Though there are questions to his actual age (25-26 with most writers settling on age 26), Miguel Gonzalez is considered to be a very close to major league ready. According to his agent Jamie Torres, Gonzalez will only require about 2-3 minor league starts before being ready to take the mound this year in the major leagues – with hopes of helping a contender immediately. Torres expects him to sign in the next week. A minor hold up in Gonzalez coming to the U.S. is having his visa expedited. That doesn’t appear to be a stumbling block for any of the competing teams, as all reports are everything is on track. The consensus seems to be that Gonzalez will get anywhere between $40 – $60 million dollars over five years…with more people leaning to the $60 million figure as the number of interested teams could initiate a bidding war for his services.
The teams most interested in him appear to be Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angles Angels, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Most baseball people agree you can probably remove the Marlins and Cubs from consideration as they’re out of their respected division races as well as wild card consideration. The teams with the most interest appear to be the Dodgers and Red Sox.
It’s been reported that Gonzalez has had anywhere from 45 – 60 MLB scouts in the stands in his most recent starts for the Tijuana Potros. He’s also been doing bullpen sessions for the purposes of MLB evaluations. Most scouts agree the lanky 6’ 3” right hander is a four-pitch pitcher, with a mid-90’s fastball, a curveball that varies in both break and speed – which has been described by one scout as devastating, a forkball and a changeup. The curve ball and change up range anywhere from the high 70’s to the low/mid 80’s.
In a recent outing for Gonzalez it was reported the Dodgers had three of their top scouts in attendance to assess and grade just how high the right-handers ceiling is, but also to gauge his readiness to contribute now in 2013 – down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Red Sox are apparently extremely interested and are making no attempt to hide their infatuation with Gonzalez, as they not only sent seven scouts to watch him pitch recently, but also in attendance was Boston GM Ben Cherington. Aside from Gonzalez’s mastery on the mound one of the more attractive features in acquiring Gonzalez is the unique free agent status he finds himself in.
The way the current CBA is structured, signing Gonzalez will not count against the international spending pool of the team that signs him. Each team can only spend so much money per year from their international spending allotment, but because Gonzalez is over 23 years of age and has spent over three seasons in Cuba’s top league, the acquiring team’s only risk is the amount of money they spend on his contract. There are no other penalties or implications that would affect their ability to sign other international free agents – this year or in the years to come.
With a weak free agent class after this season there are few ways for the Phils to add impact players to come in and contribute next year. The front office needs to get creative. Adding a pitcher of Gonzalez capability not only helps them next year and beyond, but also this season if they decide it’s worth buying to make a push to the finish line. Gonzalez acquisition also opens up new potential trade opportunities at the deadline should the Phils decide to sell. This is looking more likely after dropping two out of three to the Mets. Kyle Kendrick didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Friday night’s victory, but was the beneficiary of a 13-run outburst by the offense. The Phillies then got sub-par performances from both Hamels and Lee in Saturday and Sunday’s losses. On the heels of these back-to-back losses they now head to St. Louis and Detroit for six more tough, crucial road games before coming home with the trade deadline staring them in the face.
Currently it’s difficult to ascertain where in a team’s rotation Gonzalez would fit. It’s this writers opinion from the small sample of available data, that he could be a number two or number three pitcher. When you look at Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers, a strong # 3 pitcher in his age 29 season we see he got a 5-year $88 million (16,500,000 per season) contract extension from Detroit heading into this season. Looking at Edwin Jackson, formerly of the Washington Nationals and now a Chicago Cub who also started his age 29 season this year he was able to obtain a $52 million dollar contract over four years ($13,000,000 per season).
With the jury still out on Gonzalez, who most scouts project as a # 2 or # 3 starting pitcher, the 5-year, $60 million dollar contract does not sound unreasonable – especially if he can obtain the status of a # 2 SP. Committing five years and up to $60 million still carries a risk for an international pitcher who has yet to prove anything at the higher echelons of baseball. So whhy should the Phillies have interest in acquiring Gonzalez services?
For starters you can’t teach or coach a pitcher to become a mid-90’s fastball pitcher. While the possibility exists that Gonzalez could help the Phils gain a playoff berth this year let’s also take a peak down the road at the Phillies starting rotation after 2013. If Halladay returns a 100% (still a big question mark yet unanswered) is he going to want to resign with the Phillies? Remember Halladay left millions on the table when he signed his last contract for 3 years at $60 million. Halladay’s prime reason for coming to Philly and extending his contract at below market value was all predicated on the Phils chances of winning a WS – the one achievement Halladay has yet to experience. Also if Halladay is unable to pitch again this year the question marks surrounding his health will play a large factor in what, if any, team Halladay choosesto sign with.
Cliff Lee only has two years remaining on his contract at $25 million per year. In 2016 his vesting option of $27.5 million dollar kicks in automatically if Lee has 200 IP in 2015, or 400 IP in 2014-2015. If Lee fails to meet the vesting options the team has the right to buy Lee out of his contract for $12.5 million in 2017. He’s another pitcher here on borrowed time fighting Father Time – a theme in the Phils dugout. So far here in 2013, it doesn’t look like’s Lee’s lost a step, but we all know Father Time will eventually take him down. The answer to the question is we just don’t know when that will occur.
Kyle Kendrick is currently in the 2nd year of a two-year contract and has one year left of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2015. Will the Phils sign him after this year thereby avoiding arbitration and also buying out the first four – five years of his free agency? Kendrick has been somewhat erratic this year, but he’s at the very least a respectable # 3. We saw from Anibal Sanchez, Detroits # 3 what these guys are making. Some might make the case that Sanchez is significantly better than Kendrick, but the numbers don’t support that. Kendrick is 15 games over .500 while Sanchez still three games under .500 – ADVANTAGE Kendrick. Lifetime ERA? Kendrick is 4.24 and Sanchez is 3.66, which equates to better than a half a run per game – ADVANTAGE Sanchez. WHIP? Sanchez 1.331 and Kendrick at 1.350 – SLIGHT ADVATAGE – Sanchez. We can see Sanchez is somewhat better, but not overwhelmingly so. Does this then mean that Kendrick’s asking price will be between $60 million to $75 million entering his age 30 season in 2015.
Hamels and Pettibone are more than likely to be with the Phils come 2015. It’s also likely we’ll see some combination of Jesse Biddle, Ethan Martin and Adam Morgan by then too. I’m hopeful we’ll see Miguel Gonzaez somewhere in the mix too.