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Gio’s Been There, So Let Him Be Here

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Recently signed veteran pitcher Gio González hasn’t appeared in any major league spring games yet, but that shouldn’t curtail him from being with the Marlins come Opening Day.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

To say the Miami Marlins are expecting the world out of Gio González from a performance standpoint in 2021 would be unrealistic. A gradual decline in velocity over the past few seasons, and the fact that the former Washington National turns 36 in September help explain why he had to settle for a minor league deal in free agency.

That isn’t to say the two-time All-Star still is asset-less to whichever uniform he dons.

After his last truly remarkable campaign, 2017, where he finished with a 2.96 ERA and generated a career best 6.5 rWAR, González owns a 4.06 ERA (106 ERA+), respectively since the start of 2018.

In that time, the curveball-chucking lefty has transitioned into a swing-man role, splitting time between the bullpen and starting rotation.

Concerns exists, though, in his peripherals, as the slight praise for his 4.06 ERA is offset by a 4.27 FIP and 1.45 WHIP in that span. Also of note, the 2020 season was the worst for “Double G” from a run prevention standpoint since 2016, finishing with a 4.83 ERA (5.50 FIP) in 31 23 innings pitched.

While the hits-per-9 still clocks in under 1 per inning, González’s walk rate—something that plagued his early career struggles—has spike to 4.2/9.

Regardless, in a time personified by universal setbacks, baseball deserves a feel-good story.

González, a Hialeah native and self-proclaimed Marlins fan in his early days of following the sport, deserves a homecoming to put the bow on a solid big league career, should this be his last hurrah in the major leagues.

Per the Miami Herald, González’s fastball clocked as high as 91 mph in a recently pitched simulated game, where he struck out 6 of the 7 hitters he faced.

Should he crack the roster, González would give the Marlins a much needed left-handed option in the starting rotation, though Trevor Rogers has a 14 SO/9 rate thus far in spring. If necessary, González has some familiarity with pitching out of the bullpen, appearing in 10 games in relief since 2018.

Beyond the numbers and feel-good narrative in question, however, is the need for an experienced presence on the pitching staff.

While many members of the bullpen—James Hoyt, Anthony Bass, Yimi García, Adam Cimber, Dylan Floro, Richard Bleier, and Ross Detwiler—will be pitching the 2021 season at 30+, each member of the projected starting rotation is 26 or younger. Most of the noted names here could benefit from González’s presence in how a veteran carries themselves on a daily basis.

In a highly competitive National League East, there is a legitimate case to be made for each of the five teams realistically competing for a playoff spot. With the prospect of a full season becoming more realistic by the day, having the veteran González on the roster from the very beginning could pay big dividends down the road.