Pittsburgh Pirates: Red Flags & Concerns Surrounding Marco Gonzales

May 28, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (7) throws
May 28, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (7) throws / Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Marco Gonzales will be expected to play a big role in the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation this season, but he comes to Pittsburgh with his fair share of red flags and concerns

So far this offseason, Ben Cherington has made two big additions to the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation. The first of these two additions came when he acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Atlanta Braves via trade on December 5th.

The team's other "big" offseason addition for the starting rotation came via free agency with the addition of lefty Martín Pérez. Both Pérez and Gonzales come with plenty of question marks and red flags. Today, we will get into those red flags and question marks around Gonzales.

The first major red flag with Gonzales is injury. Last season, Gonzales pitched just 50.0 innings in 10 starts. In early June, a forearm srain that led to a flexor strain put Gonzales on the injured list. This was the beginning of the end of the 2023 season for Gonzales who would not pitch again.

Things continued to get worse for Gonzales who underwent season-ending surgery in August. This surgery was performed to fix a decompressed nerve in his pitching forearm. It goes without saying that this is a major concern.

Any type of surgery to the throwing arm/shoulder is a big concern for pitchers. Nerve issues can be especially concerning as nerve issues can linger and be difficult to bounce back from. Just look at Jarlín García who missed all of 2023 after signing with the Pirates and suffering a nerve issue in spring training. In fact, this nerve issue has put García's career in question.

Another major red flag around Gonzales is one that pre-dates last season. Throughout his career, Gonzales has struggled to generate swing-and-miss. League average strikeout rate for pitchers is 22.1%, Gonzales owns a career 17.5% strikeout rate and has had a strikeout rate below 22.1% in seven of his eight MLB seasons. The past two seasons things have gotten especially poor with a 13.2% strikeout rate in 2022 and 15.3% last season.

Gonzales has also struggled with allowing home runs for much of his career. Last season, he allowed just 5 home runs (0.90 HR/9) in his 10 outings, but this was an outlier for Gonzales. He allowed 29 home runs in 2021 and 30 home runs in 2022.

The career numbers on Gonzales are not all that poor. He owns a lifetime 4.14 ERA and 4.40 FIP, fine numbers for a no. 3 or 4 starting pitcher. The problem is, Gonzales may no longer be that level of a pitcher.

Gonzales owns a 4.36 ERA and a 4.89 FIP in 233.0 innings pitched across 42 starts the past two seasons. He owns a 6.8% walk rate, but just a 13.7% strikeout rate, a 1.35 HR/9, and a .270 opposing batting average.

The struggles of Gonzales pre-date his injury riddled 2023 season. He also struggled in 2022 while posting a negative WAR. Taking on Gonzales, even with the concerns about his forearm nerve issues, in itself is not a gamble since the Pirates got him in exchange for cash considerations. The gamble comes with Gonzales being one of only two offseason additions for the team's starting rotation. There are plenty of red flags around Gonzales that create a lot of doubt about his ability to pitch well in 2024.

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