Earlier today, the Nationals announced that they had agreed to terms with left handed reliever Mike Gonzalez to a minor league contract. Gonzalez, who pitched with the Brewers last year, was a key part of the Nationals bullpen back in 2012. According to multiple sources, Gonzalez’s deal with the Nationals includes an invitation to big league camp, which means that he will be at Nationals camp fairly soon.
Gonzalez struggled last year with the Brewers, compiling a 4.68 ERA and an 85 ERA+. However, in 2012, Gonzalez was a critical part of the Nationals playoff run. After signing a minor league contract with the Nationals in May of 2012, Gonzalez became one of three lefties in the Nationals bullpen. Gonzalez’s 3.03 ERA in 47 appearances helped him get onto the postseason roster. He had one appearance the NLDS, giving up a solo home run to Carlos Beltran in Game 2.
Gonzalez joins Luis Ayala, Christian Garcia, Xavier Cedeño, Ryan Mattheus and a handful of other relievers for the last bullpen spot in the Nationals major league pen. Both Gonzalez and Cedeño profile as lefty specialists, but Gonzalez might have the upper hand in the bullpen competition because of his proven success in the major leagues. From 2004-2009, Gonzalez was in the top 25 for relief pitcher WAR, and in the top 10 for ERA. If the Nationals can get that pitcher, or even the pitcher from 2012, they will have made a great signing.
It is not clear at this time whether Gonzalez has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt out if he fails to make the big league roster.