With the emergence of Cuban defectors Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig, and Yoenis Cespedes to superstardom, it seemed strange that the Phillies hadn’t made a serious run at a Cuban prospect. That is until the Phillies outbid the Red Sox, to sign Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a six-year/48 million dollar deal that was announced last night.
I’ll be the first to tell you, my knowledge on the 26 year-old Gonzalez is limited. So instead of me trying to give you a scouting report, here is one from MLB Trade Rumors, Yahoo, and Baseball America.
Gonzalez throws a mid-90s fastball, along with a curveball, splitter and changeup. In a scouting report for Baseball America, Ben Badler notes that Gonzalez’s curveball is his weakest pitch and that his splitter and changeup are just “a tick above average.” Scouts who like Gonzalez rate him as about a No. 3 starter in the big leagues, Badler says, while others think he might be a back-of-the-rotation starter or low-leverage reliever.
Badler says, however, that scouts mostly agree Gonzalez is a Major League talent. The 26-year-old is also fairly widely perceived as being big-league ready, or close to it, despite having not pitched much in the past two years after being suspended from the Cuban national team for trying to defect. Passan also notes that one factor in the Phillies’ decision to sign Gonzalez is that they will soon be negotiating a new TV deal — they’re getting a big-league pitcher, and they’ll have plenty of money with which to pay him.
I hate to be that guy to rain on everyone’s parade, but does someone who hasn’t pitched in two years and scouts consider a number three starter really warrant a six year deal valued at nearly 50 million dollars? Maybe the scouts are dead wrong in that projection, because with a mid-90’s fastball if his breaking pitches develop he could be a dangerous pitcher. But damn, it sure would be nice to know that before guaranteeing him this much.
All of that taken into account, the timing of the signing is extremely interesting. How could the Phillies sign a player to 50 million dollar deal who hasn’t played, when they are trotting out Delmon Young every day in right-field? I know that Jeff Passan of Yahoo mentioned the Phillies upcoming television deal, but that deal doesn’t come until after the 2015 season. So where are the Phillies getting the money for the next two seasons? It makes you wonder if the Phillies felt that they could sign Gonzalez to this deal, because they were preparing to unload the contract of Cliff Lee, either before the July 31st trade deadline or on the waiver wire in August.
I’m not saying that I hate the signing of Gonzalez, but the timing is interesting. There’s no question that signing international prospects comes with risk, but this one seems to come with more risk than the Puig signing or any of the other international signings because of the fact that Gonzalez hasn’t pitched in two seasons.
Reports say that the Phillies believe that Gonzalez is expected to make his Phillies debut sometime in August, and I will be just as excited as everyone when he does. But he is 26, and already making eight million dollars, and that is the standard that I will hold him to when reporting on the games.
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