Cuban-born pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez may not have pitched a single inning in Major League Baseball, but he could be the missing link the Philadelphia Phillies have been looking for.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Phillies have inked Gonzalez to a six-year, $48 million contract, with an option for a seventh year at $11 million—bringing the total value to $59 million. That represents the largest international signing ever.
The Phillies obviously thought that Gonzalez was worth it, outbidding the Boston Red Sox and several other teams.
The Phillies beat out the Boston Red Sox for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Bidding went down to the wire tonight. More money won for Phils.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 27, 2013
For teams who may have thought they might have a shot at landing Phillies starter Cliff Lee, they could now be very disappointed.
Gonzalez is considered to be a pitcher who's already ready for the majors and may just need a couple of minor league starts to acclimate himself.
Haven't talked to anyone who doesn't see Gonzalez as big-league ready now (once he gets some tuneups in). With top-of-rotation potential.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 27, 2013
The Phillies are five games under .500 and a full 10 games out of a wild-card spot in the National League, but this is clearly a signing that indicates Philadelphia is at least looking at a postseason berth in 2014, if not this season.
According to Passan, Gonzalez has a solid four-pitch repertoire that recently impressed just about every scout who attended workouts in Mexico.
Re-Tooling, Not Rebuilding
In recent weeks, the Phillies' fate as either a buyer or seller has been discussed ad nauseum. Several weeks ago, general manager Ruben Amaro gave every indication that he simply wasn't interested in offering up players like Lee, despite the team's mediocre start to the season.
I never put any real absolutes on anything. Although we don't have any desire to move a guy like that because we view him as someone who will be key to our future, I am a businessperson as well and I'll be a good listener.
That could have been nothing but a smokescreen.
The acquisition of Gonzalez gives the Phillies a solid foursome along with Lee, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick. That doesn't even include Roy Halladay, who has a $20 million option for next season that will likely be declined. That doesn't mean that Halladay couldn't come back for much less, however.
Think of that for a starting five, if Halladay comes back healthy.
It simply doesn't sound like a team that's going be selling off any of its pitching parts anytime soon.
Future Television Money Means Phillies Can Keep Playing With Big Boys
The Phillies can't necessarily cry poor-mouth—they have the third-highest payroll, according to USA Today. But they aren't blessed with a TV deal quite like the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, either.
That could be changing very soon.
The Phillies could be in line for a TV deal that nets them somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 billion. That's certainly enough to continue paying the likes of Lee, Halladay, Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and now Gonzalez.
That's a whole lot of incentive for the Phillies to have traveled to Tijuana last month to watch Gonzalez pitch. And it's a lot of incentive to sign him and keep everyone else as well.
Let's face it—the Phillies have some issues. Injuries have decimated their bullpen, with Jeremy Horst and Mike Adams now out for the season. Ryan Howard is likely out until at least late August with a torn meniscus. Their best power hitter, Domonic Brown, just hit the seven-day disabled list with a concussion, and Chase Utley isn't getting any younger.
It's a stretch to think the Phillies have a snowball's chance in hell of making the postseason this year.
But with a rotation that boasts of Lee, Hamels, Gonzalez, Kendrick and Halladay, the 2014 season is all of a sudden looking a whole lot brighter. And the Phillies will have the benefit of a potential $5 billion TV deal that can help cushion the financial blow.
So, to the teams that are currently salivating at the thought of Cliff Lee helping their drive for postseason glory this season, they might have to consider Plan B.
Could Amaro still consider dealing Lee? He said it himself: He's a businessman. He'll at least listen. He'd be a fool to turn down a deal that completely overwhelmed him. But it would absolutely have to be a slam-dunk type deal to convince Amaro that Lee needs to be moved.
Does the signing of Gonzalez mean the Phillies aren't trading Cliff Lee?
He has a pitcher in Gonzalez who could very well be the missing link for next season, and who could potentially help in 2013 as well. He has a possible TV deal that will keep the Phillies in the black for quite a while.
That's a whole lot of hope. And for teams pining away for Lee, it's a lot of heartache as well.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.