Gio Gonzalez’s time with the Washington Nationals has come to an end. The left-handed pitcher was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for two minor leaguers, catcher/first baseman K.J. Harrison and infielder Gilbert Lara. There was a good chance Gonzalez wouldn’t be with the Nationals in 2019, however, no one envisioned his tenure ending in such a disappointing way.
The deal was ahead of Friday’s revocable waiver trade deadline as the Brewers came into town for a three-game set with the Nationals. The deal was officially announced following the Brewers’ 4-1 win over the Nats.
Wearing a Brewers hat and sweatshirt, an emotional Gonzalez reflected on his seven seasons with the Nationals while fighting back tears before regathering himself and trying to emphasize he was “happy” for a new challenge in Milwaukee.
oh man… pic.twitter.com/cXIsc7pcPX
— Danny (@recordsANDradio) September 1, 2018
Gonzalez joined the Nationals ahead of the 2012 season in a trade with the Oakland Athletics that sent Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, A.J. Cole, and Derek Norris to the A’s.
With a fresh start, Gonzalez broke out in his first season in D.C. winning an MLB-best 21 games and posting a 2.89 ERA with 207 strikeouts, as the Nationals captured their first N.L. East division title and posted the best record in the National League. However, it was Gonzalez who started the dreaded Game 5 against St. Louis. He left the game with a 6-3 lead, but the Nationals ultimately lost 9-7 ending their season.
Gonzalez never quite recaptured the same fire. He didn’t posted more than 11 wins or have a sub-3.00 ERA in any of the next four seasons despite the Nationals claiming two additional N.L. East titles.
In 2017, Gonzalez appeared to get his mojo back, posting a 15-9 record with a 2.96 ERA while topping 200 innings pitched for the first time in a Nationals uniform. He even flirted with a no-hitter through eight innings in Miami on the birthday of his later friend Jose Fernandez. His performance earned him a vested one-year extension for 2018.
Unfortunately, Gonzalez could not rekindle the same magic. Despite starting the season hot and posting a 6-2 record with a 2.10 ERA, Gonzalez won just one decision since May 28 over the course of 16 starts. His last game in a Nationals uniform was a loss against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday in which he gave up six runs. His ERA has ballooned to 4.57 and he heads to Milwaukee with a 7-11 record.
But through it all, Gonzalez was a fan-favorite. His addition made the Nats one of the more formidable starting rotations in the MLB along with Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, then Jordan Zimmermann and later Max Scherzer.
Players said they started hearing about the trade early in the game. Tried to maintain focus on playing but acknowledge it’s hard to see a longtime teammate and friend depart like that.
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) September 1, 2018
In his time with Washington, Gonzalez won 86 games — third-most in the National League by a left-handed pitcher. He had a .570 win-percentage. He had a 3.62 ERA with a 1.283 WHIP while averaging 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
In 2018, the Nationals have become the most disappointing team in MLB. They currently sit 7.5 games back of first place in the NL East after winning four of the last six division titles and 8.5 games back of the NL wild card.
After essentially standing pat at the July 31 trade deadline, the Nationals lost more ground in the standings and ultimately went into a wave of selling players in waiver trades. They traded Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs and Matt Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals last month. On Friday, they also dealt reliever Ryan Madson to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nats also moved reliever Brandon Kintzler (Cubs) and Shawn Kelley (Athletics) in deals.
None of those deals had the emotional attachment as Gonzalez being sent away to Milwaukee. Gonzalez was charter member so to speak of the Nationals’ core that won those four division titles. It’s also a core that failed to get past the National League Division Series in four postseason trips. That’s something that was unimaginable in 2012. Now, one of the members has been shipped off as a retool is underway in D.C. following the disappointment in 2018.
“D.C. gave me a home… D.C. will always be in my heart,” Gonzalez professed per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.