The Brewers made a move to add to their pitching depth on Tuesday, claiming right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.
Freddy Peralta was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster for Gonzalez. This does not impact Peralta’s timeline in his recovery from a lat injury. In addition to ensuring he has fully recovered, the team will have to send him out on a rehab assignment to ramp back up against live hitters, so he was never likely to return any sooner than August or September.
Gonzalez is a six-year veteran who has appeared in the big leagues with three different teams. He was once a highly-regarded pitching prospect and was drafted 23rd overall by the Texas Rangers in 2013.
The right-hander broke into the big leagues less than two years later, posting a 3.90 ERA in 14 games (10 starts) in 2015. However, Gonzalez issued 32 walks against just 30 strikeouts, and his passable run prevention was fueled almost entirely by a .207 BABIP.
The right-hander spent most of the 2016 season in Triple-A, making just three starts for the Rangers. A partial UCL tear and subsequent Tommy John surgery wiped out most of his 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Gonzalez resurfaced with the Colorado Rockies in 2019, shuttling back and forth between AAA and the big leagues while serving as a depth starter. In three years with the Rockies, he posted a 6.10 ERA in 44 games (34 starts).
The veteran caught on with the Twins as a minor league signing this year, but they designated him for assignment after he made two starts and allowed six runs in seven innings.
There’s next to nothing encouraging in Gonzalez’s MLB track record to date. He owns a career 5.69 ERA and 5.37 FIP, has averaged 1.42 strikeouts per walk, and has allowed hard contact at a below-average 39.1% rate.
That said, there is one trend that offers a glimmer of hope. Gonzalez added several inches of horizontal break to his slider from 2020 to 2021. This year, he has made an even more significant jump in a small sample.
Notice how the shape of Gonzalez’s slider has evolved throughout the past few seasons.
In 2020, Gonzalez’s slider had very little movement and more closely resembled a cutter. He began to add more movement last season, culminating in a much more horizontal shape with a sharper break this year.
Gonzalez has a full five-pitch mix but relies heavily on his two fastballs. Both his four-seamer and sinker have natural sink, but he has never thrown his sinker more than 17% of the time, with the exception of this year. Going all-in on his sinker could be the best way to complement the gains he has made with his slider.
Perhaps Gonzalez will prove to be nothing more than a warm body to give the Brewers some length out of the bullpen or as a spot starter, but they may think he has the potential to succeed as a sinker-slider pitcher. He is out of options, meaning he will join the team in some capacity once he is ready to be activated.