It has not been a good first three starts of 2018 for Miguel Gonzalez.
The pitcher, brought back to the South Side this offseason after the White Sox dealt him to the Texas Rangers last summer, was roughed up Tuesday night in Oakland, scorched for eight runs in three innings as his season ERA exploded to 12.41.
It's a handy reminder that not all "signs" turn into "flips."
Gonzalez was brought back for more than just the hope that Rick Hahn's could squeeze another prospect out of him. He's a great presence in the White Sox clubhouse, and he went as far as saying during spring training that acting as a mentor to young pitchers Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer was part of the deal when he returned. And while the rest of the White Sox crowded rotation of the future develops in the minor leagues, the team needed someone to eat up innings at the major league level this season.
Gonzalez, though, has not been doing that last thing. In three starts, he's given up six runs in five innings, four runs in 4.1 innings and now eight in three. That's not helping a struggling White Sox bullpen, which started the day with one of the worst relief ERAs in the majors at 5.98.
After last year's summer selloff, it wasn't out of line to expect a similar strategy this season. The White Sox traded Gonzalez, Jose Quintana, Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard. Those trades netted five prospects currently ranked in the organization's top 17, as well as others not ranked in the top 30. With low-risk offseason fliers on veteran pitchers like Gonzalez, Hector Santiago, Luis Avilan, Joakim Soria, Bruce Rondon, Jeanmar Gomez and Xavier Cedeno, it figured that solid performances from any of those guys could lead to more trades.
But remember that last year also featured failed sign-and-flip tries Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey. Those guys stuck in the White Sox rotation for almost the whole season and didn't pitch well enough to generate any trade interest. It didn't end up hurting the White Sox because they were rebuilding, not contending. But it was the flip side of what otherwise worked out very well for the White Sox last season.
What outcome is in store for Gonzalez? It's still far too early to tell. Obviously Gonzalez has the track record to straighten things out, and he could still turn into a potential trade chip this summer. And while he still has plenty of value inside the clubhouse walls regardless of what kind of results he's getting on the mound, should his season-long performance resemble how he's started, it'll be another reminder that not all low-risk "signs" turn into high-reward "flips."