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Red Sox "In" On Gio Gonzalez; Why This Might Not Be Great

Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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According to Danny Knobler, the Red Sox are one of the teams still in on Gio Gonzalez. The others are the Tigers, Rangers, and Blue Jays, though it's not likely all of these teams have the players to make a Gonzalez deal work, as the A's asking price is higher than Gio's walk rates.

The Athletics reportedly asked the Miami Marlins for Mike Stanton in exchange for Gonzalez. The same Mike Stanton who, as a 21-year-old in a park that favors pitchers, hit .262/.356/.557 with 34 homers at an average distance of 415 feet. All but two of his homers would have been gone in more than half of the stadiums in the majors, and 21 of 34 would have been out in every single one. That's impressive, especially when you consider the whole 21 years old thing, and the fact Petco Park is a place that exists among those 30 parks.

None of the Sox, Rangers, Jays, or Tigers have a Mike Stanton, meaning they would need to create a package of prospects and young players with little service time in order to acquire Gonzalez. There is no denying he is talented, but it's likely he won't be worth the cost of any trade that satisfies the A's. That's their right, too, as they have no incentive to trade Gonzalez other than that they can, and someone might be desperate enough to help the A's out in the future in exchange for a Gio today.

In his last two years, Gonzalez has struck out 8.2 batters per nine, walked 4.1 per nine (2.0 K/BB), and posted an ERA of 3.17. Those are all impressive figures, but they can't just be taken at face value. Gonzalez pitches in the AL West, in one of the game's better pitcher parks. In 2010, they ranked third in the majors for easiest opponents in 2010, two spots behind the Rangers, and two in front of the Angels. Gonzalez ranked 126 out of 147 starting pitchers that year in terms of the quality of his opponents, as they amassed an OPS of 749. Compare that to David Price, who led the majors at 778 thanks to pitching in the AL East.

As for the home park: Gonzalez has 273 innings in Oakland and 262 on the road in his career. The results:

Home 3.56 45 273.0 235 29 135 252 1.355 8.3 1.87
Away 4.32 44 262.1 256 26 129 259 1.468 8.9 2.01
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/14/2011.

There is a three-fourths of a run difference between his home and road ERA, and while that stat itself isn't everything, you can see where that would be an issue for someone with his K/BB ratio and walk rates. Gonzalez led the AL in walks allowed in 2011, and actually had one fewer than he had handed out the year prior.

He doesn't give up many homers, given he is a groundball-oriented pitcher. And, as hard as it is to believe, those grounders are part of what separates him from someone like Daisuke Matsuzaka, in terms of overall production. No, really:

Pitcher K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 ERA GB% FIP
Daisuke Matsuzaka 8.2 4.4 1.89 0.9 4.25 36% 4.26
Gio Gonzalez 8.6 4.4 1.94 0.9 3.93 48% 4.06

Gio is left-handed, Dice-K right-handed, but those career numbers are a lot closer than you might have guessed three rows and eight columns ago. They even occurred in similar inning samples (535 for Gonzalez, 622 for Dice-K). It would be misleading to just leave those there without some further analysis, though.

Gonzalez is trending better than Matsuzaka is at the moment, in part because Gonzalez is 26 years old and likely entering his prime, whereas Matsuzaka is at the end of a long-term deal and recovering from Tommy John surgery. Of course, Matsuzaka's numbers are that close to Gio's despite throwing all of those innings the last two years while dealing with injuries, so things aren't that cut-and-dry in either direction.

Gonzalez would work a bit better than someone like Dice-K in the AL East, thanks to being left-handed and those groundball tendencies, but the fit in terms of results is close enough to make you wonder about whether the price for Gonzalez helps anyone but the A's out in the long run.

This isn't to say that Gonzalez is bad; rather, it's that Gonzalez is a bit overrated thanks to context, and Matsuzaka underrated for the same reason. A healthy Dice-K would be a hell of a pitcher in Oakland, just like Gonzalez has been the last few years. (Admit it; he aggravates you (and me) to no end, but you know it's true.)

Whoever gets Gonzalez, if he is in fact dealt, is going to be pleased, of course. Gonzalez misses bats, induces grounders, and has proven durable over the last few years. But if the price is anything like what it has been rumored to be, many teams in the running for his services might be better off sitting tight until (or if) Billy Beane drops his demands.