Photo courtesy of Lookout Landing.
The Pittsburgh Pirates made their first trade of the 2023 offseason, obtaining left-handed starting pitcher Marco Gonzales and cash from the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later.
Gonzales was originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 29th round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Colorado however, did not make a substantial offer and he elected to play baseball at Gonzaga instead. After putting up solid numbers as both a pitcher and a first baseman at Gonzaga, the St. Louis Cardinals selected him 19th overall in the 2013 draft. He signed a 1.85 million dollar contract and was sent to the Gulf Coast League to start his professional career.
Gonzales made his way through the organization the following season, starting the season at High A and finishing in St. Louis. He pitched in 10 games, starting 5 and went 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA.
2015 and 2016 did not go nearly as smooth for Gonzales. In 2015, he spent most of the year nursing a shoulder injury and only totaled 13 starts at AAA Memphis and 1 for the Cardinals. In 2016, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season with what was considered a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
After making 1 start for the Cardinals in 2017, he was traded in July to the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Tyler O’Neill. Gonzales finished the season going 1-1 with a 5.40 in 10 games pitched for the Mariners. Between 2019-2022, Gonzales won 10 or more games 4 times and was a #1 or #2 starter for Seattle. He was the opening day starter 3 straight years between 2019-2021 as the steady arm in the rotation.
In 2023, after making 10 starts, he started having arm problems again. This time, it was left forearm strain and he was placed on the 60-day injured list. It wasn’t a complete waste of a season, though, as he started 10 games and went 4-1 with a 5.22 ERA.
On December 3rd, the Mariners traded Gonzales along with Jarred Kelenic and Evan White to the Atlanta Braves for Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips. Only 2 days later, the Braves traded Gonzales to Pittsburgh.
Gonzales, 31, throws a high 80’s to low 90’s fastball that has good late movement and has an exceptional changeup that he uses to keep hitters off balance. He also has a slow curve in his arsenal that has good 12-6 movement and a mid-80’s cutter. He has never been a strikeout pitcher and his success is based on location of his pitches and keeping hitters off balance. His location has become an issue later in his career, and in 2021 and 2022, he gave up 29 and 30 homers respectively. He is no longer a top of the line starter in a rotation but makes for a very nice #3 or #4 pitcher for a major league team.
Gonzales most likely will be plugged into the #2 spot to start the season behind Mitch Keller and moved back to #3 if and when Paul Skenes arrives. This, in theory, fills a huge need for the Bucs and depending on what compensation turns out to be, could be a steal as Pittsburgh tries to contend in 2024.