Go back and look at your initial reaction to the Kyle Gibson trade. Without looking, what do you think it was - positive or negative?
Here is what I wrote about the trade when it happened and it still remains true. Getting Gibson meant that their fourth starters weren’t going to be anyone named Velasquez or Moore in 2021, a season in which they were still pushing for a wild card spot when the trade was made. Spencer Howard has done almost nothing while in Texas and might be running out of chances there as well.
Fast forward to now and your opinion of Gibson has likely changed. Mine has (I advocated for him not to pitch again this season as early as September 26), but that doesn’t mean Gibson didn’t serve a purpose last season. In fact, I’d argue that he actually did what was expected of him, if not a bit more.
2021 stats: 31 G (31 GS), 167 2⁄3 IP, 176 H, 98 R (94 ER), 20.1 K%, 3.3 BB%, 5.05 ERA (4.28 FIP), 0.7 bWAR
Reflecting on the season that Gibson had, ask yourself: did you expect more?
Sometimes, we place burdens on players to live up to something that maybe their skillset will not allow them to reach. You can’t make someone good simply by clicking your heels and reciting a line over and over. In the same way, we couldn’t just make Gibson into a #2 or 3 starter on a team that had playoff aspirations or else those same aspirations would not be achieved. Instead, Gibson was slotted into the role that best suits him at this point in his career - don’t get hurt, give the team the assurance they will be able to send you to the mound every fifth day and don’t let the team get blown out. Did he do this?
- “Don’t get hurt” - Gibson suffered no major injuries in 2022
- “Be there every fifth day” - Gibson didn’t miss a start that he was scheduled to make all season
- “Don’t let the team get blown out” - there were six games where Gibson allowed six runs or more out of the 31 starts he made this season.
When you start to look at his season through the lens of properly aligned expectations, it starts to get a little rosier. He’s not an ace, a #2 starter or, heck, even a #3 starter. What he is is a solid back end starter that won’t clog up the games or the balance sheet. That’s good enough.
However, you didn’t really expect him to be that good, did you?
Prior to the season starting, the expectations for Gibson were that he would settle in as a fourth or fifth starter, giving the team innings that they needed, but not setting them on fire during his starts. For the most part he did that.
Then September hit.
Had this report card been written after his start on August 27th, there is little doubt he would have received high marks. His ERA sat at a comfortable 4.08, the FIP was the same, hitters had posted a .695 OPS against him and all seemed alright with the world. In September, that all stopped. As I mentioned in the earlier link to an article I wrote earlier, there had to come a point where putting Gibson on the mound was simply too risky for a team that needed every game just to stay in the playoff hunt. In that month (and his one start in October), his season ERA jumped nearly a full run, which when you think about it, is really hard to do at the end of the season when so many innings have been accumulated. Three times in that stretch did Gibson allow seven runs or more. It was just an untenable situation, one the team realized could not happen again had they made it into the postseason. It was just a really, really ugly stretch for Gibson.
There really is just no way that Gibson is going to come back to this team next season. It’s not that he wouldn’t be useful. As demonstrated before, players that can soak up innings for a team, delivering the good performance here and there are valuable in a certain sense. It says something that he was able to go out and make 31 starts for a team that ultimately went on to the World Series.
It also says something that he was not even considered for a start during the postseason.
Kyle Gibson is one of those really nice guys that you enjoy having on your team. He may not be the best pitcher, but he never complained, never made excuses. There’s a lot admirable in that. But there is nothing wrong with saying “Thank you for your service,” shaking hands and moving on. That’s what the Phillies look like they’re going to do with Gibson.