Another of the Nationals’ remaining options for left-handed relief found work elsewhere on Friday with Michael Gonzalez reportedly agreeing to a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Gonzalez, whose agreement was first reported by FoxSports.com with terms added by CBSsports.com, was a valuable member of the Nationals’ bullpen in 2012, despite not signing with the organization on a minor league deal until early May.
He joins Tom Gorzelanny in Milwaukee, as well as Sean Burnett (who signed with the Angels) as left-handed free-agent defectors from the Nationals.
A well-liked and well-respected teammate, Gonzalez was interested in returning to Washington. That feeling was mutual, and the Nationals talked with Gonzalez’s representatives this winter in hopes of making it a reality, but ultimately the Brewers were the ones who appear to have gotten the deal done.
In 47 games with the Nationals in 2012, the 34-year-old Gonzalez had a 3.03 ERA and struck out 39 batters in just 35 1/3 innings of work.
Gonzalez served an important role as more of a situational lefty, leaving Burnett to serve as more of a full-inning set-up man, and a veteran voice with younger pitchers, particularly Ross Detwiler, who credited him with helping him this past season.
The Nationals’ search for additional left-handed help will continue. Right now they have just one left-handed reliever on a major league contract in Zach Duke, but Bill Bray (a former National) signed a minor league deal this winter as well and could be someone to watch to make the team out of camp. There’s also still plenty of time for the Nationals to bolster the left side of a bullpen that will remain largely unchanged on the right side.
J.P. Howell, a lefty the Nationals have expressed interest in, remains unsigned, as do a host of other left-handers who may be a tier below Howell.
There’s no reason to panic just yet, even without another lefty signed. The Nationals are fortunate to have a bullpen stocked with right-handers who are equally tough on left-handers and, if it comes to that, they’d be set-up fairly well to use them in those situations. Tyler Clippard held left-handed batters to a .170 average in 2012 — and he was joined by Ryan Mattheus keeping them to a .241 average and Craig Stammen at .198.