In the end, Miguel Gonzalez was the only pitcher who could ever replace Miguel Gonzalez.
Seeking a veteran pitcher who could give the team innings while ultimately knowing the team’s deal, the White Sox reunited with the guy who filled that role last year. Gonzalez is back in the fold for one year and $4.75 million.
As long as one accommodates his tendency to miss a month, he’s been a sturdy option over the last two seasons on the South Side. He’s contributed a 4.02 ERA, 269 innings and 3.6 WAR. It’s just never quite clear how he does it, as nothing about Gonzalez’s arsenal jumps off the page or screen.
He also contributed Ti’Quan Forbes to the organization after a last-minute trade to Texas in August, which is the other part of the existence Gonzalez willingly takes on here. If all goes well, he once again shouldn’t be a White Sox by September. He’ll have pitched well enough to get traded, and the White Sox will have enough young arms deserving starts.
“I know we’re rebuilding, but I’m excited for this season. Who knows? We can surprise some people,” Gonzalez said. “I talked about it with my wife and she loves Chicago.
“She enjoys it there. As soon as we started talking with the White Sox about the contract, I was pretty pumped, pretty excited to come back.”
It’s not quite a Miguel Gonzalez-shaped hole he left, but the Sox’ other recent one-year deals for starters — Derek Holland, Mat Latos, Felipe Paulino — show how hard it is to get reliable pitching without a sizable commitment.
The catch is that Gonzalez battled a/c joint inflammation in his shoulder that caused him to miss mid-June through mid-July. James Fegan noted in his article that Gonzalez “thought throwing tons of cutters contributed to his shoulder problems and sapped his velocity,” which would be a problem for a guy who relies on a kitchen-sink approach.
Yet while the post-DL version of Gonzalez used a more straightforward pitch mix, the cutter remained a steady presence, even if it never took over starts like it did at points over the first two months. He also had his best stretch of the season afterward, as he posted a 1.85 ERA over his last five starts with the White Sox before he moved to Texas. You’d have to call it one of the White Sox’ better injury cases of 2017.
With Gonzalez back, the White Sox rotation looks more or less set for 2018’s big picture: Gonzalez, James Shields, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. The remaining question is when Rodon will be ready, and how the Sox will bridge the gap.
Don Cooper gave Scott Merkin some insight into the first question. It isn’t much, but there isn’t much he can add at this point:
“I’m not counting on and I don’t think anybody is counting on him being ready to start the season,” Cooper said. “Obviously, we will learn more at SoxFest [Jan. 26-28] and we’ll learn some when Spring Training opens up.
“He’s going to have some ‘take-care-of-himself’ time, some ‘let’s-get-him-well’ time.”
Carson Fulmer would probably be the front-runner at this point, but it’s a topic that’ll be more useful to revisit after the White Sox announce a list of non-roster players they’re inviting to spring training. With a full 40-man — Jacob May was DFA’d to make room for Gonzalez — it seems like any final tweaks to the pitching staff are likely to come from the NRI pool.
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