LHP Gonzales gets security, leadership role in deal with M’s

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SEATTLE (AP)When Marco Gonzales was first brought to Seattle during the 2017 season, there were limitations and benchmarks placed on his pitching.

Sometimes he was pulled before facing the order a third time. Or maybe his arm was monitored closely because of previous injuries. Seattle had scouted out Gonzales’ potential, but the Mariners had to see the left-hander up close to realize he could be a leader in their rotation.

“He’s a hardcore competitor. That’s what he does,” Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “I think what you saw with our early development with Marco in the big leagues is indicative of, we don’t believe player development is over in the big leagues and Marco’s minor league development was abbreviate because of a very quick assent to the big leagues and then an injury.

“We had to make sure we got him through those gates so to speak.”

Seattle signed the 27-year-old to a $30 million, four-year deal Tuesday that will keep him in their rotation through at least 2024. The deal also has a fifth-year option that could bring the total value to $45 million.

It sets up Gonzales to be a mentor and leader on a team at the lowpoint of a rebuild.

“You never expect to be thrown into a situation like that (at) 26, 27. But I felt like I’ve always been that type of player,” Gonzales said. “I felt like since high school when I was a freshman, I had some older seniors who really took me under their wing and I know how big of a difference that made for me.

“And going forward in college the same thing happened about the time that I left. I had guys under my wing. I always wanted to be that player that left a place better than he found it.”

Gonzales is coming off the best season of his career. He tied for the AL lead with 34 starts and was tied for fifth with 16 victories. His 3.99 ERA was the lowest of his career and he set career-highs in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts.

Gonzales gets $1 million this year in the final season of a $1.9 million, two-year deal.

His new contract adds a $1 million signing bonus, half payable within 30 days and half next Jan. 15, and salaries of $5 million in 2021, $5.5 million in 2022, $6.5 million in 2023 and $12 million in 2024, when he would have been eligible for free agency. The Mariners’ 2025 option is for $15 million with no buyout.

The deal also gives Seattle some payroll certainty going into upcoming seasons when they expect to supplement their young prospects with free agents.

Eating up his arbitration years and his first year of potential free agency was an easy sell for Gonzales. Even before he became part of the Mariners via trade from St. Louis in 2017, Gonzales and his wife Monica had decided to make Seattle their permanent home.

While there may be another contract in Gonzales’ future, he now has his prime seasons locked up in the place he wants to be.

“For me I know what my future holds,” Gonzales said. “I know that every fifth day I need to go out and win a ball game. This doesn’t change that. For me, the sense of security for my family absolutely. But for my career I think I’m going to be the same minded person.”

NOTES: Dipoto said OF Mitch Haniger had successful core muscle/sports hernia surgery recently, but there is no timetable on a possible return to baseball activity. Dipoto said the team won’t have a feel for Haniger’s status until the club reports for spring training later next week.

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