Marco Elias Gonzales
Height: 6'1" Weight: 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: Left / Left
Born: 02/16/1992 in Fort Collins, Colorado
Offseason home: Seattle, Washington
College: Gonzaga University
Family: Wife Monica, daughter Grace
MLB Debut: 06/25/2014
Acquired: In trade from the St. Louis Cardinals, for Tyler O'Neill (07/21/2017)
Free Agent after: 2025 season
League leader: BB/9IP (0.9, 2020)
Twitter handle: @MarcoGonzales_
Once again, Marco has been the victim of a lousy offense. Thus far, the Seattle southpaw has been tagged with six losses, including games the Mariners lost by scores of 2-1, 3-2 (twice), and 3-0. He's also been the victim of a lousy defense at times, with nine unearned runs contributing to his stat line, and he's been frustrated by early hooks from manager Scott Servais. Servais' insistence on pulling the starting pitcher before he tops 100 pitches has cost the M's has resulted in Gonzales' relief allowing four inherited runners to score, none more important than Aledmys Díaz of the Astros on May 29th who ended up scoring the second Houston run in their 2-1 win. It's made for a no-doubt frustrating season for Marco, but he's taking it in stride and continues to be one of the most interesting pitchers to watch every time out. Even so, because of his unrepresentative stat line and his lack of a 95mph fastball, he remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the American League, never getting a mention when the game's to pitchers are discussed. "I don't know what to tell you," Marco says of his critics. "If you don't think I can pitch at this level, then I love it because I'm going to keep proving you wrong." But at least his teammates know what's what. “He’s awesome to catch,” Cal Raleigh said. “It’s a lot of fun when a guy can put a ball wherever he wants. People don't give him enough credit.”
"Very boring." That's how Marco was described by former Mariners team president Kevin Mather during his de facto resignation speech in February of 2021, and though Mather followed up by saying the Seattle southpaw was also among the best lefties in the league, the comment revealed Mather to be a baseball moron. Because if you know pitching, Marco is anything but boring to watch. There's no one more prepared for a start nor anyone more competitive on the mound, and because he doesn't rely on fireballing stuff that breaks the radar gun, each at-bat and each pitch is an intellectual exercise. What kind of batter is up? Is he hot or slumping? Who's the home-plate umpire? Does the curveball feel good and have a good snap today? Just a few of the questions that factor into how Marco approaches his game from start to start, and for the fan in the stands (or watching on TV) following along with these choices make watching Marco Gonzales pitch among the most interesting things baseball can offer. And he has a sense of humor, as evidenced by his Twitter profile:
Plus, he's just really good. Marco could have been a 20-game winner in 2019 if not for bad luck in the run support department—he lost six games in which he posted a quality start (6+ innings and no more than 3 earned runs allowed), including a 1-0 game and two 2-1 contests, on his way to a 16-13 record—and in 2020’s mini-campaign he went 7-2 (11 starts) and placed eighth in the league in ERA with a career-best 3.10 mark. He was also one of just four qualifying AL pitchers to post a WHIP of less than 1.000 and led the AL in K:BB ratio thanks to walking a total of seven—that's right, seven—batters over his 692⁄3 innings. Of course, that was 2020, which can't really be counted as a "season," but hopes were high going into last year.
Unfortunately, 2021 started off badly for Marco as he was not only playing with an undiagnosed arm ailment—he was finally placed on the injured list in late April after going 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his first five starts, getting treatment for a forearm strain—but he and his wife Monica were mourning the sudden death of Monica's mother. "We lost my mother-in-law right before spring training last year, someone who was really special to me," Gonzales said. "I just felt like I didn’t have my feet under me at all. I was trying to hit the ground running, and trying to go out and compete against the best in the world when your heart and mind aren’t completely in it, it’s not really going to go the way you want." Speaking on a recent radio interview, the 30-year-old former first-round draft choice opened up about the difficulty of balancing work and home as a professional ballplayer. "As an athlete," Gonzales said, “[you can't] come out and make an excuse about, you know, ‘I’m not prepared to compete today.’ You kind of just have to muscle up and go get it. And especially as a man, I think there’s a lot of times where as men we’re not as up-front about our feelings and what we’re going through.” When Marco returned from the IL, he had a different issue—new fatherhood. Things at home were still an emotional roller-coaster and the extra distraction and sleep deprivation coming from having a newborn in the house contributed to a few more subpar outings. But after the All-Star break, our favorite Gonzaga Bulldog was back to his old self on the field and even better off of it, relishing being a dad to his baby girl. In the second half, Gonzales went 9-1 with a much more representative 2.70 ERA while holding the opposition to Mario Mendoza numbers (.202/.258/.381). He could easily have been 13-1 in that stretch with a little run support, as all four no-decisions were again quality starts.
Marco always sets a goal of 200 innings for himself; achieved once (2019), he'd like to make it a habit and is glad to have the six-man rotation experiment consigned to the circular file. "Our best guys don’t need to be pitching just once a week," Gonzales said. "We need to be out there more often." He also wants to go deep into each start. If he averages 62⁄3 innings per game, he can reach the 200 inning mark with 30 starts; barring injury, he should make about 35. How does he feel as the new season approaches? "I think I’m in a better place," he said. "Watching our baby girl grow up is very fulfilling. I would have to say that our family has been through a lot but we’re going to be stronger for it." And so will the Mariners.