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Philadelphia Phillies: Pettibone Shutdown Means Gonzalez Must Be Signed

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Philadelphia Phillies: Pettibone Shutdown Means Gonzalez Must Be Signed
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images

Man, the list of injuries for the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff just keeps on growing.

Setup man Mike Adams and Michael Stutes have both seen extensive time on the disabled list this season due to bicep tendinitis, with the former ruled out until spring training next year. Jeremy Horst has been injured for quite some time with a left elbow strain. Fellow left-hander Joe Savery has also experienced left elbow stiffness, but as of August 22, he is the only one embarking on a rehab assignment, according to MLB.com.

As for the rotation, Roy Halladay is on track to return soon, as he has a third rehab start on Sunday, August 25.

However, the news isn't as great for the Phillies' other injured starting pitchers. Southpaw John Lannan has been ruled out for the rest of the season and will likely require surgery for a partially torn patellar tendon, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

Even Jonathan Pettibone, who had been on pace for a return sometime soon, has experienced a setback. Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times tweeted the following in the later hours of August 22:

 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Pettibone's reported shutdown comes at a bad time for the Phillies.

Such news is devastating for a Phillies pitching staff already light on depth. Although Halladay's return is likely, it is still questionable whether the team will truly bring him back to the majors if his command and velocity do not improve.

Last time out against Low-A competition, Halladay threw 90 pitches, but only 52 of them were strikes. He allowed seven hits, walked three batters and at one point threw nine pitches in a row for balls. While he topped out at 89 miles per hour on his fastball, Halladay's heater averaged just 87 mph on the radar gun.

Until Halladay returns, the only guaranteed starting pitchers in the Phillies rotation are lefties Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and right-handers Kyle Kendrick and Ethan Martin. Tyler Cloyd likely remains the favorite for the fifth starter job until Halladay returns or someone else steps in, though his five earned runs in his start against the Colorado Rockies on August 20 doesn't help his case.

I recently wrote an article which previewed some prospects the Phillies might call upon come September when rosters expand to include the 40-man. The list was highlighted by left-hander Adam Morgan and also included starter David Buchanan.

The most important name in that slideshow was not a current Phillies prospect, though. Rather, it's Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the 26-year-old Cuban superstar whom the Phillies have yet to sign.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported on July 26 that Gonzalez had agreed to a six-year, $48 million contract with the Phillies, but today's date is August 23, and no deal has been reached as of yet.

At first it was believed that the only obstacle to a deal was a visa issue, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

With more time came more news concerning the lack of news, and as MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reported back on August 6, the contract may not happen altogether due to possible concerns over the pitcher's elbow, which received surgery at some point to remove bone chips. Then came an update on August 18 which basically said that there was nothing new to report, but does no news mean good news?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Lefty Adam Morgan could be called up to patch up the rotation, but his handedness doesn't solve the problem in the future.

What the August 18 update did not rule out was a renegotiation of a contract for Gonzalez. Although the severity of the purported elbow concern is unknown, it has obviously been enough to deter the Phillies from inking the Cuban to a contract. Had Gonzalez been signed, he might have already made his major league debut by now. Instead, Phillies fans and media alike have played the waiting game, but it's gotten to the point where the wait has been too long without any definitive news.

Perhaps the Phillies and Gonzalez are negotiating a less expensive contract with some injury clauses concerning the $11 million vesting option for a seventh year on the original contract. At the same time, the two sides may very well not have held any sort of negotiation session, and there's a chance that Gonzalez and the Phillies may never have a deal in place at all.

Nevertheless, the point is simple: Even if it takes only a slight decrease in salary, the Phillies must sign Gonzalez in order to ensure the safety of their rotation going forward.

Unless the injury is worse than just bone chips, such an ailment should not be holding up negotiations this long unless one of the two sides is unwilling to compromise. Cole Hamels had bone chips removed from his pitching elbow in 2011 and returned with no problems. Reliever Scott Eyre also had the same issue, yet pitched well upon return.

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Granted, both pitchers spent enough time within the Phillies organization for the front office and doctors to know them and their injury histories, but bone chips by themselves have not proven to derail any pitcher's career, let alone a contract. Just take a look at Hamels' six-year, $144 million contract extension inked last July as an example.

Gonzalez's presence on the Phillies is incredibly important for the team's future success. With Halladay unlikely to return after this season and Kyle Kendrick potentially gone after 2014, the Phillies lack any sort of dependable right-handed starting pitcher aside from arguably Pettibone. Martin could stick in the rotation if necessary, though Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook notes that he will probably end up in the bullpen when all's said and done.

Considering that the Phillies will be entering a retooling phase at the minimum heading into 2014, they need all the help they can get at any position possible.

Gonzalez will not only impact the Phillies next year, but if the deal remains at six years, he'll be around for years to come. In what will likely be losing seasons for a few years going forward, chances are that the Phillies won't be spending huge amounts of money in free agency or sacrificing the future in the form of prospects in a trade.

Taking that into consideration, if the Phillies don't sign Gonzalez, their rotation will be stockpiled with left-handers and two right-handers at most. Gonzalez would not only provide additional depth from the right side, he'd also be the best of the bunch within the Phillies organization, and that's too big of an opportunity for them to pass up.

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