After weeks of wondering, speculation and confusion, the Phillies officially announced the signing of Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
In fact, after initially reportedly agreeing to a six-year, $48 million contract with the 26-year-old righty at the end of July, the Phils instead signed him on Friday to a three-year, $12 million deal. And while the Phils apparently saved $36 million in the process, it is still the largest international deal ever given by the Phillies. There is an option for a fourth year.
So, why the delay and decrease in salary? The Phils were apparently worried about some health issues with Gonzalez, with the right-hander having bone chips removed back in 2010. Apparently, the Phillies weren’t alone in those worries, as Gonzalez remained a free agent since the initial reporting of his signing, yet no other team came up with a better offer.
Obviously, a deal like this signals a sea change in organizational thinking and is a positive development no matter how this deal pans out.
“More than anything, we’re trying to find different ways to find talent,” Amaro said. “The major-league free-agent market is difficult to navigate. There are risks everywhere. There are risks with this guy, too. But from what we’ve seen, we think he can be pretty special.”
The Phillies have always been a risk-averse organization. But as the team moves into a new cable TV and presumably has more dollars to spend, Amaro and the Phillies perhaps see that spending that money on a weak MLB free agent class full of players in their mid-30s to huge multi-year deals is less preferable than taking a shot at a young Cuban talent like Gonzalez.
Scouts have Gonzalez pegged as anything from a #2 or #3-type starter to a late inning reliever. The Phillies say they plan to use him in the starting rotation next year.
“He’s going to go to the Florida Instructional League this year,” Amaro said. “We’ll find out once he starts competing, but I hope he slides into the rotation for 2014. … Great stuff, we’ll see how it translates at the major-league level.”
With Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and now Gonzalez locking up the top three spots in the rotation, the Phillies can focus on making a decision regarding Kyle Kendrick, who could earn as much as $8-9 million in salary arbitration next year. Jonathan Pettibone, Roy Halladay and Ethan Martin are also possibilities for the rotation next year, and it’s possible the team could sign a back-of-the-rotation free agent as well.
Overall, even though there are injury risks and there is no guarantee Gonzalez’ success in Cuba will translate to the Majors, his signing is welcome news and a sign that the Phillies may showing some progressive tendencies.