Of all the contract concerns the Seattle Mariners have entering this offseason – and there are plenty – their standing with left-hander Marco Gonzales did not appear to be near the top of the list.
He’s 26 years old, a former first-round draft pick out of Gonzaga University, he’s not arbitration eligible until 2021 and under club control until 2024 … oh, and he’s coming off of a breakout season and established himself as a key component in the Mariners’ starting rotation.
Yeah, nothing to worry about.
But the Mariners reportedly agreed to a two-year, $1.9 million contract with him, anyway, as Fancred’s Jon Heyman first reported on Thursday.
It’s an unusual deal because teams rarely agree to multiyear contracts or raises for pre-arbitration players like Gonzales unless the deal buys out subsequent arbitration seasons or free-agent seasons — yet there were no indications this agreement included either of those.
The Mariners had not officially confirmed the deal.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A lot of folks were shocked by how high the Marco Gonzales deal is since he is not arbitration eligible until after 2020. Via club sources, the 1.9K figure is partly explainable by Gonzales having a previous grievance pending over the timing of a demotion while with the cardinals</p>— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) <a href="https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/1058130281637601280?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 1, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Gonzales made $550,300 this past season after pitching a career-high 166 2/3 innings, going 13-9 with a 4.00 ERA and 145 strikeouts.
He was stellar through the first four months, entering August with a 3.37 ERA and 12 wins. But all those innings came with a price as Gonzales struggled in four August starts and landed on the disabled list with a strained neck.
He returned to form when he returned, allowing just four runs over 21 innings his final four starts of the season.
Gonzales, who had no options remaining entering spring training and had to make the team or be exposed to waivers, has had a big status change. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto considers Gonzales part of the team’s young core alongside outfielder Mitch Haniger and closer Edwin Diaz, who are also both pre-arbitration eligible.
“Guys like Haniger, guys like Marco Gonzales, guys like Edwin Diaz – these are the pieces that you’re trying to build around, not the pieces that you’re trying to send away,” Dipoto said. “We want to be conscious of the fact that we’ve built up what we think is that next sustainable young core, and build toward it.”
And he’s right in line with Dipoto’s target group of talent to fill out a core, which are typically players between 25-30 years old, he said.
“That’s the line for us,” he said. “We’re looking at that 25- to 30-year-old group and trying to determine how many of them form the core of a championship team.”
The Mariners acquired Gonzales in July 2017 from the Cardinals for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill. He was the West Coast Conference co-player of the year his freshman season at Gonzaga, alongside Kris Bryant.
Front office shakeup
The Mariners announced multiple promotions within their front office on Thursday.
The key moves were promoting Justin Hollander to assistant general manager and Leslie Manning to director of professional development and assistant director of player development.