The 34-year-old Gonzalez will join Tom Gorzelanny as former Nationals' left-handers in the bullpen as the Brewers seek to revamp a bullpen that likely cost the team a playoff spot last season. The Reds and Nationals were also pursuing the free agent.
Gonzalez had his best season since 2009 last year with Washington. He posted a 3.03 ERA in 47 games, along with a 2.98 FIP. However, three of the four years prior to 2012 saw Gonzalez end up with a 4.00+ ERA. However, at this point Gonzalez will be much more of a true LOOGY than Gorzelanny. Last year, Gonzalez had an .863 opponent OPS against righties. Against southpaws, that number dropped to .525. Left-handed hitters have OPS'd .605 against Gonzalez over his career. His strikeout numbers are down a tick from earlier in his career, but still sat at a 9.84 K/9 in 2012.
Gonzalez was once a top reliever with the Pirates and Braves. Despite one poor season, he had a 2.41 ERA from 2004-2009 with a 10.7 K/9 and 53 saves. He throws basically a fastball/slider combination while mixing in a changeup intermittently. As he has aged, his velocity has dropped into the low nineties, though he can still dial it up into the 95 MPH range.
Taking a chance on Gonzalez as a left-handed specialist is a good move for the Brewers and their beleaguered bullpen. A one year deal minimizes just about any risk of him falling apart, and there is a decent chance that he can be even more than just a LOOGY. He has been in the past, certainly. Besides that, the bottom three in the bullpen on the Brewers depth chart right now are Brandon Kintzler, Jesus Sanchez, and Josh Stinson. Yech.
Gonzalez might not be a great or surefire move. But the Brewers had to improve on the bottom of that bullpen. So far, they have signed a bunch of scrap pieces to compete for those roles. That would be great if there was only one spot left, but we're talking about nearly half the bullpen. Gonzalez helps solidify that, and it has been a while since Milwaukee has had a true, good left handed specialist.
I still think the Brewers go after at least one more relief pitcher in free agency. If they can get another reliever (or two!) in the same vein as Gorzellany and Gonzalez, they could easily turn the bullpen from a big weakness to a relative strength.