible player.
Gonzalez has spent two full seasons in the Majors, both with Oakland, and he’s topped 200 innings pitched each year. He’s been tough to record a hit against with a hit rate of just 7.67 in 2010 and 7.80 H/9 this year. He also produces a lot of strikeouts; his K-rate this year was 8.78 K/9 and he narrowly missed 200 Ks.
Gonzalez also has some room for improvement. According to FanGraphs’ Pitch Type Values, we can see that the southpaw operated this year with an inconsistent curve ball that came in with a -3.7 wCB rating. It sat at 18.1 wCB in 2010.
This year, he benefited from a very good fastball with a rating of 12.8 wFB. If he can find the consistency with both pitches in 2012, Gonzalez could dominate.
Although Gonzalez's critics point to his spacious home field advantage, his splits show that he had just about as much success on the road as he did at home. His xFIP was 3.51 at home and 3.99 on the road. The ERA had a wider split at 2.70 vs 3.62. He didn’t allow many more home runs on the road, either. His home run per fly-ball rates (HR/FB) were similar with 8.2 percent at home and 9.8 percent on the road.
The former Chicago White Sox draft pick (supplemental first round out of a Miami high school in 2004) has struggled with his control throughout his career.
He posted a walk rate of 4.05 BB/9 this year and has issued free passes to more than 90 batters in each of the past two seasons. His walk rate was the fifth-highest in the Majors in 2011 among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched.
Gonzalez also struggles to get ahead in the count, a habit that will be increasingly more dangerous in the AL East. His first-pitch-strike rate of just 53.1 percent was the third lowest in the Majors last season (120 inning cut-off), behind Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano and Detroit’s Brad Penny.
It’s possible that a new pitching coach could help Gonzalez find the strike zone on a more consistent basis.
Gonzalez would face a stiff challenge moving from the pitching-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum to the more potent Yankees Stadium. He would benefit from being the No. 2 guy behind C.C. Sabathia.
Concerns about the impact to his overall numbers from his perceived home-field advantages seem overblown.
The big issue with Gonzalez making his way from Oakland to New York would be the player package that it would take to pry him away from the Athletics.
It would certainly cost New York one of their top three prospects, whether it be catcher and designated hitter Jesus Montero, right-handed pitcher Dellin Betances, or left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos—the player Oakland should target, but also the prospect New York should be hesitant to include.