Phillies Sign Cuban Pitcher On Cliff Lee Rumor Night


Jul 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee (33) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll say this. Since Ruben Amaro became general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, the trade deadline has never been boring.

First, on Friday night, before the Phils’ 2-1 loss to the Tigers in Detroit, their sixth straight defeat, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick detailed how the Phillies were fielding some aggressive offers for their ace left-hander, Cliff Lee.

That whirlwind of speculation was only whipped up further when it was announced during the game that Lee would not make his scheduled start on Saturday against the Tigers due to a “stiff neck.”

Of course, that “stiff neck” was seen by many as a cover for a trade of Lee that could be coming any minute.

Then, the Phillies did something that shocked the fanbase to their very core.

Ruben Amaro on Friday signed 26-year-old Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, a right-handed starting pitcher, to a six year, $50 million deal. Reports are that the bidding came down to the wire, with the Phils beating out the Boston Red Sox for Gonzalez’ services. It was a move I called for the Phillies to make last week, but one I thought they would never do.

This is the first signing of its kind of an international player for the Phillies, and it signals a true shift in organizational thought.

Perhaps Amaro and his front office mates see a Major League free agent market that is drying up. Perhaps he was influenced by the terrific play of recent Cuban defectors Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs’ minor league Jorge Soler. Whatever the reason, this a very positive step forward. And the Twitterverse was well pleased. 

This of course begs the question, what are the Phillies going to do at the deadline now? Were the rumors of a looming contract extension for Chase Utley on Thursday legitimate? Does this mean the Phillies want to hold onto Lee and have him anchor a rotation with Hamels, Gonzalez, Kendrick and Pettibone? Or is Gonzalez a potential replacement for Lee if the Phillies decide to trade him?

One thing was made known after Friday night’s loss to the Tigers. By all accounts, Lee’s neck injury is legitimate.

Of course, there are risks to signing a Cuban pitcher like Gonzalez to such a big contract. Sure, the Phillies are about to renegotiate a TV contract that could net them hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. Money has become virtually no object for this franchise. But no one wants to just throw money away, no matter how much of it they have.

This is not a slam dunk. Gonzalez could be great, but he could also flame out. It’s a risk, to be sure. But this is the type of risk that makes a whole lot of sense for a team with a lot of money and not a lot of talent. It’s one people have been screaming for them to make for years, and now they’ve finally done it.

Even if Gonzalez tanks, this was a positive signing and the right thing to do.

There may be only one read drawback to the whole thing.

Yeah, that’s TOTALLY going to happen. One other thing to consider.

This was a good signing no matter what and, despite the Phils’ sixth straight loss and march toward 2013 irrelevancy, a good night for the franchise.