The Miami Marlins are still on a quest to find starting pitching, and that quest even brought them within their own division. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Marlins inquired about Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals, but that inquiry ended pretty fast once the Fish heard the return Washington wanted.
i hear the nats asked for christian yelich for gio gonzalez. took 1 second for marlins to say no thanks.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 12, 2015
Let's be honest: that's an out-and-out ridiculous trade idea. Yelich is one of the 50 most valuable trade assets in baseball with his extremely team-friendly contract and potential superstar development. Yelich is well off limits for a one-for-one trade as of right now. Gio Gonzalez clearly is not enough to buy off Yelich, and the Marlins rightfully cut off talks after offering something ridiculous.
However, Gio Gonzalez himself is not a bad option for the Marlins if they were interested in trading for a pitcher. Gonzalez is someone who probably has a better reputation than he has actually performed. After his ace-level 2012 season with the Nationals, he has been a pretty good starter over the last few seasons, but he never returned to that previous level. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 2.6 wins per season according to an average of the three major WAR metrics. This has come with a 3.57 ERA and 3.18 FIP over the same time period.
Still, Gonzalez has the skill level to be successful, as he has fantastic swing and miss stuff. He has induced swings and misses on 9.5 percent of pitches during his career, which is something very few Marlins pitchers have the ability to do. He also has been working on increasing his ground ball rates, as he hit a career-high 54 percent mark this season. The Marlins are blessed currently with a strong defensive infield, which helps matters. The large outfield should also make it easy for Gonzalez to continue avoiding home runs, which helps compensate for his major weakness of walking too many hitters (10.1 percent rate over his career).
Gonzalez's contract is also fairly team-friendly. He has one year left on his original five-year, $42 million deal with the Nationals, plus two more team options remaining for 2017 and 2018. Provided the Marlins pick up those options, he would be owed just $36 million over the next three years. That is the same amount that J.A. Happ will be making over the next three years with his current contract. If the free agent market is indeed paying out $8 million for every win, Happ is earning his keep and Gonzalez would doing more than that. If he is projected to hit just 2.5 wins next year and decline from there, he might have earned $58 million on a three-year deal this season. That leaves him with $22 million in surplus value, or about the value of a top-50 pitching prospect.
The issue here is that the Marlins do not have great tools available to trade for an asset like Gonzalez. The team has no prospects of that caliber as of right now. It also probably cannot bunch a group of mediocre prospects that it does have into Gonzalez. The only thing it can do is to take away from its base of Major League assets, which defeats the purpose of trading up to acquire players. The team may feel that Marcell Ozuna is a good match for Gonzalez, and that may be right. However, the team has no ready replacements for Ozuna, so it would adding to one area by subtracting from another.
The best bet, if the Marlins really want an upgrade like Gonzalez, would be to turn to the free agent market. Pitchers like Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir, Yovani Gallardo, and Wei-Yin Chen are still out there, and two of those guys would not cost Miami a draft pick. None of these players would cost the Marlins an asset like Ozuna either, which makes a free agent signing a smarter, if not lower-upside move if the team wants to upgrade the rotation.