Cuban right hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has drawn plenty of interest on the open market since getting cleared by the U.S. government to seek employment. On Friday, Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passan broke the story that the Philadelphia Phillies had reached an agreement to sign the free agent.
The Philadelphia Phillies and right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez agreed Friday night on a six-year deal that could be worth up to $59 million, the richest contract ever for an international player, a club source told Yahoo! Sports.
The deal is worth a guaranteed $48 million over six years with a seventh-year vesting option for $11 million, the source said.
While Jon Heyman and Scott Miller of CBS Sports have the financials closer to $50 million, there is confirmation that Gonzalez is joining the Phillies. His contract was not bound by the International Bonus Pool created by the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, as Gonzalez is 26 years old and has played professionally in Cuba for several years. By rule, any Cuban with more than three seasons of pro experience and who is at least 23 years of age is not subject to international signing regulations.
Gonzalez features a mid-90s fastball and is said to throw a variety of off-speed pitches from varying arm slots, much in the way countryman Orlando Hernandez did during his playing days. Though he has had success on the international stage, Gonzalez has missed considerable time over the past few seasons as punishment for failed attempts to flee the island nation.
Finally successful earlier in the year, Gonzalez took up residence in Tijuana where he impressed scouts with his arsenal.
It is expected that Gonzalez will begin his Major League career at some point next month. The Phillies figure to send his to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to get his feet wet, but those who have seen him pitch think Gonzalez can contribute to a big league rotation right away.
While this signing signals that the Phillies are still trying to win now, this move could also spell the end for left hander Cliff Lee, who has drawn significant interest in the trade market. The Phillies are a big budget club, but Gonzalez’s contract added to the money already on the books could make off-season maneuvering difficult. Dealing Lee would clear better than $20 million per year from their payroll while re-stocking the thinned minor league system at the same time.