Seattle 'is our home': Gonzales set for next step

February 4th, 2020

SEATTLE -- For , a contract extension that will keep him with the Mariners through at least 2024 makes perfect sense.

“We’ve found our home,” said the former Gonzaga University standout, who has lived year-round in Seattle since 2016 with his wife Monica, a native of nearby Redmond, Wash.

And for the Mariners, it sends the perfect message.

“We want to start putting together this foundation and this is, for lack of a better way to put it, a sign that we're putting our money where our mouth is,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said at Tuesday’s press conference announcing Gonzales’ new deal. “We want to be about this young group of players and make sure this group understands they are here and our fan base understands that these are the Mariners.”

The two sides began talking about extending the 27-year-old’s contract at the Winter Meetings in December and came to a fairly quick agreement that culminated with this Monday's announcement.

Gonzales will make $1 million this year under his current deal, with the extension running from 2021-24 for $30 million. According to a source, he’ll receive a $1 million signing bonus, then make $5 million in ’21, $5.5 million in ’22, $6.5 million in ’23 and $12 million in ’24 in what would have been his first year of free agency. There also is a $15 million club option for ’25 with no buyout.

While the Mariners have churned through veteran players in recent years, Dipoto has now locked up both Gonzales and rookie first baseman Evan White, who signed a six-year, $24 million deal in November despite never having played a Major League game.

After Tuesday’s press conference, Dipoto indicated more similar long-term deals could be in the offing with other young players.

“Yeah, that’s absolutely the idea,” he said. “I won’t say who they are, but the thought is to keep this core of players together and make that our theme. This is our story. These are our guys and we think this is going to be a championship club.”

Gonzales had no hesitation in casting his lot with a rebuilding club that went 68-94 last year and is projected for similar results this year with even more young prospects arriving.

“For us moving forward here in Seattle, to be with our family and a ballclub that is trying to build a championship team, to have a chance to be at the forefront of that is a huge opportunity for me,” Gonzales said.

The left-hander was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colo., and his dad, Frank, is the Double-A pitching coach for the Rockies. But after meeting his future wife at Gonzaga, he’s adopted Seattle as his new hometown.

“It’s a perfect fit for us,” he said. “We love to call this home. We always knew we wanted to raise kids and eventually settle down here. After I got traded here in 2017 and we were up with the team, Monica and I kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘Well, this is as good as any reason to know this is our home.’ We were very, very proud.”

The Mariners acquired Gonzales from St. Louis in July of 2017 in a trade for outfielder Tyler O’Neill. At the time of his acquisition, Gonzales was in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and he struggled in 10 late-season outings that year.

But over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder has been the Mariners’ most-consistent starter while posting a 29-22 record and 3.99 ERA in 63 starts. He took over from Felix Hernandez as Seattle’s No. 1 starter last year and went 16-13 with a 3.99 ERA while throwing a career-best 203 innings.

“Marco has been as consistent a pitcher every fifth day as we could have hoped for these last two years,” Dipoto said. “Along the way, we found out a lot about who he is as a person and player and how much he relishes that leadership role.”

Seeing the impact Gonzales had on young pitchers like and at the end of last season and how he stepped up further into a leading role as established veterans like Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnación and Mike Leake were traded away sealed the desire to make him part of the long-term future.

“That’s really when Marco started to rise,” Dipoto said. “It was especially notable when Sheff [Justus Sheffield] got here and Justin Dunn, or even the week he spent with Logan Gilbert and seeing the impact he had on those guys. What we think of those players and their character and personalities, Marco is the perfect leader for that group and you don’t run across too many guys in baseball with that skillset and the want to employ it. Marco has the skills and the want-to.”

Part of that leadership role is knowing the young Mariners are likely going through more struggles and understand the big picture, without accepting that losing is inevitable. That bulldog mentality and focus is what has allowed Gonzales to be successful and he isn't about to change now.

“To be honest, I don’t think it’s my job to know where this is headed,” he said. “It’s my job to go out and win ballgames. I don’t think Jerry and the front office and Scott [Servais] want me to be worried about where we’re going or what are we doing. They want me to win and I want to win.

“I think everybody knows what they’re going to get from me every fifth day. They’re going to get someone who is not going to take a loss easily. That’s what it’s going to start with. We’re not going to be OK with a loss. We understand it’s a process, but it’s not our job to worry about where the ship is being steered. We’re just rowing the boat.”