The son you’ve always wanted?
The man you’d want your daughter to marry?
The Mariners are adding their own layer to the cliches: The player you trust to help lead a rebuilding franchise in a state of transition.
To those close to him on the field and off, Marco Gonzales is all those things and much more. That’s why the Mariners, specifically general manager Jerry Dipoto, wanted to make sure Gonzales remains in a Seattle uniform to help see the team’s “step-back” plan through, giving Gonzales a four-year, $30 million contract extension announced Monday and officially signed Tuesday morning.
“What Marco has been really since the day he got here, back in 2017, is truly one of the most consistent pitchers in the American League,” Dipoto said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “We found him to be a foundational piece in what we are trying to build. He does it with a competitiveness that I think drives the team around him. That’s the thing that stands out most about Marco. He’s one of the most competitive players I’ve run across in doing this job.”
The roots of this extension started just after the end of the 2019 season, and discussions ramped up during the winter meetings. In the last couple of weeks, the negotiations got serious, culminating this past weekend on an agreement.
“I’m very appreciative of what this means for me and my family and my career going forward,” Gonzales said. “For me, I know what my future holds. I know that every fifth day I need to go out to win a ballgame, and this doesn’t change that.”
In three seasons with Seattle, he has produced a 30-23 record with a 4.12 ERA in 73 starts. Last season, Gonzales posted a 16-13 record with a 3.99 ERA in a career-high 34 starts and 203 innings pitched. He tied for the most starts in the American League while ranking fifth in wins (16), sixth in quality starts (19) and seventh in innings (203).
“I think everybody knows what they’re going to get from me every fifth day,” he said. “They’re going to get someone who is not going to take a loss easily.”
Clad in an impeccable dark blue suit, and under the glaring lights of the Mariners’ media room at T-Mobile Park, a clean-shaven Gonzales — not that he’s capable of growing a lumberjack beard — looked younger than his 27 years.
And yet, as he answered questions about the organization’s future, the upcoming season, being a team leader despite his age and service time and his ascent and what he’s overcome to get there, Gonzales displayed thoughtfulness, maturity and intensity. Those intangibles allowed the Mariners to invest in him as more than a pitcher — a leader for a collection of young players trying to build something more than the team has been for the last decade.
“These last two years, we can’t ask for a lot more than he’s done on the mound, but along the way, we found out a lot about who he is as a person, as a player and how much he relishes that leadership role,” Dipoto said. “Marco is the perfect leader for that group. You don’t run across too many players that have that skill-set and want to do it.”
Often, a player doesn’t get to choose when he wants or has to be a leader. That’s usually chosen for him. Gonzales has chosen to embrace it when others have eschewed it.
“I felt like I’ve always been that type of player,” he said. “I always wanted to be that player that left a place better than he found it.”
That last sentence is a mindset that extends beyond the field. Gonzales and his wife, Monica, and their dog, Louie, have made it a point to be visible in Seattle. Monica grew up in the Redmond area, and they’ve been Seattle-area residents in the offseason dating back to Gonzales’ time with the Cardinals.
“This is a perfect fit for us,” he said. “We love to call this home.”
Gonzales credited Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth and the Zags baseball coaching staff for helping instill and foster that mindset.
“He always believed to be heavily involved in community, give back,” Gonzales said. “I’ll never forget, he said, ‘We’re gonna win on the field. We’re gonna win in the classroom. We’re gonna win in the community.’ ”
“Every time I see him, he goes, ‘What are we doing?’ ” Gonzales said, mimicking Roth listing off the three things on his fingers. “Now that I have, we have, this city behind us, and we’re here, we just know that we want to plant roots down and we want to be involved. This past year we really started to see the impact that we could have in charity events and in trying to start our own foundation.”
As Gonzales talked, Monica dabbed at the corner of her eyes, while her parents nodded in agreement and his own parents, Frank and Gina, beamed with pride.
“We just want to give back as much as we can,” he said. “Monica and I feel like that’s kind of our calling, especially after baseball to give back and really just kind of do all that we can. We feel it’s important.”
With the team in a transition from established veterans to young prospects, it’s a responsibility he wants to carry over to others — be visible, be part of the community, embrace the opportunity given and do something more than just play.
“It starts there,” he said. “As we get younger guys and newer guidance on the team, they’re going to find out that, ‘Hey, this is what we do, and this is who we are. We appreciate our fans and our community that people who support us because people can’t always get out to the field and come see us.’ ”