According to Jeff Passan on Yahoo!, the Phillies have reached a deal with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez on a six-year deal potentially worth nearly $60 million.
The Phillies have not spent as much on international prospects as other teams in recent seasons. However, with players such as Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez in their minor league system and having success at various points in their minor league careers, it made sense for the team to trust their scouting department on another international signing.
Gonzalez, a 26-year-old right-handed pitcher, will receive $48 million guaranteed.
The Phillies have struggled for a season and a half now in trying to push their record above .500 and keep it there while climbing back into playoff contention.
This season, with players such as Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young nearing free agency and the team once again struggling to reach .500, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the front office have multiple difficult decisions to make.
Ideally, Amaro will find a way to trade the right players who bring back the types of prospects who can help continue to improve a farm system that should benefit from a solid First-Year Player Draft this past June, while putting the team back into contention as soon as next season.
Ideally, Amaro will give the Phillies at least a chance to make a run at the second Wild Card spot this season, while pushing for the National League East next season.
In signing Gonzalez, he just might have made a move in that direction.
Gonzalez, who has a fastball that can reach 96 mph, a curveball, changeup and splitter, should be sent to the minor leagues before potentially receiving a major league promotion by mid-August, according to Passan.
If the Phillies want to at least make things interesting in the National League playoff race, they must improve a bullpen that has been among the worst in the major leagues for more than a season and a half now.
However, as the recent trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the Baltimore Orioles showed, the price for bullpen help is very high, with the demand far outweighing the supply. The Orioles traded a highly ranked prospect for essentially an eighth-inning reliever.
The Phillies’ bullpen currently has the third-highest ERA in the National League at 4.18 and the third-highest opponents’ batting average at .262.
Although Gonzalez projects as a starting pitcher, the Phillies could use the right-hander out of the bullpen for the final two months of the season as he acclimates to the major leagues.
Just as the Cincinnati Reds had plans of Aroldis Chapman moving into the starting rotation at some point, the team first—and still is—enjoying his tremendous success out of the bullpen.
Gonzalez could pick up his first few major league innings as a reliever and potentially become the Phillies’ best bullpen option besides Jonathan Papelbon for the rest of this season.
Once the non-waiver trade deadline passes, Gonzalez could turn out to be one of the best bullpen additions in the second half of the season.
After this season, with Roy Halladay and John Lannan possibly reaching facing free agency, the Phillies should have at least one opening in their starting rotation, if not more.
Gonzalez could move into one of these spots and, in the best case scenario, give the Phillies a solid starting pitcher under contract through at least 2018.
Jesse Sanchez on mlb.com recently wrote that scouts believe that signing Gonzalez is like picking up a top pitcher before the non-waiver trade deadline.
Few options exist for the Phillies to improve in the future without giving up young talent that may also help the team in the future seasons. However, signing an impact free agent in the middle of the season is a unique opportunity that the Phillies and six other teams, according to Sanchez, had an interest in doing.
With demand outweighing supply on the trade market and teams signing their own players to long-term extensions, both the trade deadline and free agency could take a hit in upcoming years.
If that’s the case, it makes sense for the Phillies to hold onto their prospects while making sure that any trades involves more prospects entering their system rather than leaving.
In signing Gonzalez, the Phillies were able to keep their farm system intact, possibly improve their bullpen for the rest of this season and avoid bidding wars this offseason, if multiple starting pitchers had been needed.
At an AAV of likely less than $10 million, Gonzalez’s contract could pay him less than what free agent starters will make this offseason.
Gonzalez’s signing could improve the Phillies both in 2013 and in future seasons, and at least gives the team a chance to follow in Oakland and Los Angeles’ footsteps and find success in the international market and leave more of a global foot print.
*All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.